Friday, August 9, 2013

Frances Ha: Stuck Between Stations

I sunk my fucking face into my palms during the first few minutes of Noam Baumbach's new black and white feature, Frances Ha. I thought I was in store for a 90 minute chick-buddy-indie flick, but as soon as Frances' best friend/roommate, Sophie (Mickey Sumner), moves out, I let out a sigh of relief. From then on the film focuses on Frances (Greta Gerwig), a social leper with too much pride to admit her failures.

This movie contains no plot, but this is done intentionally. It jumps from scene to scene in Frances' life, a girl in her late twenties, stuck between the liberation of college and the responsibility of adult life. Her story is portrayed in the way we all see this period of life ; segments of nights out, domestic disputes, all the little anecdotes we tell our friends. This is not a precise narrative with a specific aim, its a portrayal of day to day life.

Because I'm at the same period of my life as Frances, I could relate to Frances' story, but the film need not rely on that. The style is that of a Bohemian Woody Allen with obvious nods to the French New Wave. One negative aspect, which even the lead star Gerwig questioned was the fact that, although the film looks great with its black and white format and attempts to sell itself as a Manhattan (1979), the reality is that it was shot digitally. This confession makes the aesthetic null and void, its just a digital copy and isn't exactly what it says on the tin.

There are genuine funny scenes here, mainly delivered through great conversation dialogue with perfect timing. The prime example of this lies in the scene where one of Frances male roommates has brought back a girl from the night before. Frances and her other male roommate join them at the breakfast table and the four of them just waffle on, speaking over each other in a realistic manner. It's like watching a tennis rally with the ball boy taking a swing now and again.

The soundtrack is upbeat with songs from David Bowie, Harry Nilsson and Hot Chocolate, even though Frances' world constantly disintegrates in front of her as all her friends advance in life she remains trapped financially, socially and motivationally. The  film's ending is positive, but not compromising in the way that the character Frances actually does compromise with adult life. Her dreams of becoming a professional dancer are trampled on and she must settle as a dance choreographer. However, she discovers that this job actually makes her happy and content. It would appear that she has advanced onto adulthood. Life doesn't necessarily work out the way you wish and that brings an element of surprise.

Again, there is an obvious homage to Woody Allen's New York in style and character. Frances is neurotic and socially awkward. She is does not follow the general conventions in which the majority do. She surrounds herself with hipsters in Brooklyn, which I thought would make me cringe, but they are funny and true in character. This film had the strong potential of coming off as a pretentious rip off, but the procrastination and indecisive nature of Frances makes it relatable to many.

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