Frances Ha Reviews
and they know it, and they love you and you know it, but it's a party . . . and you're both talking to other people, and you're laughing and shining . . . and you look across the room and catch each other's eyes, but . . . but not because you're possessive or it's precisely sexual, but because that is your person in this life. And it's funny and sad, but only because this life will end, and it's this secret world that exists right there in public, unnoticed, that no one else knows about. It's sort of like-how they say?-that, um, other dimensions exist all around us, but we don't have the ability to perceive them. That's . . . that's what I want out of a relationship. Or just life, I guess. Love. . . . I sound stoned. I'm not stoned. Thanks for dinner. Bye."
Let's go through some other concerns I had and show how the film dispelled them. One, oftentimes I don't enjoy when movies like this are in black and white, because it seems pointless; it's not that the movie doesn't work that way, or that it necessarily weakens the movie, but it definitely calls attention to itself and seems a little pretentious. For example, as much as everyone loved Nebraska's black-and-white cinematography, it only seemed to underline how much that movie bored me. When Frances Ha started, I was a little skeptical of the black and white, but I grew to really like the film's visual style, and by the end I was confident that Noah Baumbach knew what he was doing. Two, and more importantly, though I enjoy this genre, I've often found comedy-dramas to be a little lacking in the comedy and too heavily based on drama when there's so much potential for comedy right there. To compare, I liked Baumbach's newest film While We're Young, and laughed occasionally, but generally felt like I should've been laughing more. On the other hand, Frances Ha had the perfect amount of comedy for me, making me laugh or at least smile consistently. The times when I wasn't outright laughing, it didn't feel like I should've been, so it didn't feel like a missed opportunity. In the end, I felt like I'd watched a very funny movie that provided me with a lot more than laughs anyway.
On to other things. I've never seen Greta Gerwig before, but from her opening scene, I was a little skeptical of her acting; the expressions on her face occasionally seemed like they changed too quickly, or like she was waiting for her next turn to speak, or something. Eventually, I grew used to it, and I realized how great her acting was. It feels like Frances is a lot like Gerwig herself, and I sort of realized something important: people's faces make different expressions. That's obvious, of course, but oftentimes when I meet a new person in real life, they'll react to things in a very unique way, not necessarily weird or unusual but just...something unique to them. I don't really know how to explain it better, but Frances/Gerwig is just her own person, and there's something beautiful about that (not to get overly philosophical). By a quarterish through the movie, I was fully onboard her acting, and by halfway through the movie, I loved Frances.
One more concern I could see people having was that the movie was too cliche, too much like Girls, with wealthy artists living in NYC and doing a lot of navel-gazing. While there was some of that, the movie was enormously genuine, so it didn't feel corny at all, especially because Frances truly was a struggling (somewhat) artist, and especially because the film acknowledges through characters like Benji ("that's offensive to actual poor people") that she doesn't have it that bad. Besides, the film doesn't go over-the-top with blanket statements about people in general, content to follow Frances's life and pick up meaning from what naturally arises, much less grating than characters constantly having conversations about what life means (which might seem contradictory since the Before trilogy are some of my favorite movies, but it's not).
There were so many moments in the film that I just loved. I didn't think I'd be as invested in the Frances-Sophie friendship as I was because in the beginning, Sophie was frequently annoying, and I didn't get to see much of them 'being the same people with different hair.' So I'm not sure what it was, but eventually I became super invested, and by the time Frances and Sophie were reconciling at Vassar, I was so happy. That scene with them lying together in bed towards the end is beautiful, and just as beautiful was the ending scene, when Frances and Sophie exchange a happy smile across the crowd. That's especially poignant because it connects to the earlier scene when Frances has a monologue about the moment when you exchange eye contact with your loved one across the room at a party - that rang so true to me, and at the end, I found myself so happy that everything turned out all right for Frances.
Noah Baumbach's meticulous tribute to the French New Wave filmmakers of the late 1950s and '60s works on every level. Endearing "undateables" Greta Gerwig (Frances) and Mickey Sumner (Sophie) present us with a modern "hedgehog's dilemma"; we can only watch with joy - and dread.