These days I’m so eager to share information. It’s the information age, they say, so I guess that’s quite all right. While I watched Frances Ha, I couldn’t help but make a mental list of all the people in my life that I needed to share this film with. My list started small, just after the opening credits rolled revealing two manic-pixies frolicking through New York, blowing cigarette smoke out their Brooklyn apartment window, but would eventually grow innumerous as the plot carries us through an 18-months struggle-bus of rent, rejection and real life.
That is to say, Frances Ha is a very good movie. It’s truthful, heartbreaking and brutally funny. For lack of a better word, its a story about a millennial, or I guess millennials. The plot follows Frances, played by c0-writer Greta Grewig, as she loses her best friend (“we’re basically the same person, with different hair”) to a Goldman Sachs bro and flails around Brooklyn, Manhattan and Paris trying to do something worth her time. Unlike two of her trust-fund roommates Lev (played by the well-dressed Adam Driver) and Benji, Frances is actually poor. She faces the realities of a rent check while attempting to fight the good fight for her creative endeavors.
Shooting in black and white might as well be cheating. Director Noah Baumbach is even able to almost, sort of make Sacramento seem whimsical, which I can assure you, it is not. The black and white, however, is important in its deliberateness. It’s forced, it’s unnatural, it’s romanticized — it’s as if there aren’t real consequences to Frances’ real, life-altering choices. Frances rejects a job as an office assistant, she rejects dating, she flies to Paris for a weekend on a credit card she received in the mail (she’s not an idiot, she understands how these scams work) and sleeps the day away. The character is rich and multi-dimensional. Her presence on screen is captivating and all-but tiresome. The 18-months roughly follows Frances’ relationship with her best friend, Sophie, who has started dating someone that Frances doesn’t like nor understand, which proves to be a very tragic narrative.
Here’s where we have to make the obvious connection to HBO’s Girls, but Frances Ha is a much more realistic portrayal of bohemian 20-something New York culture. And I say that as a big fan of Girls. Where Girls tends to revert to putting its characters/viewers in uncomfortable situations for the sake of plot, Frances Ha is more interested in showing Frances as a realistic, flawed, poor 27-year-old actually losing her best friend. Perhaps part of the reason this film felt so much more authentic than Girls was that the stakes seemed to be much higher. Girls gets away placing its characters in ridiculous situations for the sake of plot and movement, granted for a different medium. Regardless, it’s interesting that two forms of art portraying roughly the same subjects can illicit such different results.
To a certain degree, Girls was touted as being surprisingly relatable. Whether or not that was the actual case, I walked out of the theater awestruck by the way Frances Ha made a story about a dancer in Brooklyn a movie for everyone. It’s a film about friends and female companionship, about coming of age and discovering yourself while sitting on the couch doing nothing. This sounds pretty niche, but Baumbach and Grewig created a world in which it is not.