Frances Ha ★★★★★

The initial effect that Noah Baumbach's newest film, Frances Ha, has had on me is one of utter infatuation. I'm a firm believer in the notion that the more Greta Gerwig you have in your life the better, and I'm sure Mr. Baumbach would enthusiastically agree with that. He's found a sublime collaborator with the endearing actress, both in work and in his personal life, which began with 2010's enormously underrated gem, Greenberg, and continues to even greater heights with Frances Ha, considering they co-created the screenplay this time around.

Ever since Gerwig broke onto the independent scene in productions from the likes of Joe Swanberg and the Duplass brothers, she has always managed to retain an effortless likability even when she is mishandled or under-utilized. She possesses such a unique talent that only a handful of other actresses have, in my opinion: she has the ability to remain a positive part of whatever film she takes part in. Even if she has made some questionable choices/clunkers (Baghead, No Strings Attached, Lola Versus, etc) she is never less than engaging and does her best to elevate the material. Baumbach seems to know how to take advantage of her gifts better than any other filmmaker to this point, which he showed was no one-time success in Greenberg, because he's done followed that up with the absolute finest Gerwig-showcase we've seen yet. As Frances Halliday, Gerwig commands every single second of screen time here. If you were a fan of hers before, you'll be head-over-heels after witnessing Frances Ha. For those of you who were on the fence about her, I think you'll be forever turned around for the better when you see this.

And for that (hopefully) small portion of people who don't like Gerwig...I'm not sure there's any hope for you on this earth anymore, especially if seeing this doesn't change your opinion. But enough of the Gerwig-gushing. Anyone who knows me can confirm that I have been stupid in love with her since first seeing her in Hannah Takes the Stairs.

There's plenty of other aspects about Frances Ha that match Gerwig's revelatory performance with seamless unity. Sam Levy's gorgeous black-and-white cinematography will inevitably bring comparisons to early Woody Allen and open a floodgate of "This is Baumbach's Manhattan" proclamations, which is alright but I never got an Allen vibe from the content on display here. There's also an abundance of impressive performances from an ensemble of virtually all newcomers. Baumbach and Gerwig's screenplay isn't necessarily giving us anything new on paper, it's a story of a twentysomething trying to figure out why she's still meandering through life on the streets of New York City. What makes Frances Ha such an endlessly humorous, endearing, and altogether different experience is in the way it is executed by the entire cast and crew. This is a comedy fashioned by genuinely oddball artists, and they marry their talents in sublime fashion to make a film filled with some of the best moments 2013 will see. Let's hope Noah & Greta remain inseparable for a good while.

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