February 20, 2016 by Liza Lou
I was sat having a coffee the other day with my friend discussing films (as you do) and she asked me if I had seen this. I told her I hadn’t, and she told me I should. It’s a simple concept but one I don’t take on board very often. I have so many lists of films plus new releases that I rarely get recommendations from friends. Going on Frances Ha alone, I really should and more often.
Frances Ha is penned as a comedy/drama film but in my humble opinion it flows much better as a biopic, albeit a made up one. It follows Frances, played by Greta Gerwig (Lola Versus), as she makes her way through life trying to follow her dreams while bumping into obstacles along the way. It’s simple complexity which I understand is a complete paradox but despite its route of negotiating personal nightmares it flows effortlessly.
Let’s start with direction because for me, the film had a charm from offset that lies firmly at Noah Baumbach‘s door. I had previously seen The Squid and the Whale which I loved so I knew that Baumbach had a natural style that came across as reality within a film. It’s straightforward and yet edgy without relying on special tricks. Baumbach has the ability to take a story and lay it bare and that is definitely not lost here. Shot in black and white it could quite easily have been seen as pretentious but instead it offered an intimacy echoed throughout other elements of the film. Beautiful backdrops of beautiful cities intertwine with the tragic fragility of life as a girl and as such a girl I was absolutely swooning.
Gerwig, who incidentally co-wrote with Baumbach, is delightful to watch. She IS Frances and encompasses everything about her character. It’s really special when you forget that what you are watching is being acted and that happens here. I felt like a fly on the wall in another person’s life and she was kooky, aloof and winsome. I feel a little fan girly explaining how much I loved both Gerwig and Frances with equal amounts but it wasn’t difficult for me to see parts of myself in this character that muddled through her existence with both rose tinted spectacles and an air of not giving a shit. Gerwig holds nothing back but even the moments of discomfort are played so sweetly that her dominance in this film never becomes over bearing.
When you are watching a character literally dance through the streets of New York despite her dreams dwindling around her, you know she is going to be OK and ultimately that’s what makes Frances Ha a winner for me. There’s silliness, sadness, love and friendship and all of it wraps together to showcase a journey that myself and all of my friends have been on. There is no moral compass holding it down or no Hollywood gleam adding unneeded extra polish. It’s just a story… and I love it!!!