Monday, 7 July 2014

Frances Ha review

There seems to be few films I've seen lately about the trouble of following your dreams. The Future evolved around a lazy couple that gave themselves 30 days to make their lives worth living, and Inside Llewyn Davis was a brilliant if frustrating look at someone who is too stubborn to ask for help. These films look at the problem of being too delusional, in thinking that you have more talent than what you have, and being too romantic, in believing that only absolute creative freedom is authentic.

Frances Ha provides a similar basis in this Noah Baumbach directed film. Frances (Greta Gerwig) is a 27 year old dance apprentice who still plans on living the free wheelin' life with her best friend Sophie. She even turns down moving in with her not-upset-just-disappointed ex-boyfriend when she says she needs to renew the lease on her apartment with Sophie. To her dismay, Sophie agrees to move in with her boyfriend to the Tribeca district of NYC, because they never really talked about the lease anyway.

Things go from bad to worse, with Frances becoming homeless and couch surfing, and being unable to pay her share on an apartment that is "very aware of itself". Her best friend moves to Japan because of her now fiance. She is told that she is unsuitable for her apprenticeship role. She's intimidated by people that seemed to have their shit together, and in a desperate attempt to seem more wordily wise, books an expensive weekend trip to Paris where she just drinks coffee.

Frances' life falls apart around her because she puts her life in the hands of other people. She still believes in the dream life you plan for yourself as a child, playing the idyllic "story of us" with Sophie. She presumes her job will continue, just because. But where as the characters in The Future and Inside Llewyn Davis crumble under the pressure to live in the so called "real world", a world of bills, responsibility and compassion, Frances somehow manages to crawl out of her despair.

The best part of this film, and I won't be spoiling it for you, is that Frances never wallows in her pity. When it feels like everything is going against her, an inner strength allows her to accept her situation and make the best of it. Much of Frances' charm is due to Gerwig's enigmatic acting, playing the awkward girl but always with integrity.

The black and white filming was designed to give the film a timeless quality, and indeed the film draws from many classic inspirations, including silent cinema and Woody Allen. The effect may seem a little crass at times, but this film's story does have a timeless effect. Whereas before the bildungsroman would be about a school leaver going into the adult world, nowadays we talk of adults having to accept the mundanity of being an adult, the disappointments they never accounted for, and the strength to carry on despite all of this.

Frances Ha is the perfect coming-of-age story that is having to learn that was once reliable is now not. Life is absurd, so deal with it.



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