Tuesday, September 18, 2012
TIFF Review: Frances Ha
Posted by Courtney Small
There comes a point in everyone's life, around the mid to late twenties, where you must decide what you want out of life. For many that point comes rather unexpectedly. One day you notice that everyone else is using words like "career" and "marriage". Furthermore, all the things you and your friends used to make fun of are now the things you covet the most. This is the exact predicament that Greta Gerwig's Frances Halliday finds herself in.
Frances is a 27 year-old dancer who has been apprenticing at a dance company for many years. Though her dream is to become a full member of the company, her chances are slim at best. Despite not having a stable job, Frances finds solace in the fact that she shares an apartment with her best friend Sophie (Mickey Sumner). Frequently referred to by Frances as "me with different hair", Sophie is the only one who truly understands Frances. The pair even share a dream of achieving success in life at the same time. Unfortunately, cracks in their friendship begin to appear when Sophie jumps at the opportunity to live in her dream New York location of Tribeca. Unable to carry the rent alone, and not willing to accept that it is time to take responsibility for her life, Frances’ life begins to take a downward spiral just as everyone else's life seems to be on the up and up.
The notion of trying to figure out your life while in your twenties has been a staple for many films and television shows. However, unlike those other works where the twenty-somethings live and party on the swanky side of town while lamenting on how tough life is, Frances Ha feels more grounded and self-aware of its’ tropes. At one point Frances ends up living with two guys who are artists surviving off of their parent’s wealth. When Sophie visits their trendy place she remarks to Frances that "this apartment is too self-aware of itself." Moments later one of the guys strolls by wearing only a towel and states, "don't mind me, I am just trying to get your attention" while proceeding on to the shower. While these scenes may sound pretentious, they actually help to make the character of Frances more grounded and identifiable.
One aspect that makes Frances such an endearing character is her need to keep up with those around her. She frequently needs to have the last word in a conversation. Resulting in a childlike "oh yeah, well I did that too" vibe which leads her to making poor decisions like flying to Paris for two days. The scenes in Paris only end up emphasizing how sad her life really is. Frances aimlessly roams the streets of Paris alone while trying to connect with a friend who does not return her calls.
It is the need to constantly live life through others that is Frances’ biggest downfall. The fear of attempting to truly stand on one's own feet is something that you instantly identify with. Greta Gerwig, who co- wrote the script with director Noah Baumbach, is sensational as Frances. She brings both a childlike innocence and an adult sadness to the role. As Frances' life gets exceedingly worse, Gerwig still manages to convey a sweet side to the character without ever making her feel false or redundant.
Shot entirely in black and white, Frances Ha finds Baumbach in top comedic form. He finds the perfect balance of wit and honesty which makes the film a pleasure to watch. In Frances he creates a character that you not only enjoy spending time with, but one who you want to revisit time and time again. Engaging and immensely funny, Frances Ha is one of the year's most charming films.