Frances Ha

Frances Ha ★★★★½

I think maybe my problem with the TV show Girls is that it's kind of stuck in the early-middle part of this movie, where the audience and the characters around the freewheeling and footloose Frances have begun to realize that maybe there are ways she could be a better human being but she's too stubborn to realize that growing up doesn't mean becoming boring. In fact, through most of this film Frances takes the opposite of her friends' and acquaintances' advice to increasingly disastrous effect. In the beginning we see a woman five or six years out of college who hasn't yet gotten out of her college life. She's stuck in friendships and work and ambition until her best friend leaves and her tenuous job disappears. It's telling that instead of marking the time as most title cards tend to do, this film's interstitials reveal the exact address of Frances's (temporary) living situation. The film is populated with people that embody some kind of type for the audience to recognize and juxtapose Frances against: the married couple with newborn baby, the rich artists pretending to be fake, the fellow ballerinas that have it way more together, and so on and so forth. This world isn't often nice to Frances, though the degree to which that is true is often hidden from her.

Or so we think. The clever, subtle beauty of this film is that all the characters and situations do get through to Frances. What seems at first like a totally aloof weirdo is revealed to be a practiced front which hides a deep and sad loneliness. It's as clear to Frances as it is to us that she's not exactly lighting the world on fire and that hurts her deeply. It's a wonderful note from writer/star Greta Gerwig to play and it flips a potentially mean spirited portrayal on its head. Frances isn't an easy person to like and she's got enough going for her so that pity doesn't quite feel right. In the end, it's admiration I feel for Frances and Gerwig (through the excellently shot and constructed frame of Noah Baumbach's lens) for creating such a real and flawed human being, and for showing me and everybody else that growing up is hard to do.