by / July 23rd, 2013 /

Frances Ha

Review by on July 23rd, 2013

 3/5 Rating

Director: Noah Baumbach
Cast: Greta Gerwig, Mickey Sumner, Adam Driver
Running Time: 88 Minutes
Certificate: 15A
Release Date: July 26

Reminiscent of Woody Allen’s Manhattan and referencing Godard, Truffaut and Leo Carax to name but a few, the loosely plotted Frances Ha has a sprightly French new wave quality with Greta Gerwig in the Anna Karina role.

A twenty-seven year old dancer, Frances (Greta Gerwig) lives in a New York apartment with best friend Sophie (Mickey Sumner). Frances and Sophie do everything together and affectionately refer to themselves as the same person with different hair. The film, beautifully photographed by cinematographer Sam Levy, establishes their friendship courtesy of a romantic-comedy-esque montage. Choppy and carefree, these quick fire edits establish the film’s breezy tone and style and cements Frances and Sophie’s near conjoined status. When Frances’ boyfriend asks her to move in, Frances realises she’d much rather live with Sophie and breaks up with him. However, when Sophie’s offered a room in a Tribeca apartment (where she’s always wanted to live) Frances finds herself alone.

Co-written by Gerwig and director Noah Baumbach, the film crackles with laconic dialogue and genuinely funny set pieces. Best known for Greenberg (which also starred Gerwig) and The Squid and The Whale, Baumbach also co-scripted Wes Anderson’s The Life Aquatic with Steve Zissou and The Fantastic Mr. Fox. Like Anderson, Baumbach tends towards cerebral cinema, and though Anderson imbues his films with a trademark retro-whimsy, Baumbach’s were, until now, generally starker affairs (the whimsy-less Margot at the Wedding being a case in point). Gerwig came to prominence as the poster girl of the mumblecore movement. As cinematic epithets go, mumblecore lacked the poetry of say, La Novuelle Vague but for a while in the mid-noughties came to define a movement of low budget filmmakers who’s films, presumably more through necessity than design, featured amateur actors and naturalistic, frequently improvised dialogue.

With its lo-fi, breezy storyline, Frances Ha remains true to l’espit de Mumble Vague while Gerwig’s lively performance injects Baumbach’s craft with an energy largely absent from his earlier work. Gerwig is a joy to watch and Frances is a particularly cinematic character. Part ingénue, part klutz she seems perpetually out of step with the world yet Gerwig manages to make something as potentially intolerable as twenty-something ennui seem both relatable and endearing.

A film about friendship and displacement, Frances Ha will be familiar to fans of Lena Dunham’s Girls. Not least because it features Girls’ Adam Driver as the likeable Lev. Story wise this is relatively familiar terrain and the hipster quarter-life crisis has already been well documented by Dunham’s series. That said Frances Ha is a fresh take and though it drifts a little, the film is at heart a charming ode to the city of New York and its leading lady.