Frances Ha: Rated “R“ (86 Minutes)
Starring: Greta Gerwig, Adam Driver, Grace Gummer, Mickey Sumner, Patrick Heusinger
Directed by: Noah Baumbach
This is one of those darling indie movies that is getting something of a good run because of its “quirky” nature and “honest” portrayal of “young adult” life in New York City. Ostensibly about Frances (Gerwig) lives in New York, but she doesn’t really have an apartment (she rooms with a series of friends and acquaintances — more later). On the surface, she is an apprentice for a dance company, but she’s not really a dancer. Her roommate is her best friend Sophie (Sumner), but they aren’t really speaking anymore, because Frances passed up the opportunity to move in with her boyfriend (with whom she really isn’t very happy with and no longer having sex with) only to learn that Sophie is moving out to share a better place with someone else.
Now Frances is forced to find a new place (which she does repeatedly throughout the film, casually stumbling from one apartment to another, always relying on the good will of other to put her up (and take less rent than they really want from her because she is almost but not quite working). In fact, at one point someone at a dinner party asks her what she does, and she responds that the answer is difficult, to which the other person asks, “because what you do is complicated?” and Frances responds, “No, because I don’t actually do it.” And therein lies the root of the problem with this film.
Frances “doesn’t quite” do anything, have an apartment, work at her “profession” have relationships with the people around her. She just sorts of floats from one half-formed episodic event, relationship, “thing” to the next, never quite doing whatever it would take to have an actual life. When Sophie moves on, Frances tries to hang on to whatever nebulous thing she had with Sophie by attempting to layer that on top of her next casual girl-relationship. Needless to say it doesn’t quite take. She flits from one thing to the next never quite getting close enough to form any real bonds (save to a sort of co-dependency on Sophie).
Frances wants so much more than she has but lives her life with unaccountable joy and lightness so as to avoid any form of real commitment. She dances, but isn’t any good at it and is cut from the dance troop, she waits tables, but claims not to be a waitress, she wither hates or likes someone depending on the point she is attempting to make in a conversation and says things that sound smart, but mean nothing. She is a cipher, and thus there is something false at the very heart of the movie. It is a form of bland cotton candy that not only doesn’t taste good, but is stale and simply makes you wonder why you are eating this in the first place. Shot in drab Black & White for no discernible reason, there is no joy in this film leaving this viewer repeatedly checking his watch to see how much of his life was flushed away with no payoff or worthwhile resolution in sight.
Even the ending seemingly comes out of nowhere when (again for nor discernible reason Frances’ life suddenly goes from aimless to mediocre and were supposed to feel happy for her. We were simply happy that the credits began to roll and the house lights came up signaling our chance to retreat back into our own dull and drab life.
Robert J. Sodaro has been reviewing films for some 30 years. During that time, his movie reviews and articles have appeared in numerous print publications, as well as on the web. Subscribe to receive regular articles and movie reviews.