Frances Ha (2012)
★★★ / ★★★★
All is sparkly and happy between Frances (Greta Gerwig) and her best friend until Sophie (Mickey Sumner) confesses that she wishes to move out of their apartment and move in with a person called Lisa. The neighborhood is supposed to be nicer than the one they live in now. Sophie is Frances’ anchor and so when they no longer share the same space and have a chance to see each other all the time, Frances must get accustomed to being on her own. To Frances, losing Sophie proves more of a challenge than a recent breakup.
“Frances Ha,” written by Noah Baumbach and Gerwig, reminds me of a high school freshman assignment teachers like to assign in the beginning of the year: an “I Am” poster meant to illustrate the different aspects of oneself. Here, we get a real sense of the main character and I was surprised with how invested I was when it comes to every digression from the main plot. In a way, the film is not about plot. Perhaps it is meant to be a collage.
Gerwig is in every scene and there is not one moment where she fails to snag our attention. She can be jumping about and running around the streets of Brooklyn to search for an ATM or sitting in her apartment looking like her world is about to end. Either way, Gerwig finds ways to make us want to give Frances a big hug. Her positivity is infectious and so we sympathize when things do not go her way—even if she is to blame sometimes—and are uplifted when something nice happens.
Deciding to present the images in black and white feels right. Because the character’s personality is so extreme at times (either one is likely to find her lovable or downright annoying), along with the fluctuations in her mood, the lack of bright colors helps to neutralize or ground what we are experiencing. At one point I wondered if the images were meant to be a series of memories, the character looking back on a not-so-distant past. It might explain why characters we come to meet consistently have a quirk about them—filtered through the lens in which Frances processes those around her.
If this is meant to be a definitive experience of a twenty-something, I am a stranger to it. Maybe it is due to the fact that I do not live in a big city like NYC or LA. I never struggled to pay rent or had to borrow money from my parents. Perhaps it is due to the people I’m drawn toward naturally or a select few of whom I’ve chosen to keep in my life. Or maybe it is because I don’t know how it’s like to pursue a career related in the arts.
Whatever it is, in theory, I should not be able to relate to any of these characters—or at least not that much. But I do—with Frances anyway. I liked that she is a decent person who does not necessarily always do what is right—for herself and those she loves. Sometimes she’s selfish. She’s immature. But she’s learning.