Monday, 29 July 2013

Film Review: Frances Ha (2013)

Director: Noah Baumbach
Screenplay: Noah Baumbach and Greta Gerwig
Stars: Greta Gerwig, Mickey Sumner and Adam Driver

“I’m not a real person yet” says the 27 year old New Yorker when her credit card is declined at a restaurant, much to her surprise despite describing herself as ‘poor’. She’s treating a friend to dinner with money from a tax rebate but it’s beyond her to do even this most simple of daily transactions without (literally) stumbling.

This is Frances, the lead character in director Noah Baumbauch’s social commentary on Generation Y. Frances is likable but lives in a pretend world; she and her friends are too concerned with aspiring to be what they think they should be rather than doing anything about it and the film plays out a series of scenes exploring her attempts to do something with her life, even though she doesn’t feel 27 she is too old to have not yet put any plans in motion.

Play fights with friends, being an understudy rather than a lead, working at summer job at her former university; everything Frances does in the film is a self-imposed start/stop routine which ensures she doesn’t move on; even the delightful final shot suggests she isn’t quite a complete person yet. However, Frances is a lovable character we just can’t help but like and feel a sort of empathy for, especially if you’ve ever been stuck in your own life and can relate to her situations.

Stop thinking for yourself verdict: The story is helped by the beautiful black and white cinematography, unashamedly evoking comparisons to some of Woody Allen’s best work (Manhattan being the most obvious) but this is all part of how the film is supposed to be appreciated; moreover, not since Whit Stillman’s debut feature Metropolitan have I seen young and privileged New Yorkers written with such wit and real character. Baumbach’s direction is also reminiscent of Allen with a mostly steady camera, centre framed, with the actors being allowed to perform without needless cut and interruption. This is a style which is becoming increasingly rare and should be appreciated whenever the opportunity comes along.

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