In Noah Bumbach’s newest offering, we meet Frances (played by the open and endearing Greta Gerwig), an aspiring dancer enjoying life in New York City with Sophie (Mickey Sumner), her best friend and roommate. Things are going well for Frances; she has a position as an apprentice for a dance company with hopes of moving up through the ranks, she has a comfortable home life consisting of freedom and fun, she has the life that all single twenty-somethings dream of having in the heart of the urban metropolis that everyone wants to claim as home. As with most idyllic situations, however, things hit a snag. Frances gets derailed when her beloved Sophie chooses to move in with her boyfriend. This new development leaves Frances at a loss as she now has to find a new living situation because she can not afford to live on her own. Unfortunately, this is only the beginning of Frances’ worries. She gets let go from her apprenticeship at the dance company, sending her on a whirlwind of avenues and choices as her carefully constructed world crumbles right before her eyes. The pressures of adulthood and responsibility begin to encroach upon Frances’ blissfully extended adolescence. Friendships are forged and broken, sacrifices and discoveries are made, roads are explored all leading to Frances approaching the person that she wants to become.
As a movie, Frances Ha is a very relatable and earnest film. Greta Gerwig gives a great performance as the open-faced Frances and since she also shares writing credits with Noah Bumbach for this movie, you can tell that she has poured a great deal of herself into the role. Excellent performances by a talented and young cast round out the movie, with a heavy nod to Mickey Sumner’s Sophie, Frances’ best friend and nemesis.
To say that Frances Ha is a ‘coming of age’ movie wouldn’t be wrong, but it would also serve to sell the movie short. Shot in beautifully lush black and white, Bumbach delivers an accurate snapshot of the post-college confusion that most people of that demographic face. It’s a difficult thing to do, tell a story about people whose very essence is transience and flux. Bumbach handles it in a manner that shows respect to this process and population without topical sentimentality. The look of the movie, the honesty of all the actors, and the sincerity of the dialog all serve to paint a boiled down and direct statement on what it’s like for young people to determine their paths in life. This has been tried by other directors in the past (Zach Braff’s Garden State is the easiest one to come to mind) but none as effective or as honest as Frances Ha. There’s no huge secret problem in this movie. There’s no giant guilt creeping around a darkened corner. No evil step-mothers, car accidents, dead bodies or any other such details that propel this movie along, there’s just life and that’s it. That’s what makes this movie so effective and likable, all while remaining innocent and wondrous. Frances Ha shows the truth that everybody really has no idea how things are supposed to play out, some are just better at making it look like they know what they are doing while others are leaves floating on wayward breezes. In the end, this movie affirms that we all end up where we’re supposed to.
Frances Ha opens today at The Ritz.