Noah Baumbach, who made an impressive directorial debut with
The Squid and the Whale, continues to
blaze his own trail with an effervescent little film called Frances Ha, which he wrote with its
star, Greta Gerwig. A tribute to the spirit of French New Wave cinema, it’s
shot in black & white and scored by the music of Georges Delerue, a lovely
homage in itself—but Baumbach never positions form over content, and there
isn’t an ounce of pretension here.
Gerwig has a great deal to do with the picture’s success: she’s disarmingly
likable, even though her character isn’t terribly bright or focused. Frances is
a young woman trying to get along in New York City, where things are tough if
you don’t have a solid job and a decent income—not to mention a committed
relationship. For aspiring dancer Frances, the routine of her existence is
shaken up when her best pal and roommate (Mickey Sumner) decides to move out
with her boyfriend. They remain friends, but the easy rhythm of their relationship
has been disrupted.
point, Frances’ seemingly simple, spontaneous life goes adrift. She can’t seem
to get her act together, whether it’s finding the right place to live or
deciding on the right career path. Even an unexpected trip to Paris doesn’t
fulfill its romantic promise. It sounds rather trivial and lightweight, but Baumbach
and his cast—especially Gerwig—embody a youthful spirit that makes it all work.
Best of all, Frances Ha pays off with a wonderful
punchline, the kind of finale that leaves the audience with a smile… a
seemingly simple achievement that too few films can claim. Nicely done!