Film Review: Frances Ha

Noah Baumbach’s latest, Frances Ha, keeps him in the running for one of the best working directors while getting another stellar performance out of Greta Gerwig.

Co-written by the aforementioned, Frances Ha follows one young woman’s journey to rock bottom and hopefully back again. We follow Frances as she moves from apartment to apartment around NYC as she interacts with a wide variety of people as her financial status keeps sinking and sinking. Her relationship with her best friend, Sophie, is borderline “old lesbian” but as Frances tumbles and the two slowly fall apart one is left to wonder how important of a rock Sophie was for Frances.

Sophie is ever present in the story, but this is Frances’ tale through and through. Gerwig is in every scene of the film as we follow here on her quirky, sometimes dance oriented, adventures and it almost feels like a story driven adaptation of Girl Walk // All Day. Frances feels like a spiritual cousin of Anne Marsen’s Girl in that film and this is high praise as both ladies are fantastic to watch in their respective films. Gerwig creates a fantastically complex character in Frances and I would have happily watched her for far longer than the 90 minute run-time. The key to making this film great is her performance and your ability to laugh at her failures makes this potentially depressing affair often quite hilarious.

Not that the film isn’t sad at times, Baumbach skillfully runs us through a range of emotions, but he never makes the film feel too serious while also never making the proceedings seem slight. He is able to break up a lot of the mood with some excellent non sequiturs as the film bounces along skillfully, handling the passage of time gracefully. The film is so full that the short run time doesn’t feel so brief, by no means in the bad way, and the world is rich with life and characters for being such a small production. The black & white photography also gives the film a vintage feel, as desired, but it still feels fresh and modern all along the way.

Gerwig is the highlight as our title character and I can’t really put enough praise on her. She is so fragile yet strong, hilarious and equally sad, she just continues to create such great characters every time out; with Baumbach or not. The supporting cast is also full of more than a few lesser known all-stars with Mickey Sumner really standing out. She plays Sophie and is a ball of energy to match Gerwig’s Frances. She gets to play it all, drunk, cute, fickle, and the chemistry between her and Gerwig is infectious. We feel like Frances does when Sophie disappears from her life, we miss her and all of her weird idiosyncrasies, and getting more of these two would have been reason enough to extend the film’s run time. Adam Driver is also great as a potential mate and roommate to Frances, but it’s his buddy played by Michael Zegen that steals his thunder when it comes to companionship with Frances. Gerwig and Zegen have a great back and forth that could stay friendly or become romantic at every turn and that keeps you engaged as the pair grow closer and closer. Grace Gummer is also delightfully droll as a fellow dance partner of Frances and she is again another character I wish we got more of.

Frances Ha is bliss in film form and you will be hard pressed not to smile from nearly start to finish. Baumbach continues to be one of my favorite directors around and I hope he keeps mixing it up every time out. I also hope he doesn’t lose his muse in Gerwig anytime soon as the duo has quickly proven to be a creative team that we should be demanding more of. Don’t miss Frances Ha this summer, it is bound to be one of the season’s best.

Frances Ha is an A-

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