Starring: Greta Gerwig, Mickey Sumner, Adam Driver
Genre: Drama/ Comedy
Frances (Gerwig) is a woman in her late twenties living in New York who seems to know what she wants in life but just cannot get it. After splitting with her boyfriend and then her more successful housemate (Sumner) moves away Frances is left having very little direction when at an age that she should start to have a real direction in life. In still wanting to pursue her dream of becoming a professional dancer, with no real income or career Frances moves from apartment to apartment clinging on to this increasing difficult and distant dream.
In my experience whenever a film with a low budget whose lead actor/actress also partly wrote the script it can risk entering the territory of self indulgence, and Frances Ha most definitely flirts with that at times, but thankfully is overall a very engaging and sometimes poignant comedy/ drama. Keeping it all together is Greta Gerwig giving a magnetic performance as Frances and providing the emotional depth that a film of this kind most certainly needs. It is true she is occasionally a little annoying but her goals in life are good hearted, basic and universal; all she wants to do is follow her dream despite that dream seemingly becoming increasingly distant. There is however an element of her tendency for the faux pais that we can certainly relate to as we have all been there with some scenes being genuinely cringe worthy. She is also in her late twenties but still living like she was in her early twenties, something also that I know many of us can relate to.
The slapdash narrative does feel as random, unorganised and unplanned as Frances’ life itself, but thankfully the addresses that Frances lives at throughout are shown as headings to give a little bit of much needed structure. The decision for the film to be in black and white also adds an element of rawness that certainly suits the protagonist and narrative.
Despite Frances being an overall very likeable protagonist that despite her obvious flaws, we do genuinely root for there are plenty of potential alienating aspects of the film that I know will annoy many and me a little. One problem for me is all the characters in the film being ‘arty’ types that seemingly have endless money when needed; they only enhance the occasional smug tone to the film and do risk ruining the whole thing. Likewise Frances struggling to pay the rent is made to be a big thing but then she suddenly flies to Paris when it is convenient for the plot. I appreciate there is an overall light hearted tone of the film to reflect partly Frances’ approach to life, and despite that in more thoughtful scenes Gerwig occasionally captures with perfect subtlety and an underlying sadness and increasing disillusionment that Frances feels. However to keep things suitably light this does lead to avoiding confrontation of certain elements that in real life we all would simply have to and I found that did occasionally detract from the overall engagement, especially in the final third. However, if you are willing to go with the generally light hearted tone, with a charismatic central performance from Gerwig Frances Ha is a very enjoyable character study.
Frances Ha does occasionally venture dangerously towards smug and self indulgent but thanks to Gerwig’s magnetic performance is an often charming and poignant good hearted comedy.