Poor Frances. At the ripe old age of 27, nothing in her life is going right. Her boyfriend wants her to move in, but she can’t run out on her roommate, so they split. Then her absolute favorite person in the world, her roomie Sophie, moves out on her despite their promise to stick together until the lease is up. Plus she is still apprenticing in a dance troupe and her future there is in doubt. And she’s not getting any younger, as she is constantly reminded. But she’s no late-20s slacker either. She just can’t seem to get things to work the way she knows they are supposed to. In this indie comedy from director Noah Baumbach (Fantastic Mr. Fox, Margot at the Wedding), Greta Gerwig animates the hapless but lovable Frances and takes you along on her journey as she figures it all out in her own goofy fashion.
With Sophie’s leaving and their subsequent falling out, Frances becomes unmoored and semi-homeless and moves around from apartment to apartment, person to person, trying to find her place in a world of New York hipsters and young professionals. She is clinging to the thought that she will be a great dancer, despite her obvious failure to make it in the profession. But what makes the film work is her hopeless optimism. Her character’s truest self comes through in a scene where she dances with wild abandon down the New York streets to David Bowie’s “Modern Love.” She lives without limits, but slowly awakens to the reality that the world is limited, and she has to find a way to make it work for her. She has to grow up, damn it!
Frances Ha belongs to Greta Gerwig. She co-wrote it and is in every scene of this beautifully shot black and white film. Her Frances is funny and has a physicality that is both klutzy and endearing. In the hands of another actress the character could easily have been very annoying, but Gerwig give her a depth and, despite the veneer of cluelessness, a fragility that causes you to root for her. I was a bit afraid that the whole 20-somethingness of it might be off-putting to me as my 20s in New York were decades ago, but it didn’t have that “you are an outsider looking into a strange culture” feeling at all. It is about a pretty universal struggle to find your place in the world, and I relate. I’d recommend this to young and old, men and women. It would be a good date flick. And it really does make me miss New York.