Frances Ha review: girl uninterrupted

Frances Ha green light Greta Gerwig

MaryAnn’s quick take…
Noah Baumbach and Greta Gerwig have carved out, with effortless elegance and ease, a cinematic space for a woman to be, unapologetically, herself.
I’m “biast” (pro): nothing
I’m “biast” (con): wasn’t overly impressed with the trailer
(what is this about? see my critic’s minifesto)

Women’s friendships in cinema seem to end up falling almost exclusively in one of two vile — and utterly spurious — categories: 1) temporary alliances designed to increase the odds of finding a husband and/or forums for complaining about men once they’ve been caught (see: just about every romantic comedy ever made); or 2) catty “frenemy” battlefields that are about nothing more than one-up-womanship, jealousy, and resentment (see: Bachelorette). So it’s more than a relief, it’s almost a shock to see how achingly authentic Frances Ha is about what “best friends” actually means to women — I cannot recall another movie that gets it this right.

Ostensibly this is the story of Frances (the irresistibly charming Greta Gerwig: Lola Versus) and how she can’t quite get her life in gear: her dance career is going nowhere, and she can’t really afford the various apartments she’s been hopping around… for this is New York, and it’s been ages, too, since I saw a film that so perfectly captures the energy of the city, and its frustrations, too, particular for poor creative types for whom living elsewhere is neither feasible nor desirable. But this is actually the story of Frances and Sophie (Mickey Sumner: Girl Most Likely), her very best friend — “we’re the same person with different hair” is how she describes their relationship, and “we’re like a lesbian couple that doesn’t have sex anymore,” which I suspect many more women would identify with than the “frenemy” thing.

Their friendship is like a bro-mance except they’re gals, and how telling is it that we have a snappy term for a “a story about two guys who are so close it’s practically a platonic romance” and yet not one for womens’ such relationships? (And no, “chick flick” doesn’t cut it; see above for how awful movies about women tend to be.) Frances and Sophie have their ups and downs, of course, particularly as their lives start to drift in different directions, but the simple, lovely perfection of this scattershot slice-of-twentysomething-life portrait comes when Frances realizes just how very very important Sophie is to her.

Director Noah Baumbach (Margot at the Wedding), who cowrote the script with Gerwig, has carved out, with effortless elegance and ease, a cinematic space for a woman to just be herself, unapologetically, and without any need whatsoever to “fix” herself. You know, just like guys get to be onscreen.

If you’re tempted to post a comment that resembles anything on the film review comment bingo card, please reconsider.
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