Paul Lister’s review published on Letterboxd :
When it comes to the films of Noah Baumbach I never really know where to stand, he often makes films that seem to be made purely on pretension, focussing on arrogant or churlish characters in world where the expression of culture is fuelled by hipster bullshit. Yet for all this, The Squid and the Whale is a film that sits right up there for me as a great piece of work. It is a fairly uncompromising look at divorce and the separation of a family that just happens to centre around a writer who carries so much pretentiousness that could sink a fleet of ships. It was wryly funny and featured a truly fantastic performance by Jeff Daniels. Greenberg on the other hand was incredibly tedious and featured a miserable and unengaging performance by Ben Stiller, I can't even remember what the film was about!
With Frances Ha, I delayed and delayed. Unsure of what I might feel towards the film, the initial high praise seemed to dissipate a little when reading some reviews for it's home video release. But I could wait no longer and happily I can say that I enjoyed the film. This I feel is largely down to Greta Gerwig's hugely engaging performance. She plays a 27 year old woman who hasn't grown up, shirking her responsibilities and still believing in the fair tale of 'best friends forever' with her other half, Sophie. Frances is completely insecure/undateable and is often childish, she seemingly hasn't moved on from her college days whilst Sophie is fairly successful in her career - Frances still only gets by as an apprentice with a dance company. When Sophie moves away, Frances can't get by, forced to move from place to place, sampling all kinds of pretentious hipster goings on.
Gerwig is wonderful though, her performance is like a less mean version of Charlize Theron in Young Adult, playing a child like woman who can't seem to grow up. However in the case of Frances, there is some hope for her, there is a sense that she is trying to grow up and in the end things come together a little for her, although they do so almost by fortune, like she just shambolically goes from place to place until something sticks.
I like the French New Wave influence on the style of Baumbach's film. I have never really been a fan of that type of cinema, finding it too cool and less involving character wise as they should be but here I honestly was engaged by Gerwig's central performance. The film was funny and engaging but like his other work, not always so likeable. It seems true to the world Frances inhabits though, giving a authentic sense to the film. I guess despite the horrible pretension I have always secretly admired that hipster world. There is something effortlessly cool about it on the surface, but like a lot of things seems to be hollow and callous on the inside. There is something more to Frances as a character that makes her more engaging, even when we can't understand her every action. It made the film a pleasure to watch.
Also David Bowie's Modern Love was used to perfection in the film, another big plus point for me.