Frances Ha

The Reel Deal


A Reel Deal Film Review

By Tyler Malone

Summer 2013

Reel Rating: 4 out of 5


To say director Noah Baumbach’s new film Frances Ha is completely original would be giving the movie way too much credit, but in the sequel-remake-franchise-heavy world of Hollywood, going to see a small black-and-white film about real-ish people doing real-ish things felt much more thrilling than it should have. (And being able to do it without having to don 3D glasses only made the whole enterprise all the more satisfying!)

Noah Baumbach has been churning out solid films ever since his debut in 1995 with Kicking and Screaming. I almost always admire his pictures, even when I don’t love them. Admittedly, they’re not always the easiest films to love with their stuffy characters and their overly intellectual affectations. They’ve always felt like the grumpier, more pretentious siblings of Wes Anderson’s whimsical films. Baumbach’s trademark overly intellectual affectation hasn’t necessarily disappeared with Frances Ha, but it does feel like something in his world has been slightly realigned. While his filmmaking is as ‘hipsterish’ as usual, and probably more twee than ever, because his lead character is so much more likeable than his usual protagonists, there’s an effervescence here that hasn’t generally been a hallmark of his work up til now–and that made Frances Ha a refreshing treat. Don’t get me wrong, Frances and co. still sometimes got on my nerves a bit–in the same way that any trip to Williamsburg inevitably ends with someone saying some annoying comment that rubs me the wrong way–but, unlike in reality, even when these individuals in the film start to border on irritating, they remain captivating as characters.

Frances Ha plays a bit like Woody Allen in a minor key, dressed up perhaps in some French New Wave style. That’s certainly one way to describe it. Another is that the movie acts as an ideal of what the TV show Girls could have and should have been–which is to say a funny, artistic look at young-ish 20-somethings in New York City dealing with “growing up” and “getting a life.” In spite of, or perhaps because of, the fact that Frances Ha‘s Greta Gerwig recently called Girls‘ creator Lena Dunham “the Oprah of hipsters” in a new New Yorker piece, I’d like to go on record as saying that I’d have been much happier if HBO had built a show around Gerwig’s vivacious Frances Halliday instead of Dunham’s annoying Hannah Horvath. “The Oprah of hipsters” be damned!

Is Frances Ha a perfect movie? No. Is it even Baumbach’s best? Unlikely. For that, I’d probably point towards his personal tour de force The Squid and the Whale. But Frances Ha is a breath of fresh air after the still decent but somewhat inert Greenberg. It’s much more enjoyable to watch, a film that dances along with its frolicking Frances. And so, even though obviously Baumbach has only aged since 2010, as people tend to do, somehow the filmmaker behind Frances Ha feels younger and fresher than the man who made Greenberg. Maybe that’s what happens when you make a movie with your new paramour? (FYI: He and Greta Gerwig, who not only stars in but also co-wrote Frances Ha, are now an item.)

With her as his muse, and he, likewise, as hers, I am actually looking forward to seeing what’s next in their careers. But for now, I’m content with this ‘Girls gone Allen’ style minor-Manhattan.

Frances Ha is a film written and directed by Noah Baumbach, and co-written by Greta Gerwig. It stars Greta Gerwig, Mickey Sumner, and Adam Driver. A story that follows a New York woman (who doesn’t really have an apartment), apprentices for a dance company (though she’s not really a dancer), and throws herself headlong into her dreams, even as their possible reality dwindles.


Official Site: Frances Ha

IMDb: Frances Ha

Written by Tyler Malone

Photography Courtesy of IFC Films

Design by Lulu Vottero


Film Still from Frances Ha, Photography Courtesy of IFC Films

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