Greetings again from the darkness. All the critics are raving about it. Love abounds for the latest from director Noah Baumbach and his co-writer and leading lady Greta Gerwig. What makes my ambivalence even more confounding is that I’m a fan of Baumbach (The Squid and the Whale) and Gerwig (Greenberg). The expert level of filmmaking and acting is obvious, the script details and dialogue are exceptional, and the situations and setting are realistic. So why aren’t I more excited about this one? That’s what I’ve spent the past few days wondering.
It seems Frances Ha delivers everything I look for in an indie film. The problem is that I find almost every character to be annoying and self-absorbed. The first act finds Frances (Gerwig) sitting on top of the world. She has a boyfriend, a BFF/roomie, and is a dance company apprentice with the expectation of a dance career. Soon enough she watches Strike Three go by and her world is in a tailspin. We then watch Frances trudge on through uncertainty and instability in living arrangements, personal relationships and career path. It plays like a road trip that really never hits the highway.
Frances moves in with Lev (Adam Driver) and Ben (Michael Zegen) and she is oblivious to Ben’s interest as she obsesses about her former BFF Sophie (Mickey Sumner). See, Sophie is trying to grow up while Frances wants to stay in her dream land where she and Sophie remain “the same person with different hair“. Frances then crashes at the apartment of a fellow dancer played with all seriousness by Grace Gummer (Meryl Streep’s daughter). The two dancing opposites attend an awkward dinner party at which Frances manages to spew an endless stream of absurd remarks that advertise her lack of maturity. Her response to this is to take a spontaneous trip to Paris … charged to a new credit card.
Make no mistake. Frances is a very energetic and sincere free-spirited twenty-seven year old. The kind that is only charming in the movies. If her quirk wins you over, you will find yourself rooting for her to get her life together. That would put you in the same corner as most other film critics. On the other hand, if you recognize the optimism, but are unmoved by the immaturity and self-absorption, then you are banished to the corner of those who “just don’t get it”. And I’ll be right there with you.
SEE THIS MOVIE IF: you can revel in the quirky world of Greta Gerwig and Noah Baumbach and find joy in a flirtateous take on Lena Dunham’s “Girls”
SKIP THIS MOVIE IF: annoyingly self-centered people talking a lot about themselves and other things of which they know little, inspires you to request a refund.
watch the trailer: