Frances Ha

Frances Ha ★★★★½

The Story of Us

We are going to take over the world
- You will be this awesomely bitchy publishing mogul
And you'll be this famous modern dancer and I'll publish a really expensive book about you
- that Dbags we make fun of will put on their coffee tables
And we'll co-own a vacation apartment in Paris
- and we'll have lovers
and no children
- and we'll speak of college graduations
and honorary degrees
- So many honorary degrees!

Ah, the 20s. One of the only decades that does a complete 180, from its uninhibited idealism and boundless optimism that spurs the search for an often exaggerated place for oneself in the world, to a reserved realism and more restrained optimism at discovering that one's place in the world might be much less important than anticipated. The decade that begins with an overwhelming number of inviting pathways that become substantially narrowed by decade's end. The decade where new friendships must be earned due to a lack of shared past, and where such friendships, once forged, are much more personal and self-defining. The decade where one's self-importance constantly clashes with the new adult world of conflicting desires, rigid institutions and customs that might not play nice with one's devil-may-care attitude.

The story of Frances Ha showed the full journey and did it with style and panache. From "The Story of Us" to the comfortable compromise at the end, from the wishful delusions to the more pragmatic acceptance of the limits of her talent, from the partying with the bff Sophie to the comfortable shared look across the room, all of it was enchanting and most important, it rang true.

It almost didn't, though. Before seeing it I wrote a prediction of what Jonathan and I would think of the film, based on the cover and a few scenes I had seen here and there: "Jonathan will love it because she will be all waify and light and bubbly like Amelie or Audrey Hepburn. I will hate it because she will be all waify and light and bubbly like Amelie or Audrey Hepburn." When the film first started and Frances was play-fighting with Sophie my worst fear had come true. Damned if I wasn't seeing yet another male perspective on how cutsy women are when they are all twirling and playing and being all clumsy like 10 year olds.

Less than 5 minutes later I was mesmerized. What I was seeing and hearing, well, it took me right back to that wonderful decade as though it were yesterday and through Frances and Sophie my own story of the 20s became clearer. I had my own Frances/Sophie relationship (and still do). I was reminded of all of the negotiations that go with such a relationship, when you are roommates. What happens when the lease ends? Who suggests renewing first? Who leaves first, and how to they bring it up? How might that change the relationship? What happens when boyfriends enter the picture? All things that I lived and cared about, and found totally convincing in Frances Ha. Like Frances, I spouted the most amazingly awkward things to people when trying to impress, the same way Frances spoke about her upcoming meeting with Colleen to a complete stranger, or when dining with 'real adults' she hardly knew. I had all sorts of roommates, moved way too often, and longed for a place of my own. When Sophie went back to her college for a menial job I remembered that I went back to my small hometown for a college placement, which felt weird. But when Sophie went to Paris on a credit card I nearly lost it. Yup. Been there done that too.

By the end of it I could easily forgive the play-fighting at the beginning that almost derailed it for me. I remembered that relationships really are closed-circuits of sorts, with inside jokes and very specific ways of being funny and childish even. It is what Sarah Polley conveyed in Take This Waltz, with the agonizingly awkward rituals between the couple. When Frances tried her hand and re-creating that magic with someone else it was unbearably embarrassing. That's the point. To paraphrase Frances, when you can look across the room at someone and have a whole secret life that no one else sees, you've arrived. Frances and Sophie arrived, and nothing made me happier.

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