Noah Baumbach // 2012 // 93 mins
Greta Gerwig not only secures, but revels in in her position as possibly the most important indie-darling working today with Frances Ha; a film that celebrates the actresses quirky nature and builds a film around it.
Gerwig stars as the titular Frances, a late-20's Brooklyn hipster who is struggling to progress in life and love. The film follows Frances over numerous highs and lows as she moves through various apartments, friendship groups and bouts of unemployment. The success of the film lies entirely upon the viewer's response to Frances and her lifestyle, which could prove problematic as the issues she has to deal with are admittedly quite exclusive to the white middle-class female. Fortunately Gerwig injects Frances with such sincerity and sweetness that, in spite of the numerous character flaws that are so candidly presented, she becomes a truly irresistible character to spend an hour and a half with.
As the focal point of the film Frances is such a successful protagonist because she feels so real. This is surely a result of Gerwig herself co-writing the screenplay with her off-screen partner, and the films director, Noah Baumbach, as well has her history within the mumblecore film sub-genre. She is a completely relatable character whose story will resonate with anyone who has found themselves in the grip of a pre-mid-life crisis. Frances' faults are so frustrating because they are familiar and as such her successes are greatly effective; amidst her periods of laziness and self-loathing are such gems a glorious shot of her dancing, carefree, down a busy New York street.
The film is handsomely shot, if only for the black and white cinematography, though this choice to use black and white disappointingly never feels justified or reasoned. There are a handful of particular scenes that look wonderful and will surely stick in the minds of viewers but they do not warrant the monochrome palette and so the result in such a bold stylistic choice feeling like nothing more than a hollow attempt to make the film 'different'. It also feels like an unusual choice as the film's portrayal of New York is far less romanticised than that of it's similar predecessors (Woody Allen, and particularly Manhattan comparisons are inevitable).
There is a level of self-awareness that runs through Frances Ha and which may be off-putting to some, however Greta Gerwig delivers such an honest and endearing performance that it is hard to believe anyone could fail to fall under the spell of her adorable charm.