Following the cult of the twenty-something struggles filling our TV and cinema screens recently (GIRLS, Beginners and Tiny Furniture, to name but a few), indie auteur Noah Baumbach returns with the release of Frances Ha – co-written by leading lady, and star of Baumbach’s 2010 Greenberg, Greta Gerwig.
A film about friendship, escape, finding love and growing up, Frances Ha is a surprisingly breezier departure from Baumbach’s past work. And it is clear Gerwig had something to do with this.
For a start we don’t have to try very hard (actually, at all) to fall in love with Frances, played by Gerwig herself. Or any of the other characters for that matter. (A quality lacking for me in Baumbach’s 2005 The Squid and the Whale).
Her willed (and adorable) naivety is at times a little overdone but it is careful not to romanticise too much Frances’ quintessential hand-to-mouth artist struggle in the Big City. And instead interweaves difficult themes in a genuinely funny and lighthearted way.
Like many of the late 90s and 00s characters – in what critics have lumped together as “the new sincerity” – the film reflects a point in all of our lives of wanting to get on in a ways that are true to ourselves, while escaping and minimising the obstacle of compromise. These are raw emotions without the irony of past generations.
And it is sincere and funny in its episodes of reckless childish misguidance – including a credit-card fueled spree to Paris and a first date bought with a tax rebate. There even seems to be a hint that these childish urges are actually the antidote to the falsity (bit strong? okay, expectations?) of adulthood which best friend Sophie, comes to accept. Or at the very least a balance is needed.
Stylistically I forgot, as did those who I went to see it with, that I was watching a black and white film. And instead it swooped over to create a subtle yet obvious (go with it…) feeling we were watching a ‘story’, Frances’ story. One, which no matter how ordinary, is happening now and most certainly noteworthy.
Sentimental but not soppy, Frances Ha is a real treat. With Baumbach and Gerwig rumoured to be a romantic item also, I’m looking forward to their future together.