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FRANCES HA – News/reviews

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  • Scottferguson
    Sep 26th, 2011

    The film with the first possible (if long shot) best actress contender opens Friday in NY/LA. Here’s a very strong Village Voice review:

    Frances Ha

    Directed by Noah Baumbach
    IFC Films
    Opens May 17, IFC Center

    New York is a cruel and beautiful place, just as 27 is a cruel and beautiful age. In Frances Ha, Greta Gerwig plays a woman who’s feeling the weight of both. Frances is an aspiring dancer who has reached the age when “aspiring” really means not cutting it. Life with her best friend and roommate, Sophie (Mickey Sumner), has taken on the dull glow of old cutlery swiped from the college dining hall—”We’re the lesbian couple that doesn’t have sex anymore,” Frances observes.


    When Sophie moves out to live with her boyfriend, Frances finds herself adrift, shoehorning herself into new roommate situations that aren’t quite right. She has no job and no resources: Encountering a transaction that requires a credit card, which she of course doesn’t have, she blurts out, “I’m so embarrassed—I’m not a real person yet.”

    At what age does one become a real person? There isn’t really an answer, but Frances Ha captures the spirit of those times in life when you don’t know what the hell you’re doing, when even the simplest things—an OK place to live, a job that pays a living wage, a companion who gets what you’re going through—seem desperately out of reach. Frances Ha may be director Noah Baumbach’s tenderest movie, at least among his most recent ones. Baumbach, who co-wrote the film with Gerwig, will always be a personal, if not outright autobiographical, filmmaker. But here he’s found the sweet spot between being personal and taking everything personally. Margot at the Wedding and The Squid and the Whale vibrated with neuroses and hurt feelings, while Frances Ha shows a new lightness of touch.

    Gerwig, maybe, has freed something in him. Shot digitally on the fly, its New York streets rendered in satiny black-and-white, Frances Ha is a patchwork of details that constitute a sort of dating manual—not one that tells you how to meet hot guys, but one that fortifies you against all the crap you have to deal with as a young person in love with a city that doesn’t always love you back. Gerwig and Baumbach dot the movie with title cards, giving the exact addresses of the places where the jobless, nomadic Frances alights. There’s the cozy place in Brooklyn’s Clinton Hill she shares with Sophie, and the hip-kid Chinatown pad, its walls lined with vinyl LPs, where she takes an overpriced room with friends Benji and Lev (Michael Zegen and the ubiquitous Adam Driver). Frances moves from here to there without flinching, but as Gerwig plays her, there’s always a cellophane layer of wistfulness behind her optimism. When you want things you can’t name, how do you search for them?

    In between packing up and moving on, Frances watches in dismay as Sophie burrows more deeply into life with her boyfriend, the kind of guy who wears “pre-distressed baseball hats.” She goes to dinner parties with sophisticated grown-ups, where she spins out giddy soliloquies that make everyone look at her as if she had two heads. She manages to finance a 48-hour trip to Paris, savoring, in her shambling, awkward way, every fleeting minute of it. And finally, she lands a job that doesn’t preclude her aspiration to dance, but perhaps nudges it in a more realistic direction.

    There’s one detail missing in this snapshot of a wobbly time in a young woman’s life: sex. No one expects torrid love scenes from Baumbach, but it’s disappointing that a movie so alive to its central character basically coughs and looks the other way whenever the subject might arise (which it barely does). In the Baumbach world, sex is an embarrassing thing to be gotten through. Does it have to be that way in the Frances world, too?

    Then again, maybe it’s a relief that Frances Ha isn’t as assertively frank, in the “Look, ma, no shame!” way, as Girls. And this is partly Gerwig’s vision, too. No other movie has allowed her to display her colors like this. Frances is a little dizzy and frequently maddening, but Gerwig is precise in delineating the character’s loopiness: Her lines always hit just behind the beat, like a jazz drummer who pretends to flub yet knows exactly what’s up.

    In the most memorable sequence, Frances makes up an impromptu street ballet to David Bowie’s “Modern Love,” executing crosswalk jetés and curbside pirouettes. She’s not the most delicate of dancers, but spirit counts for something, and you can almost see cartoon sparks flying from her feet. Frances may feel—as you could at 27, 47, or 67, anytime the planets align against you—that all the magic of her younger self has somehow drained away. But the hopefulness of Frances, and of Frances Ha, is a constant. There’s new magic coming—it simply has to catch up with her.


    Bill Buchanan
    Sep 1st, 2011

    I saw this a few weeks ago and it is good. But it was a different film than I was expecting, so I will have to see it again before I give it my full blessing.

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    Jan 1st, 1970

    Instantly thought of you, Scott, when I stumbled upon this interview with director Noah Baumbach over at huffingtonpost.com.  Of course, there are two Jessica Lange mentions in this interview, which is what lead me to it, but now I’m really intrigued to see this film


    Noah Baumbach, ‘Frances Ha’ Director, On Why He’s Annoyed By The Will Ferrell Version Of ‘Kicking & Screaming’

    Noah Baumbach directed his first feature-length movie, “Kicking and
    Screaming,” in 1995, about that uncertain, post-college phase of life.
    (It’s a personal favorite of this reporter.) Of course, the best known
    movie with that title is a 2005 effort about a youth soccer team
    starring Will Ferrell. (Not a personal favorite of this reporter,
    primarily because of the number of times I’ve switched the channel to
    TBS, only to see this version instead of Baumbach’s.) As it turns out,
    Baumbach is annoyed by the similarities of these titles, too, and it has
    everything to do why the name of his new movie is “Frances Ha.”

    “Frances Ha,” not called “Frances” because there’s already a Jessica
    film with that title, has been a darling of the festival circuit
    since it debuted at the Telluride Film Festival in September. Greta
    Gerwig stars (and co-wrote the screenplay) as the title character who
    wanders through life, jumping from one New York City apartment to
    another (with an occasional sprint down the street, scored to David
    Bowie’s “Modern Love”) as a never-ending parade of personal
    relationships seem to come and go.

    I met with Baumbach in a New York City hotel room. At first meeting,
    Baumbach is pleasant enough, but slightly aloof — which makes perfect
    sense considering that we are strangers. Slowly, the aloofness wears off
    — this is a man who talks about the lack of expectations as a
    protection device — and once it does, the conversation steers into
    topics as seemingly arbitrary as his brief stint as a “Saturday Night
    Live” director and the movie “Gremlins.” (These topics are not as
    arbitrary as they seem.) And, yes, he explains the annoyance of finding
    out that your directorial debut has been overshadowed by a throwaway
    kids’ soccer movie.

    The praise for “Frances Ha” has been pretty high. Do you notice that compared to your other movies?
    Yeah, I mean, there’s a kind of a variation on praise that you start to
    recognize. But, of course, even movies that I’ve made that maybe were
    more polarizing — the people who liked them, liked them a lot. But,
    yes, I think I can recognize something different.

    What do you feel is one of your polarizing movies?
    Well, I mean, I can only speak to the feedback I get. I mean, I don’t
    make them any differently or think about them differently. But, I mean,
    “Margot at the Wedding,” when it came out certainly had more of maybe a
    polarizing affect on people than I expected.

    So is it surprising when the reactions differ so much?
    A little bit. I mean, I think, in a way, you sort of stop expecting one
    thing or the other. Partly, I think, to protect yourself — but, also,
    just because there’s no way to predict it. You know, you go into all of
    them to do the best job that you can and make something that people are
    going to like. And then they do or they don’t — you can’t predict it.

    Did you feel with “Frances Ha” you were making something a little different than some of your other movies?
    I didn’t think about it very consciously, except that I was aware of
    what I felt was the right tone for this movie and this character. So, it
    was very clear to me how this movie should be shot and what the tone
    should be. I think because it was Greta and it was this character, I
    felt very protective of the character. I also felt kind of celebratory
    about the character and I think that all went into the style, the tone,
    the feeling of the movie. But, for me it’s a matter of emphasis, really.
    Like, the world is equally the tone of “Margot at the Wedding” as it is
    “Frances Ha” to me. And it doesn’t mean that one is better or worse
    than the other. It’s just, sometimes, a story feels like it should be
    more one way and sometimes it should feel like another.

    “Frances Ha” has a fun lightness to it, but it’s also strangely depressing.
    Well, I think this point in life and these kinds of intense friendships
    — I mean, this is something Greta and I both have had a lot of
    experience with. And Greta was even going through some of this stuff in
    kind of real time while we were making it. I think the notion of
    friendship and the role of friendship in one’s life — and this being
    the first time in your adult life where you have to grow, or not. And
    your friendships are going to be affected by that. And it’s obviously
    something that I was looking at with “Kicking and Screaming,” too. But,
    you know, I think this is the first of many times that that happens, but
    it’s probably never more intense than it is at this point.

    When this premiered at the Toronto International Film Festival, it was labeled a “secret movie.” Is that a deliberate tactic?
    It wasn’t deliberate to keep it that secret, but it wasn’t actually on the Internet until it got announced at Toronto.

    It really was out of nowhere.
    It was cool that it happened that way. To, you know, game the Internet [laughs] …

    And that feels good?
    That feels good. But I didn’t set out to do it that way. I mean, we kept
    a low profile because I kind of wanted it to be, I don’t know, I just
    felt, you know, let’s just do our work and not have to kind of deal with
    expectations. I didn’t really want agents all over this submitting
    their actors. I kind of just wanted to kind of go audition people —
    find a great pool of actors in New York and make something kind of
    simply, but kind of rigorously — and take the time we needed to get it

    Correct me if I’m misinterpreting this. There are a couple
    digs at “SNL” in this movie. A character, Benji, at one point brags
    about how he might have a job writing for “SNL,” then laments that “SNL”
    has gone downhill. I feel those digs are aimed at that type of person
    who says those thing, not “SNL.”

    Right. Someone thinks the opposite?

    I know of at least one person. Not the majority. I pointed out that you’ve written sketches for “SNL.”
    I did. I did two.

    “Clearing the Air” and “New York Underground.” But you’re making fun of the people who are dismissive of “SNL.”
    Of course! No, I love “SNL.” And I had a great time there. I made two shorts for them.

    I just rewatched “Clearing the Air” today.
    That was fun to do. No, I love that show and I like Lorne a lot. And,
    yeah, that’s totally Benji, within probably a few hours saying, “I might
    be able to get a job there,” then a few hours later dismissing the
    show. Because he’s already come to the conclusion that he’ll never work
    for them. I also like “Gremlins.”

    There is a “Gremlins 3” reference in this movie. You know, “Gremlins 2” is surprisingly bizarre.
    “The New Batch.” Yeah, it is weird. They’re sort of making fun of it at
    the same time that they’re kind of doing another one. Yeah, it’s a weird

    That should be your next movie. You should make “Gremlins 3” and shock the world.

    [Laughs] Shock the world! A sort of sequel to “Frances Ha” — it’s set up in “Frances.”

    If you watch a full “SNL” from 1977, it’s got its ups and
    downs, just like today. I feel people tend to cherry pick the best stuff
    from past eras.

    Right, yeah, it just seemed like such a kind of easy, dismissive,
    comment that someone might make. But, I totally agree with you. I think
    it’s remarkable the consistency that show has maintained.

    Would you ever do anything for them again?
    Yeah, I’d love to. It was good timing. I was here and I wasn’t working
    on anything else. I had just sort of become friendly with Bill and Fred.
    And I had adapted a book that Lorne was attached to as a producer. And,
    so, I was sort of hanging out with those guys and it was really fun to
    do. But, yeah, I would definitely do it again.

    There’s a scene in the movie where someone touches Greta’s
    shoulder and she makes a honking noise in response, followed by a lot of
    silence. Is something like that scripted or did she just do that? I
    have to admit, I caught a case of the giggles after that scene.

    Yeah, that was in the script. I’m trying to remember how it was phrased
    — it was like, “Frances makes a sound that she immediately realizes
    afterwords is a mistake.” It was like, yeah, the character would react
    so impulsively that they would have no control over what their reaction
    was. What was fun about it was that it was written in, but I never asked
    Greta how she was going to do it or what it was going to sound like. So
    that was fun to shoot it.

    You didn’t know what the noise would be.
    No. A lot of the times stuff that’s funny in the movie, you’re not
    necessarily laughing on set. But that was something that was very funny,
    even there.

    We hear David Bowie’s “Modern Love” twice during this movie.
    Actually, if you saw it in Toronto, you only got it once — and then I brought it back.

    I did notice that.
    Two music things changed: One is The Rolling Stones asked for too much
    money, so, I had to swap out their song with a T. Rex song that’s in the
    movie — which I think actually works better. The other, which was
    actually a nice effect if you were in a silent screening room, was you
    just heard the sounds of the city while the credits rolled. But, the
    problem is I saw it with these full audiences and people then are
    talking over the credits. I realized no one can hear it, so, it just
    sounds like silence. And then that provided the opportunity, which I
    think is actually the right thing, which was to bring that song back.

    I think that song is the perfect pop song. When I first heard it when
    I got the “Let’s Dance” record as a kid, I really remember very vividly
    that feeling of I couldn’t believe how it sounded. I just loved how it
    sounded. And I kept playing it over and over again. I think in someways
    Greta and I think of “Frances” as a pop song, as a movie. And so it
    seemed like the right companion.

    I can’t tell you how many times I’m flipping through the
    guide on my cable box, see “Kicking and Screaming” and think hot damn.
    It’s never your version.


    Was that annoying when that movie came out with the same title?
    Yeah. It was very annoying. The same year, “Crash” came out, too — or
    right around there — I imagined David Cronenberg was annoyed as well. I
    mean, actually, that was something that I was very conscious about
    because an obvious title for our movie was “Frances.” And there’s a very
    good movie with Jessica Lange called “Frances” about Frances Farmer. It
    kind of pushed Greta and me to get more inventive with the title and,
    ultimately, I think to come up with a kind of great ending for the
    movie. So, I wish the filmmakers of “Kicking & Screaming” had maybe
    done similar — [laughs] worked a little harder to figure it out.

    “Kicking and Screaming … at a Soccer Match”
    Yes, yes. Yeah, something. But, you know, I don’t think — it sort of is
    what it is. I feel like except for your getting tricked, I feel maybe
    we’ve won the war. Maybe we lost the battle, but we might win the war.
    I’m also lucky, you know, Will Ferrell has made a bunch of brilliant
    comedies — and that wasn’t one of them.

    Mike Ryan is senior writer for Huffington Post Entertainment. You can contact him directly on Twitter.

    ReplyCopy URL
    Sep 26th, 2011

    Tony Scott/NY Times

    May 16, 2013
    Movie Review
    If 27 Is Old, How Old Is Grown Up?

    One day an unexpected tax refund arrives in the mail, and Frances, giddy over this windfall, decides to spend it treating a young man to dinner. (His name is Lev, he is played by Adam Driver, and this is the only time I will mention Lena Dunham or “Girls” in this review.) The restaurant rejects her credit card and won’t take a debit card, so Frances sets off through the black-and-white streets of New York in search of an A.T.M. Sprinting back to the table, she trips and sprawls headlong onto the sidewalk, the full calamity of her fall blocked from the camera’s view by a parked car. Then she gets up and keeps running.

    There are a few reasons to note this scene, from “Frances Ha,” the new film directed by Noah Baumbach and written by him and Greta Gerwig, who plays the title character. (Her last name, by the way, is not Ha. The movie’s title is explained in its lovely final shot.)

    The first is that Ms. Gerwig, who has effortless, behind-the-beat verbal timing, also possesses a knack for physical comedy, an enviable ability to obliterate the difference between clumsiness and grace. (Frances is an aspiring dancer, which Ms. Gerwig makes seem both plausible and ridiculous.)

    The second is that Mr. Baumbach, in many ways a cerebral and writerly filmmaker, is not one to shy away from a well-placed pratfall. And finally, Frances’s tumble, at once charming and alarming, is a miniature of the film itself.

    In the course of a little less than a year, Frances, heedlessly skipping through her 20s, suddenly falls down and feels the impact of reality. Or maturity. Or some other hard fact that she might have acknowledged before, but mostly for other people, or for later.

    “Twenty-seven is old,” someone says, and while that may in some sense be true, it is also true that 27 is not as old as it used to be. A few short generations ago members of the American middle class could be expected to reach that age in possession of a career, a spouse and at least one child, unless they were rock stars, in which case they would be dead.

    But for Frances and her cohort of vaguely artistic, post-collegiate New Yorkers, precocity has become its own form of arrested development. They are clever and curious, but also complacent, content to drift through jobs and relationships as they camouflage their anxiety with easy sarcasm and overdone enthusiasm. Mr. Baumbach has explored this territory before, most notably in “Kicking and Screaming,” his first feature, released when he was in his mid-20s, almost 20 years ago. And what has been called the quarter-life crisis is a common enough theme these days.

    But “Frances Ha,” Mr. Baumbach’s least overtly autobiographical film as a director, is not primarily an act of generational portraiture, on his part or Ms. Gerwig’s. It is entirely caught up in the individuality of its heroine, who is viewed with affectionate detachment, and in the details of her environment, which are given a romantic lift by Sam Levy’s supple, shadowy monochrome cinematography and a musical soundtrack borrowed mostly from the great French film composer Georges Delerue.

    With its swift, jaunty rhythms and sharp, off-kilter jokes, “Frances Ha” is frequently delightful. Ms. Gerwig and Mr. Baumbach are nonetheless defiant partisans in the revolt against the tyranny of likability in popular culture. Frances is neither blandly agreeable nor adorably quirky. Rather, like Roger Greenberg (in Mr. Baumbach’s “Greenberg”) — but not at all like him, because she is a completely different person — she is difficult. She hogs conversations, misses obvious social cues and is frequently inconsiderate, though more in the manner of an overgrown toddler than a queen-bee mean girl.

    One of her sometime roommates, Benji (Michael Zegen), calls her “undateable,” and for most of the movie she is romantically unattached, having broken up with an irrelevant boyfriend in an early scene. Really, she has made an easy choice between him and her best friend, Sophie (the marvelously spiky Mickey Sumner), setting herself up for heartache when Sophie in effect chooses a man over her. Frances and Sophie, who live together at the start of the movie, are more than best friends.

    “We’re the same person,” Frances likes to say, and she also likes to imagine that theirs will be a lifelong love story, technically chaste but always passionate and fulfilling.

    Then Sophie moves in with her boyfriend, Patch (Patrick Heusinger), who becomes her fiancé and takes her to Tokyo. Frances is left to improvise, and also to learn some hard lessons, none of which are terribly surprising in hindsight, but most of which she still somehow fails to anticipate. She bounces from one living situation to another, briefly to Paris and to Sacramento for Christmas with her parents (played by Ms. Gerwig’s own parents). Her professional progress is as precarious as her social life.

    Frances’s circumstances often seem to be at war with her sense of entitlement, the idea, no doubt carefully nurtured by sympathetic parents and progressive schools, that her specialness makes her immune to failure. It is painful to watch the world challenging this view, even as it is also hard not to be on the side of the world. But the spirit of the film is more wry than punitive, and it is in the end less a satire or a cautionary tale than a bedtime story for young adults. It will all work out. Twenty-seven is young. Frances will have the last laugh.


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    Sep 26th, 2011

    Very strong LA Times review – Harvey would be thrilled to have any of his contenders so well reviewed:

    Kenneth Turan, Los Angeles Times Film Critic

    May 16, 2013, 5:45 p.m.

    Effortless and effervescent, “Frances Ha” is a small miracle of a movie, honest and funny with an aim that’s true. It’s both a timeless story of the joys and sorrows of youth and a dead-on portrait of how things are right now for one particular New York woman who, try as she might, can’t quite get her life together.

    That would be the Frances of the title (the Ha isn’t explained until the film’s charming final frame), a joint creation of and career high point for both star Greta Gerwig and director Noah Baumbach, who met on the director’s “Greenberg” and co-wrote the script.

    Together they have created an American independent film (shot in luminous black and white by Sam Levy) that feels off the cuff but is in fact exactly made by a filmmaker in total control of his resources. With a soundtrack that makes liberal use of music from Georges Delerue, a frequent Francois Truffaut collaborator, it’s got the energy and verve of the French New Wave but remains unmistakably itself.

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    Though both Gerwig, a fixture on the New York independent scene who’s moved on to bigger features, and Baumbach, Oscar-nominated for writing the marvelous “The Squid and the Whale,” are known quantities on their own, they’ve increased their effectiveness by working together.

    For the actress, a quicksilver presence with a fluid face who couldn’t be more natural on screen, “Frances” is an opportunity to build a character of unexpected complexity. For the director, having a gifted collaborator able to be so completely present adds a lightness his films have not always had and has made possible an irresistible command of the moment.

    If anyone lives completely in that moment, it is Frances, a 27-year-old apprentice dancer who is so many often contradictory things at once it’s difficult to know where to begin — or end — in describing her.

    Feckless and rootless, gawky and graceful, over-analytical and uncertain, always apologizing yet often oblivious, Frances is making a hash out of her own life because she doesn’t know any better. If there is a wrong turn to be made, she will take it; if there is a way to sabotage herself, she will find it. A more or less disposable person for everyone she knows, she is aware that adult life is beyond her capacity at present. “I’m so embarrassed,” she says. “I’m not a real person yet.”

    And yet there is something unmistakably endearing about Frances, something winning in her vulnerability and her pluck, the way she bounces back like a Joe Palooka toy from her many misadventures. She is unmistakably good-hearted, and it is impossible not to root for her as she throws herself into life and tries to determine if there can be a place there for her. Frances’ woeful mantra in these struggles, which she brandishes whenever life’s pressures become too great, is the defensive “I’m not messy, I’m busy.”

    Because Frances’ life is so peripatetic (Baumbach has aptly characterized the film as “a road movie with apartments”), the screenwriters divide the proceedings into different sections by using title cards listing her various addresses.

    CHEAT SHEET: Cannes Film Festival 2013

    The first address is on Vanderbilt Avenue in Brooklyn, where Frances lives with Sophie, her former college roommate and someone so central to her life that Frances turns down the chance to move in with her boyfriend because of a vague promise made to Sophie about sharing the lease. Frances is way invested in a fantasy future they’ve concocted for themselves (“Tell me the story of us,” she importunes Sophie when she’s feeling low) and is pleased that the neighborhood thinks of them as “a lesbian couple that doesn’t have sex anymore.”

    Beautifully played by British actress Mickey Sumner (the daughter of Sting and Trudy Styler), Sophie cares but she’s much more calculating, directed and self-absorbed than her roommate, and the ever-shifting sands between these two as the film progresses is one of “Frances'” continuing dynamics.

    The next address is 22 Center St. in Manhattan’s Chinatown, where Frances occupies the spare room in an apartment rented by two trust-funder types with more money than good sense. Lev (Adam Driver of “Girls” fame) spends his time hanging with celebrities and chasing women, while Benji seems to be working as a writer while actually spending his time searching for vintage Ray-Bans on EBay. Neither man knows what to make of Frances, with Benji coming as close as he can by pronouncing her “undateable.”

    No matter where else she stays, and her addresses include stops in Sacramento, Poughkeepsie, even a brief weekend in Paris, Frances reveals a gift for falling into improbable situations and doing unlikely things.

    But because Frances’ feelings are never far from the surface no matter what her address, our heart always goes out to her energy and her spirit. If this film has a signature sequence, it’s a long tracking shot of its namesake running fluidly through the streets of New York with David Bowie’s “Modern Love” playing on the soundtrack. In that moment, in fact in all of its moments, “Frances Ha” more than makes you feel hopeful about movies, it allows you to feel that way about life as well.


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    Oct 11th, 2011

    The film is wonderful — definitely catch it once it becomes available in your area.

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    Sep 26th, 2011



    John Anderson, Wall Street Journal

    ‘Frances Ha’

    Watch a clip from the film “Frances Ha.” A New York woman apprentices for a dance company (though she’s not really a dancer), and throws herself headlong into her dreams, even as their possible reality dwindles. (Photo/Video: Sundance Selects)

    It’s easy to imagine Noah Baumbach’s latest feature becoming part of an online-dating questionnaire: “Favorite book?” “Beach or mountains?” “How do you feel about ‘Frances Ha’?” Careful: Your answer could render you, like Frances herself, “undateable.”

    Some will find Mr. Baumbach’s seventh film to be quirky bordering on precious, a Brooklyn hipster’s version of Woody Allen’s “Manhattan,” or an upscale take on Andrew Bujalski’s seminal, microbudgeted “Funny Ha Ha” (with which it bears too many similarities not to be an homage). Everyone has an opinion, of course; some people probably think the Sistine Chapel’s ceiling is a little busy.

    For others, the glorious “Frances Ha,” co-written by Mr. Baumbach and his real-life paramour Greta Gerwig, will possess an irresistibly lovely, melancholic acknowledgment that love is impossible, and that the more candid a young woman is, the less eligible she becomes in the standard romantic sweepstakes. Shot in breathtaking black and white by Sam Levy, the film is also honest about New York City in a way Mr. Allen has never had to be: The city has become a theme park for trust-fund babies, in which la vie bohème is a pricey fashion statement. Someone like Frances, a dancer without investment portfolio, or even a real apartment, who lives footloose out of necessity—not, like most of her friends, amusement—is a truly endangered species.

    Enlarge Image


    IFC Films

    Greta Gerwig

    What happens? Various crises of confidence, and heart. At the beginning of the story, Frances is asked by boyfriend du jour Dan (Michael Esper) if she’ll move in with him. Frances declines, partly because she’d rather not, partly because it would separate her from best friend/roommate Sophie (a miscast Mickey Sumner). It’s a wonderfully written scene, rich in uncomfortable truth: Dan, crushed by rejection, assumes a defensive crouch (“This hasn’t been working for a while…”). Then, as he senses Frances may be changing her mind, he shifts back to offense (“Let’s move in together!”). Frances says no, wisely, only to learn that Sophie is moving out, to share an apartment in TriBeCa (“It’s where I’ve always wanted to be”). It’s a novelistic moment: The heroine suddenly seeing that her view of the world is merely that.

    Sophie doesn’t define what she’s done as betrayal, and neither would Frances, but definitions aren’t her strong suit. How, after all, does one define Frances? She’s not really a dancer, she’s not really a waitress. When she moves in with Lev (Adam Driver) and Benji (Michael Zegen, who repeatedly dubs her “undateable”) she’s not even really a tenant. She takes an impulsive two-day trip to Paris, but spends it alone. Sadder still, she goes back to her old college to work as a volunteer. But at the same time, during a dinner party, she is capable of delivering as moving a description of what true love means as has ever been included in a motion picture. The payoff to that scene is poignant beyond words.

    En route to Frances’ self-realization, there are moments in which the movie falters, forces a joke or leaves a line hanging in the air like old wash. But “Frances Ha” also marks the rare instance in which an actress has the perfect role at the perfect time. Ms. Gerwig’s work here is fragile, delicate, subject to bruising; something that could wither under too much attention. Perhaps Ms. Gerwig is the greatest actress alive. And maybe “Frances Ha” is just the ghost orchid of independent cinema.


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    Oct 11th, 2011

    Someone should send that to her publicist to show her.

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    Sep 26th, 2011

    I assume she’s seen it already (most major publications email their reviews a few hours before they go on line to publicists).

    The film still needs to be an indie hit (possible – the rap against it is that it is too small/too black and white/too female/too NY, but my guess is word of mouth could make it quite successful.

    What could help Gerwig’s chances with the actors’ branch way, way down the line are two things:

    1) she co-wrote this (that’s a real plus is known)
    2) it has a real latter-day French New Wave feel that older actors may recognize and appreciate      

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    Oct 11th, 2011

    This is also a situation where the film’s quality and her performance isn’t so separate so if a person loves the film, I can’t help but think they loved her performance too.

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    Sep 26th, 2011

    It’s what great film acting should be – an integral part of an overall film, an outgrowth of it, not some “look at me – who cares about how crappy the rest of the film is” situation that far too many of the films that win acting Oscars come from.

    Gerwig has established herself as a type, a character. She is different in all of her films. But she has already achieved something important as an actress in “Frances Ha.” She doesn’t seem to be acting – some people will say she’s playing herself. For me, that is vastly preferable to so much of what many people regard as the best of film acting today.  

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    Sep 26th, 2011


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    Jun 13th, 2011

    Happy to see “Frances Ha” is opening in my hometown today.  I’ll catch the film tomorrow. 

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    Dec 1st, 2011

    The film itself felt slight to me, but I can’t deny how memorable Greta Gerwig was all through this. I think if “Girls” hadn’t existed and been in my consciousness the way that it was, I would have been more taken with the work as a whole. The black and white cinematography was stunning, and I’m very interested in seeing what Noah Baumbach does next. Loved the use of David Bowie’s “Modern Love” here and the scenes of Frances either running or dancing in the streets. If Gerwig becomes a critical darling this season, I could see her making her way into Best Actress, but she could just as easily be snubbed in what I’m guessing is going to be a divisive role (just like Sally Hawkins’s Poppy was for “Happy-Go-Lucky,” warranted or unwarranted). We’ll see how all of that goes this season.

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    Oct 5th, 2011

    Im scared thayt if I see it I wont like it but who knows.l

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