Frances Ha (2013)
Director: Noah Baumbach
Stars: Greta Gerwig, Mickey Sumner, Adam Driver, Michael Zegen, Grace Gummer, Patrick Heusinger
Noah Baumbach begins many of his movies with a line of dialogue that acts as a kind of summary or central thematic statement. The first words spoken in his divorce drama The Squid and the Whale, for instance, are, "Mom and me versus you and Dad."
Frances Ha, his funny valentine to his girlfriend, Greta Gerwig, opens with a long montage of Frances' life in New York. She's a twenty-something with aspirations to dance, and she lives with her best friend, Sophie (Mickey Sumner), who works in publishing. In the montage, Frances reads aloud to Sophie about attacks on sincerity in art. Those of you who simply hate the social milieu of middle-class white Brooklynites who dream of doing something creative, this is your cue to leave.
Like a great episode of Girls (minus the body art), Frances Ha examines friendship between young women in New York, 2013. Baumbach cares for Gerwig, and it's clear in the film. Though the characters around Frances make comments that skewer themselves and their specific sub-culture (shout out to everyone working on a Gremlins 3 screenplay), her own faults are celebrated. Frances is socially awkward and self-sabotaging, and she is lovely and loved by the film's camera and screenplay (which Gerwig wrote with Baumbach). In the hands of other filmmakers and stars, this could become numbing satire or something equally lifeless. Instead, it's exuberant, a pristine black-and-white snapshot of love and the city. —RS