Frances Ha: dances with wooliness

FrancesHa

Frances Ha is a loosely plotted and talky character-based comedy that follows the ups and downs of a directionless young woman as she tries to adjust to her long-time best friend’s growing up and getting on with life. For a movie that’s predominantly populated by the sort of self-obsessed, privileged and overly status-aware characters that seem to be an unavoidable hazard if you choose to set your story in central New York city it’s actually very charming, particularly when compared to director Noah Baumbach’s previous outings The Squid and The WhaleMargot at the Wedding and Greenberg, which all featured jaundiced and selfish central characters you just wanted to slap. Much of this successful lightening of mood must be credited to Greta Gerwig who co-write the script with Baumbach and carries the picture more or less singlehandedly as the hapless but optimistic Frances, a would-be ballet dancer who remains likeable even as she works her way through a series of poor lifestyle decisions and missed opportunities. Gerwig is a naturally funny actress able to deftly handle both the many and varied scenes of awkward social interaction and the occasional tension-releasing physical comedy (the funniest moment in the film for me is when Frances suddenly falls over while running down a sidewalk) and you always stay on her side. The lovely black and white cinematography is a plus too, carrying as it does associations with the liberating breeziness of French new wave films and, possibly more relevantly, Woody Allen’s Manhattan, a very obvious influence here. Frances Ha isn’t a laughfest by any means, and is even quite wistful in places, but it’s definitely a feelgood film by the end and comes in under ninety minutes which is always worth a recommendation.

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