Tag Archives: new sincerity

Bach with Greta


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.

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Highly anticipated (greatly by myself), Beginners really didn’t disappoint. I first heard of this film through the wonderful Miranda July who, if you don’t know, is married to writer and director Mike Mills.

July, notes on her facebook page, “He described it to me on our very first date. And now, six years later, it opens in theaters. Today! And you’ll be there! Laughing and crying, I promise”.

Mills certainly delivers both happiness and sadness which like many of the films of the last 5-10 years falls into what many have dubbed ‘the new sincerity’. Managing to be both poignant and funny, Mills avoids getting too heavy even when we are immediately told his main character, Oliver, played wonderfully (honest) by Ewan McGregor, is coming to grips with his mother’s death and his father’s terminal cancer, alongside his newly aired homosexual identity. Heavy, eh? Well no.

The tone is kept light with importance as Mills touches on the romance, heartbreak and reality of everyday life without all that hollywood cheese. We also get some lovely montages of drawings, stills and beautifully shot scenes. Beginners, largely based on Mills’ own life, to quote July again, may for this reason be most accurately summed up as,

““…life is so ridiculously gorgeous, strange, heartbreaking, horrific…that we are compelled to describe it to ourselves, but we can’t! We cannot do it! And so we make art”.

Go see it.

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