Frances Ha Review
New York. Twenty-seven-year-old Frances (Greta Gerwig) is trying to establish herself as a dancer and choreographer and to make ends meet. She shares a flat with Sophie (Mickey Sumner). Frances and Sophie have been best friends since College, but when Sophie moves out and Frances has to leave the flat, their friendship is put to the test.
Noah Baumbach's earlier films, especially Margot at the Wedding and Greenberg, are brackish black comedies centring on protagonists who are more or less dysfunctional and not easy to like – to many, not at all likeable. On the other hand, Frances is very likeable , and much of the credit for that has to go to Greta Gerwig. The film is well named as it is very much her show: she co-wrote the script with Baumbach and plays the title role. Although there may be too much twentysomething navel-gazing for some tastes, Frances Ha does capture a mood and a state of mind. It's also very funny, and it's refreshing to see a film where the ups and downs of a friendship between two women is the driving force. The film is subdivided by captions of the various addresses that Frances lives at, plus excursions to California to see her parents and an on-impulse solo holiday to Paris she can ill-afford which singularly fails to cheer her up.
Baumbach keeps the film light on its feet and doesn't draw attention to itself. If you didn't know that Baumbach and Gerwig are real-life partners (she played a key role in Greenberg) you could quite easily guess as rarely has a director been so obviously besotted with his leading lady. Baumbach is a Woody Allen devotee, and Frances Ha is very reminiscent of Annie Hall in its foregrounding of its female lead, who is/was also the director's partner in life. Also Allenish is the use of black and white, though Sam Levy's work (digital-captured and colour-drained in post-production) is not on a par with Gordon Willis's work on (in 35mm black and white stock, something vanishingly rare nowadays) Manhattan and others – though that's a clearly unfair comparison, given that Willis is one of America's great cinematographers, and I realise how much of an old fart I sound in saying that. Baumbach also draws on the French New Wave, especially in the Parisian sequence, and all in all it's nice to see that monochrome still has a place in today's cinema. < Mickey Sumner, daughter of Sting and Trudie Styler, certainly holds her own in the key secondary role, but it's Gerwig's film and a very engaging one.
If you're wondering what the Ha in the title means, wait until the end of the film to find out. Frances Ha is dedicated to the late Harris Savides, who shot Margot at the Wedding and Greenberg.