Frances Ha 2013

Greta Gerwig starred in Whit Stillman's comeback movie Damsels in Distress. So why does Frances Ha, which stars Gerwig as well, feel more like the Whit Stillman comeback movie?

In the four Gerwig performances I've seen, she's been endearing and entertaining and funny. But the "Isn't she funny? Isn't she quirky?" act starts wearing a little thin when she's the focus of the film, and that is definitely the case here.

Still, Baumbach seems inspired — probably due to being in love with his actress — and gives us his most enjoyable movie since, in my opinion, Kicking and Screaming. Baumbach's films have always been observant but bitter depictions of various levels of family and community hell. Some of them made me feel sick in a "Yeah, humanity can be awful" way; and some have made me think, "Good Lord, Baumbach, is humanity so relentlessly horrible, all of the time? Really?"

This movie, like Kicking and Screaming, allows for the possibility of hope, especially in learning not to pin your hopes on one relationship, one friendship, or one dream, and in learning to listen to others (carfefully, and with discernment) as you decide what you're meant to be doing. And that makes all the difference.

I hope he can carry that hopefulness forward into films that have more going for them than Gerwig's ability to be engagingly nutty.

Having said that, if this summer is going to offer me a choice between formulaic, steroidal, preposterous blockbusters or 90-minute reels of genuine moments (Frances Ha, Before Midnight), then I'll take the latter every single time, with gratitude.

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