Movie Review: “Frances Ha” – A Feel-Good Indie Film

Written by David Greenberg July 14, 2013

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“I don’t really do it”

A scene in Noah Baumbach’s film “Frances Ha” has the titular character, Frances, at a dinner party with a group of people she vaguely knows through her temporary roommate.  She is asked by a man at the table what she does for a living to which she responds, “it’s complicated.” When asked if what she does is complicated, she notes that it’s complicated because “I don’t really do it.”  Rife with awkward humor and lovable characters, “Frances Ha”, directed by Noah Baumbach and co-written by Baumbach and star of the film, Greta Gerwig, portrays the average life of a girl who hasn’t got it all figured out but who seems to wander through her post-college years without any form of significant wherewithal or structure.  This is what made the character, and the film for that matter, both lovable and believable.

She just can’t seem to move on

In a world where success is measured by what kind of job you have and what kind of car you drive, Frances is most certainly an outsider.  Frances is both college educated and from an upper-middle class family in San Diego.  Yet, she cannot seem to pull it all together.  She lives in New York with her best friend Sophie (Mickey Sumner) and dreams about being a world-famous dancer where, in reality, she is merely an understudy at a dance company in Manhattan.  Frances refuses an offer from her boyfriend to move in with him, preferring to spend her days dreaming of the future with Sophie and socializing with their hipster friends, Dan and Lev.  Yet, when Sophie decides to move in with her respective boyfriend and subsequently quit her job at a publishing firm in order to follow him to Tokyo, Frances begins to realize that she must begin to live her own life and carve some sort of path for herself in the world.

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Very honest

The reason why “Frances Ha” is such an appealing film is because of its honesty.  Frances is such a lovable character because no matter what life throws at her, she always seems to let it slide off of her shoulder and always seems to figure things out.  Frances is emblematic of those people who are college educated but still can’t seem to figure it all out.  She knows she wants to be a dancer but constantly finds it hard to realize her goal in a competitive world where those who are manipulative and cunning most often win.  Although the world does not necessarily give it easily to Frances, the film does not allow itself to dwell on the negative aspect of Frances’ inability to succeed at her job or grow out of her college days. Rather, the film shows that success and growing up do not come naturally to everyone.

Not another indie film

Staying true to Baumbach’s indie roots, “Frances Ha” is shot in black and white giving it a more real feeling.  Oftentimes the scenery of a film will distract the viewer from the storyline.  Baumbach’s style choice allows the audience to focus on Frances and puts the New York setting in the backseat.  In fact, the New Yorkness of the film is consistently underplayed almost as if it is where Frances is in her life that’s more important than where she is, geographically speaking.

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Frances deals with it

“Frances Ha” is a film that people can look to as a lesson especially in times like these.  Frances does not complain nor does she lament her life.  Rather, she deals.  Sometimes that is all one needs to do.  This film will have you look at the world more positively and remind you that people do not necessarily have to follow a prescribed path in life in order to achieve inner success.

My Rating: 8.5/10

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