"Frances Ha" has the unique distinction of being a film that you can recommend to everyone. It's a witty and delightful romantic comedy without the trappings of romance. This fresh concept works incredibly well because Greta Gerwig, in the title role, is completely captivating.
Frances is 27, living in New York City and in the process of inventing herself. As an apprentice for a dance company, she's getting nowhere fast. She lives with her best friend, Sophie (Mickey Summer), "like a lesbian couple that doesn't have sex anymore," quips Frances. When Sophie unexpectedly announces that she's moving in with her boyfriend, Frances is devastated.
This momentous event forces Frances into a nomadic existence. She moves in with two guys (Michael Zegen and Adam Driver), one of whom observes she's "undateable." That's fine with Frances. She's always looking on the bright side of the fence ... the eternal optimist.
Also, overly impulsive, she foolishly jets off to Paris for a weekend (using a new credit card), visits her parents (played by Gerwig's real-life parents) in Sacramento and attends a college reunion in Poughkeepsie, N.Y. Eventually, she ends up back in New York, no further ahead but unfettered.
"Frances Ha" is not one of those films that ends on a particularly high note, but the journey it takes is joyous. We're rooting for Frances while simultaneously flinching as she navigates through life. Her blithe spirit is contagious, and Gerwig conveys it beautifully through awkward body movements and glorious facial expressions.
Noah Baumbach directs and co-scripts with Gerwig (after working together in the film, "Greenberg," they became partners in life). The partnership seems to have been a savvy move. "Frances Ha" is the best work from both of them thus far in their careers.
Baumbach chose to shoot the film in black and white hoping to "create a kind of instant nostalgia." In a great scene, Baumbach's camera pans Frances as she wildly dances down a Manhattan street to David Bowie's "Modern Love." It speaks volumes about her psyche with sheer precision.
"Frances Ha" ends with a cute visual explanation of its title. It leaves you with a smile on your face and the feeling one doesn't have to be successful in love or life to be truly happy.
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