It’s been out for a few weeks, and has been doing very nicely in limited release (with the third-best screen average of the year so far in its first weekend), but this weekend sees Noah Baumbach and Greta Gerwig‘s “Frances Ha” expand to even more theaters.
As some of you will know by now, whether you’ve seen it or read our review, the film’s a delight, and one of the best movies of 2013; a gorgeous-looking, funny, touching and good-hearted picture that might be Baumbach’s finest hour so far, and which certainly provides Gerwig’s most iconic role to date. It’s destined to become a cult hit, but if you’re still on the fence about the film, we’ve provided 5 reasons below that you should check out a film we love deeply and sincerely, while it’s still in theaters. And as well as that, we’ve also got a list of every piece of music used in the film’s terrific soundtrack. Check them all out below.
1. If you like “Girls,” you’ll love this, but if you don’t like “Girls,” but you’ll probably still love this.
Ever since the film was unveiled, comparisons have been made between “Frances Ha” and Lena Dunham‘s HBO series “Girls,” and not just because they both feature the excellent Adam Driver. They are, after all, both stories of women in their 20s in New York City, living semi-bohemian existences, written or co-written by their leads. And if you’re a fan of “Girls,” I imagine you’ll have a good time with “Frances Ha.” It manages to get under the skin of 21st century twentysomethings in the way that Dunham’s done so well, capturing the insecurities, frustrations and flaws of a generation in a genuinely significant way. But even if you’re one of those people who’ve never quite been won around to “Girls,” that shouldn’t put you off seeing Baumbach and Gerwig’s film. For all the surface similarities, there’s a very different kind of feel; a style that nods more to the French New Wave, and a sense of humor closer to “Manhattan“-era “Woody Allen” or Whit Stillman. It’s looser, more romantic in the truest sense of the word (i.e. having nothing to do with actual romance) and less self-conscious. While it doesn’t correct all the criticisms towards Dunham’s show (it’s still a very pasty-faced vision of NYC), it never feels privileged or out of touch; anyone who is, or ever has, struggled to make rent in the pursuit of dream, or felt adrift in your life, can’t help but feel a sting of recognition at some point. But even if you’re not, like Frances — 27, broke and trying to get by in a big city — the film doesn’t feel exclusionary, because it’s less about a generation than about its title character. So, what I’m saying is, don’t let the “Girls” comparisons dissuade you, but they are there for a reason.
2. It’s a rare film about female friendship
Like we said, “Frances Ha” is swooningly romantic, but it’s also remarkably unconcerned with matters of the heart. Frances drops a boyfriend by the end of the first reel, and while other suitors pop up at various points, they’re hardly major aspects of the film. Instead, the heart of the film is really on the friendship between Greta Gerwig’s Frances and her platonic soulmate Sophie (Mickey Sumner, the daughter of Sting, in an impressive debut), who Frances describes at one point as “the same person [with] different hair.” It’s only after the film that it occurs to you how rare it is to find a film like this, one that aces the Bechdel test by focusing on a friendship between two women. It’s not a simple friendship either; Frances essentially wants them to be the way they’ve always been, but Sophie is moving on, landing a proper job, and settling down with her boyfriend. And yet it’s not as simple as that; Sophie is as well drawn as Frances, and has her own dissatisfactions and contradictions. It’s a friendship as people actually have them, not in the way they usually appear on screen, and it makes the movie a rich experience.
3. It’s really, really funny, and incredibly warm
We’re making the film sound heavier than it really is, we suspect. Because while the film undoubtedly has something to say, it’s also a joyful, often uproariously funny piece of work. Baumbach’s films have always had comedy, but his last few solo films have been increasingly acerbic, for better or worse (we love “Margot at the Wedding,” and to a lesser extent “Greenberg,” but there’s been a certain amount of audience resistance to both). But perhaps thanks to Gerwig’s influence, there’s a warmth and generosity of spirit to “Frances Ha” that, while it’s been present in earlier films if you looked beyond the surface, is much, much more noticeable here. The film puts its heroine through the wringer, but loves her as much as you do; for instance, a lesser more cynical picture would have crushed her fantasies, but it’s clear from the film’s conclusion that she has real talent as a choreographer, and hasn’t been chasing a hopeless dream. But it’s not just the ending that sends you out on a serotonin high; it’s consistently funny throughout, from witty, eminently quotable dialogue that stays just this side of preciousness (despite her Brooklyn boho qualities, Frances is much less pretentious than the characters in Baumbach’s usual films), to some A-grade slapstick. Baumbach’s at the top of his game when it comes to crafting the comedy too; the cutting (by Jennifer Lame, who’s relatively inexperienced, but makes a hell of a case for more work here) is razor-sharp and perfectly timed in an almost Lubitschian way to make the most of each gag.
4. Greta Gerwig is sensational
For about six or seven years at this point, Greta Gerwig has been something of an unofficial mascot of independent film in the U.S. From her breakthrough work with Joe Swanberg and the Duplass Brothers to going on to work for the older crowd like Woody Allen and Whit Stillman, Gerwig’s been a consistently impressive presence, even if she hadn’t quite found a truly breakout role — the closest she’s come perhaps coming with her previous collaboration with Baumbach, on 2010’s “Greenberg.” But thanks to a script that she’s co-written (not for the first time, having previously had behind-the-scenes credits on “Hannah Takes The Stairs,” “Nights and Weekends,” “Northern Comfort” and “The Dish & The Spoon), that defining part has arrived with “Frances Ha”; you suspect that for years to come, this is the one she’ll be remembered for. Clearly playing to her strengths, Gerwig is in virtually every frame of the film, and impresses with each one. It’s the kind of part that feels so symbiotically entwined with her persona that many will overlook what she’s doing, but while the film certainly isn’t outside her established screen image, this is her most fully realized and richly protrayed creation yet. She’s deeply endearing, and also finds depth and layers to a role that could easily be a series of quirks, and she’s also not afraid to make Frances unsympathetic in places. Baumbach and Gerwig seem to be bringing out new things in each other, and as such, we’re excited that they’ve already wrapped a new collaboration.
5. The soundtrack is amazing
That Baumbach makes a great use of music in “Frances Ha” isn’t terribly surprising. All of his films to date have had highly listenable soundtracks, from the Pixies, Blondie and Nick Drake-infused selection in “Kicking and Screaming” to enlisting LCD Soundsystem‘s James Murphy to score “Greenberg.” Given that the new film is about a dancer, music runs through the veins of “Frances Ha,” but in often unexpected ways. There’s some key pop song cuts — a transcendent sequence to David Bowie‘s “Modern Love” that might be our favorite single shot of the year so far, even if it is a homage to Leos Carax, along with some Rolling Stones, Harry Nilsson and, most surprisingly of all, the key use of Hot Chocolate‘s “Every 1’s A Winner.” But it’s also more classically infused than most of his previous work — and more than you’d expect from a film about present day Brooklynites. Bach and Mozart both get showcased, but most memorable of all are the multiple cuts from prolific film composer Georges Delerue (who also had cuts in Baumbach’s picture “Mr. Jealousy” and Anderson’s “Fantastic Mr. Fox“). Given Frances’ Parisian getaway, and the influence of Truffaut (with whom Delerue worked with several times) on the film, we can’t think of a more perfect choice. It’d have been easy for “Frances Ha” to be something transient, which would date the picture as soon as it hit theaters, but between the black-and-white look and the timeless tunes, it should hold up decades from now. Check out a complete list of music in the film below.
All The Music In “Frances Ha”
“Theme De Camille” – Georges Delerue
“Ann Buchanan Theme” – Dean & Britta
“La Polka Pavane” – Georges Delerue
“Chrome Sitar” – T.Rex
“Blue Sway” – Paul McCartney
“Modern Love” – David Bowie
“Million Dollar Doll” – Dean & Britta
“Divertimento de la Sonate a Due” – Maurice Jaubert
“Le Repos” – Georges Delerue
“Rocks Off” – The Rolling Stones
“Stanislas Et Camille” – Georges Delerue
“Ecole Buissoniere “- Jean Constantin
“Heureux en Menage” – Antoine Duhamel
“Axis” – Joan Jeanrenaud
“La Valse Tordue” – Georges Delerue
“Les Bicyclettes” – Georges Delerue
“Every 1’s A Winner” – Hot Chocolate
“Mrs. Butter’s Lament” – Harry Nilsson
“String Quartet in G Major K387 1st Movement” – Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart
“Concerto for Violin, Strings and Basso Continuo No. 2 in E Major BWV 1042: Allegro” – J.S. Bach
“Theme de la Joie de Vivre” – Goerges Delerue
“Concerto for two Violins, String, Basso Continuo and Orchestra in D Minor BWV 1043: Vivace” – J.S. Bach
“Negresco’s Waltz” – Georges Delerue
“Falling Off A Horse” – Felix Laband