Frances Ha (2012)
February 27, 2020 11:31 AM - Subscribe

A New York woman (who doesn't really have an apartment) apprentices for a dance company (though she's not really a dancer) and throws herself headlong into her dreams, even as the possibility of realizing them dwindles. Starring and written by Greta Gerwig, written and directed by Noah Baumbach

"Audiences will need to tolerate a certain amount of narrative drift, but thanks to sensitive direction from Noah Baumbach and an endearing performance from Greta Gerwig, Frances Ha makes it easy to forgive."

Ann Hornaday: Baumbach films and edits “Frances Ha” for maximum verisimilitude, whether it’s an excruciatingly awkward dinner party or the stalled torpor of a post-brunch Sunday afternoon among the un-coupled. But mostly, he has captured the sustenance and unspoken romance of female friendship: the way two women light up when they talk to one another and the barely detectable tectonic shift that occurs when they let each other down. “Frances Ha” is about a character who, by her own proud but apologetic lights, “isn’t a real person yet.” As most people who’ve been there know, that’s not inherently interesting raw material, but Baumbach and Gerwig have used it to make a real movie.

Wesley Morris: How do you make a watchable film about a tedious, tiresome person? Frances (Greta Gerwig) — the 27-year-old underemployed dancer at the center of this movie — insults, freeloads, and hijacks dinner parties. She has only the vaguest sense that she’s not cut out for most of what she pursues. Her narcissism is vividly tedious. Another movie would have tried to mature her or turn her into a joke. But Baumbach loves, loves, loves her. He wrote the script with Gerwig, whose flaky fuzziness tends to have this effect on directors. Baumbach happens to have been the most affected: They’re a real-life couple.

Amie Simon: Shot in arty black and white, Frances Ha is a talky-somewhat-improvised-portait of a girl that probably isn't for everyone, but fans of both Baumbach & Gerwig will love it. And Gerwig is just so damn GOOD. Even though Frances' life experience was entirely different than mine, I felt connected to her while she was trying to figure things out; not seeing what's good right in front of her, unable to enjoy anything even a little bit, freaking out about her intended "career", and desperately, DESPERATELY trying to please everyone. (If you don't cringe several times during the dinner party scene, you are not human)

posted by Carillon (15 comments total) 2 users marked this as a favorite
I saw this a while back, soon after it was released for home consumption. Went in blind, knew nothing about it. Admittedly, I was ready to bolt for the door after the first ten minutes, but it really grew on me, to the point that it won me over. Gerwig is the complete standout—I cannot remember any of the other characters.

I really, really think this would have been better as a short film. Perhaps they padded it out in order to package it as a "movie" for business reasons? I later learned that this is considered "mumblecore" and so now I can say I have officially seen a mumblecore movie.
posted by SoberHighland at 3:25 PM on February 27, 2020 [1 favorite]

I still think of this as The Ballad of Georgette Costanza. With a Leos Carax steal.
posted by Harry Caul at 4:29 PM on February 27, 2020

I love this movie. The first time I watched it it threw me into a deep depression. It sent me right back to my post-university quarter-life-crisis days, when you're trying to reground your friendships now that you lack the common ground of a shared environment and peer group. It's such a lonely time. And that trip to Paris... hoping a new environment will give you something fresh and reviving, except you're still the same dumb person abroad and when you get back home.
posted by Rora at 5:49 PM on February 27, 2020 [6 favorites]

I was ready to bolt for the door after the first ten minutes, but it really grew on me, to the point that it won me over.

Just watched this a month ago and the above captures my feelings perfectly. It's surprising how much this ends up working as a deeply engaging character study, even when the character is fairly unlikeable throughout most of the film. The naturalism of the writing and direction, and Gerwig's fantastic acting, helps a lot. And yeah, the relatable pathos of that Paris

Such a smart, unpredictable movie. I've never had a good handle on what the hell "mumblecore" is supposed to mean, but if this film is an exemplar, count me all in.
posted by mediareport at 5:55 PM on February 27, 2020

(Currently streaming on Netflix and the Criterion Channel, and available for purchase at the other usual suspects.)
posted by mediareport at 6:01 PM on February 27, 2020 [1 favorite]

I just rewatched this a month or two ago. The dinner scene still makes me hide my face, but I love love the transformation overall.
posted by rhizome at 7:00 PM on February 27, 2020

Kinda offtopic: this has been sitting in my overlong NetFlix (UK) queue ever since I got NetFlix (UK) however many years ago. Naturally, now I look for it, it's no longer available on NetFlix (UK).
posted by I'm always feeling, Blue at 9:57 PM on February 27, 2020

I don't quite get the hate some people have for this movie (and similarly Boyhood), along the lines of the Wesley Morrison quote. They bring out a certain kind of 'asshole signalling' in people that makes me think they're gonna rant about participation trophies.
posted by fleacircus at 12:33 AM on February 28, 2020 [7 favorites]

I loved this movie when I finally saw it. The trailer played before every screening at a week long film festival I attended a lot of, so I could more or less recite it from memory. I thought the movie looked, well, both slight and tedious.

Finally, finally, when I saw it, I enjoyed it enormously, and the thing I took from it is not that Frances is a manic pixie mess, but just that she’s not rich. That’s the tension in the film. Everyone around her is just sort of casually super rich and everyone pretends it’s normal and then Frances is the weirdo because she needs to get paid for her dance classes. Like her roommate Kylo Ren has an Eames chair and she’s just like, “he has a great eye.” As if Eames chairs are free for the taking if you know what one looks like. Everyone going on great trips and she’s stuck at home feeling sad. It’s instagram fomo: the movie.

So anyway, it turns out it’s so much harder to get a start in life, especially if you want a life in the arts and/or want to live in New York, if you don’t happen to have a trust fund and aren’t married to a finance bro.
posted by chrchr at 12:02 PM on February 28, 2020 [9 favorites]

I just loved this movie. It felt absolutely true and real to me. I was not a Frances Ha, but I felt I could have known her, and as a young person I certainly made many embarrassing, thoughtless and selfish mistakes that I barely registered as such at the time. I love mumblecore for it's unambitious style - not every movie has to be BIG - and focus on dialog. This movie is just great.
posted by latkes at 1:06 PM on February 28, 2020 [3 favorites]

I was not a Frances Ha, but I felt I could have known her, and as a young person I certainly made many embarrassing, thoughtless and selfish mistakes that I barely registered as such at the time.

Likewise. I felt that it better summed up my experience of being 27 than anything else I have ever seen on screen*: not in any of the particulars but in the grand sweep of things. Frances was exactly the woman I would have been pining for at that age, not least because she made the same sort of decisions I did and for the same reasons.

I used to travel a lot for work and it was my habit when in a strange city, if I had no family or friends there to have dinner with, to go see a movie. Partly it was because I didn't have that many free evenings at home to see everything I wanted to (and indeed, I lived in a second-tier city for film distribution, so my choices at home were mostly sequels and reboots) and partly it was a handy way to recall when I was last in a given city: by recalling what movie I had seen there and seeing when it was released (I saw Frances Ha at the Princess in Edmonton, btw). During the same two-week trip, I also saw The Act of Killing and Upstream Color. Good fortnight for movies.

*Its closest competition in this regard might be Lost in Translation, if only because I am almost exactly halfway between Bill Murray and ScarJo in age, and I have had many of the same experiences depicted in the movie, down to and including spending insomniac nights in Tokyo hotel rooms watching baffling Japanese late night TV.
posted by ricochet biscuit at 7:04 PM on February 28, 2020

Watched this a few months ago and was really impressed with the performances. I'm in agreement with some of the comments up above about how this film really catches a very particular age in our adulthood and how it's this weird space where everyone is trying to figure out who they are and what the fuck they want to do with their lives. So much of this tension is bound in your education, your class, your job opportunities, it's a film that's very much about money or the lack of. This is in my wife's top 10 films of all time, and it was one of those: "You need to watch this with me." kind of films and I'm glad I did.
posted by Fizz at 7:11 AM on March 3, 2020

Agreed that Morris' review says more to me about him than about the movie. I've been a fan of Baumbach for a long time, and this movie in some ways seemed like a gender-flipped version of his first movie, Kicking and Screaming, at least with what Fizz mentions as the weird post-college space when you're trying to figure out what you're going to do and maybe your dreams die a bit. But while K&S is a bit Friends-y and gets by with a bare minimum of plot and a lot of little jokes that don't raise much laughter beyond a chuckle, Frances Ha had a lot more heart and seemed a lot easier to relate to, assuming you're of the class that has the general privilege and aspirations that Frances might.
posted by LionIndex at 4:41 PM on March 3, 2020 [1 favorite]

I absolutely loved the plot line in this movie where she's jealous of her friend's relationship -- not necessarily because she wants a boyfriend of her own, but because she can't have the same kind of relationship with her friend anymore. I felt that SO HARD during my teens and twenties so often, and I don't think I've ever seen it well reflected in media before I saw this movie.
posted by knownassociate at 1:22 PM on May 17, 2020 [1 favorite]

When I got older, it's how I fell into a "single-friend enabler" role for a few married friends I no longer talk to.
posted by rhizome at 3:23 PM on May 17, 2020

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