Frances Ha ★★★★

Included In Lists:
Criterion Collection - #681
Strong Performances - Greta Gerwig
Ladies and Gentlemen: The Essentials -#57

Review In A Nutshell:

Themes of independence, passion, pride, and lack of direction are bread and butter of independent contemporary cinema, but so far none has executed it with such style and grace as Frances Ha.

This was a film that I was looking forward to seeing for such a long time, as at the time of release and during award season, this film was gaining such high regards to both critics and the general public; praising Greta Gerwig's performances as the titular character and Noah Baumbach's inspired direction. Now that I have seen it, the film certainly did not meet the super high expectations that I had towards the film, but it did deliver enough for me to actually like it.

As I have stated, this is a film about independence and passion; it follows a protagonist who begins living independently with her best friend, Sophie, hoping that their lives would lead to artistic success and financially maintaining themselves through their passionate ambitions. It is certainly dream that many share, I too at one point wished that I could manage a band or act as cinematographer for a film, but life does not work that way. In reality, people who aim towards passion over money are living difficult and opportunistic lives. Frances Ha certainly carries this pessimistic view on independent modern day living, and giving it an awkward comedic push to reflect accurately the facade that Frances is putting up towards the people around her, as she does not want her problems to be directly dumped on others; she certainly is a burden to the people around her, but at least she is aware of it. Many might disagree with the conclusion of the film, as some might see it as her selling out, but I see it as a person who has achieved a sense of balance in her life; pushing her pride aside and understanding the responsibilities that she has to maintain. Though this was kind of obvious, but it certainly resonated with me, as I am also a stubborn individual and only wanting do what I want to do, even if it means not having a home.

Noah Baumbach, in creating and shaping Frances Ha, has taken elements from his filmmaking influences and blending them to create something original. The film acts as part French New Wave and part Woody Allen, which honestly is not really that far from each other. It was so wonderful that Baumbach has given as a look of New York that we rarely see in cinema, as the city truly looks awful at times and the film captures it perfectly through the use of black and white imagery; allowing the titular character to come off as a shining figure "gracefully" cruising through the city. It was also lovely to hear musical scores sourced from the very best of French New Wave cinema and placing them in sequences that are different from the original, not only enhancing the scene but also gaining a new perspective on the music itself.

The core reason that I could not give this film any higher praise is due to the film's some moments lacking the emotional impact needed to make its themes resonate. Sure, I had an entertaining time watching Frances do quirky and bubbly things, but if they are emotionally hollow, then the film becomes much more difficult to watch, especially during subsequent viewings.

If there is one thing everyone should be able to agree on is the performance that Greta Gerwig has given for Frances. She plays the role so well, allowing the audience to admire her while also feel sympathetic towards her situation. Gerwig was able to bring laughs to the character through her ability to create awkward and hesitant responses and impulsive ideas that would seem hilarious when viewed from a distance, but when actually involved in it, it causes a feeling of annoyance.

Frances Ha may not have gracefully swept me off my feet, but through its energetic performance from Gerwig and Baumbach's influenced direction, made up for the film's shortcomings.