I recently read that Hollywood is experimenting with the idea of data crunching screenplays, which could rate the likelihood of a screenplay being a hit with audiences. With this prospect on the horizon that forces an industry to literally manufacture movies to meet a sterile standard, it’s refreshing to know that smaller movies are still organically being made and not selling out to a dumbed down audience. An example is the latest from Noah Baumbach and Greta Gerwig, the sweet and endearing Frances Ha.
Synopsis from IFC Films: Frances (Greta Gerwig) lives in New York, but she doesn’t really have an apartment. Frances is an apprentice for a dance company, but shes not really a dancer. Frances has a best friend named Sophie, but they aren’t really speaking anymore. Frances throws herself headlong into her dreams, even as their possible reality dwindles. Frances wants so much more than she has but lives her life with unaccountable joy and lightness. FRANCES HA is a modern comic fable that explores New York, friendship, class, ambition, failure, and redemption.
Vibrant and insecure yet honest and confident, Frances Ha is a tour-de-force of my non-committal “Facebook- Maybe” generation. This raw and genuine, yet light hearted movie captures the 20 something millennial generation as people just go with the flow. This is also about growing up and taking responsibility for life. Transitions are the most turbulent during these years and a movie needs to tell the audience that it’s okay to be stuck in life. Relationships can have a tendency to dissolve as well. Frances Ha takes a sarcastic, humorous and genuine look at this reality that many stale, mainstream comedies, that resort to sex jokes, fail to do. When Frances is reunited with Sophie who acts shallow toward her, Frances snaps: “Don’t treat me like a three hour brunch friend!” In Frances Ha, Greta Gerwig reminded me of younger Kristin Wiig as Amélie in a Woody Allen movie. Indie films introduced Carey Mulligan (An Education) and Jennifer Lawerence (Winters Bone) to the world. Likewise, I think Frances Ha could be a career defining launching pad for Greta Gerwig.
Witty and quirky in the best (and less annoying) way possible, Frances Ha is a refreshing change of pace from the loud and obnoxious blockbusters that dominate the season. The realism of urban dwellers living in various places was spot-on accurate as this creative artist struggles to pay the bills while making a living. Most of the characters are articulate and highly educated New Yorkers who dream big despite their generational shortcomings and struggles for relevance. This captures the awkward post-college transition, the mid-to-late twenties realization where friends become less important as career and family becomes more relevant. The biggest shock and ultimate joy of Frances Ha was simple: I wanted to watch it immediately afterwards. At a brisk hour and twenty minutes, you miss many of the biting one-liners.
Younger white male bloggers are lazily comparing Frances Ha to the Lena Dunham HBO series Girls. This is similar to classifying all African American movies as belonging to the Tyler Perry brand. Just because there is so little of something represented in pop culture, it shouldn’t be automatically guilty of association (or assumption). These critics miss the point. Noah Baumbach (The Squid & The Whale, the misunderstood Greenberg) has become a Woody Allen for the overtly sensitive, awkward hipster generation. If my generation needs to be heard and understood, especially the women, it’s a movie with Baumbach and Gerwig like Frances Ha to deliver that message.
So TMB readers does Frances Ha speak for the current 20-something generation or is this just another annoying privilege girl attempting to redefine and rediscover herself?