Frances Ha (2013)

Frances HaApprentice dancer Frances Halladay (Greta Gerwig), 27, is between jobs, between boyfriends and, when her best friend Sophie (Mickey Sumner) decides to move in with someone else, between homes too. As her peers begin careers, get engaged and move away, Frances is left to drift from one temporary fix to another, unable to gain traction with her dance company and dubbed “The Undateable” by one of her many flatmates (Michael Zegen). She has become fixated on her friendship with Sarah, and as they grow further apart her obsession and possessiveness begins to show, until even she cannot ignore it any longer.

There seemed to be a theme of disaffected, aimless youth running through this year’s Edinburgh International Film Festival when it played in June. The programme, featuring films from around the world, seemed preoccupied with twenty-something drifters searching for their respective places in society and the world at large; first there was Jan Ole Gerster’s Berlin-set Oh Boy,  then Jones’ Everyone’s Going To Die (based in Bristol) and, finally, Noah Baumbach’s Frances Ha from across the pond in America. Heck, discussion of this particular sign of our times stretches far beyond the festival circuit, with Edgar Wright’s The World’s End and HBO’s Girls (with which Frances Ha shares actor Adam Driver) exploring similar territory.

Free from robo-aliens and contract killers, however, Frances Ha should be able to deal with the subject in more detail, and whenever Greta Gerwig’s Frances manages to peer above the parapet of her own crushingly insular perspective she commands an incredible emotional connection with her audience. On this occasion, her vacuous veneer isn’t quite as impenetrable as it was in previous efforts Damsels In Distress and To Rome With Love, and during these all too infrequent breaks in her guarded self-obsession a surprising amount of humanity is allowed to slip through. The most powerful scene comes late in the second act, as Frances almost flippantly reveals her ultimate romantic fantasy. It’s an unexpected insight that is unfortunately all too brief to be considered truly revelatory.

For the most part, however, the character’s unchecked egocentrism is a near-intolerable slog. The entire first half of the movie is essentially an endurance test, as she spouts self-mythologising rubbish like “Tell me the story of us”, usually talking over some far more sympathetic supporting character in order to do so. She is part Hannah from Girls (only without the ensemble to dilute the exposure) and part Willow Rosenberg (circa Buffy season one, before the subsequent seasons of character development), a completely passive presence that seems to have little stake in her own story. Unfortunately, Gerwig — who co-wrote the script with director Baumbach — doesn’t share Lena Dunham or Joss Whedon’s talent for making such a character immediately endearing.

That said, I warmed to the character (and the film) far more than anticipated, in large part thanks to a third act that finally drops the quirks and kooks for character beats that actually resonate. While Gerwig and her projection may be a prickly propositions, the supporting cast are a little more likeable, with Sumner and Zegen making the biggest impression. It may pale in comparison with the festival’s other offerings, but it’s certainly not without its moments.

3-Stars

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About popcornaddiction
I am a psychology graduate, a News Writer for HeyUGuys/BestforFilm and, most importantly, a hopeless popcorn addict.

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