One of the most talk about film this year is Noah Baumbach’s Frances Ha. What made this little indie gem so special beside the fact that it was shot in black and white (beware of heavy picture spam)
“The coffee people were right. We are like a lesbian couple who doesn’t have sex anymore.”
―Frances, Frances Ha.
Mumblecore at best, Frances Ha is trying to capture a quarter life crisis of a woman in her late 20s. The kind of story about post-grads who still trying to find a grasp in their life and career. That point between idealizing what you wanted to do and that point where you actually doing it or settling to something second best. Yes it’s something Lena Dunham wanted to do with Girls and Tiny Furniture, but i just did not buy. Frances Ha ended up more as a character study than a conventional film storyline. Which worked tremendously for the film because as you watch the film, you’ll learn to love the flaws of Frances and could not help but a little charmed with it.
Meet Frances, the eponymous character of the film. Frances Halladay (Greta Gerwig) is 27-years old. She’s a dance for a living but not a dancer (just an understudy at one of the new york dance company). She just broke up with his boyfriend Dan because: a) he’s planning to own two cats, and b) she can not leave the apartment because she promised her roommate and thought they gonna extend the lease anyway. Her best friend is Sophie (Mickey Sumner) who is also her roommate at their Brooklyn Apartment. They plan to rule the world one day, Sophie will be a publishing mogul while Frances going to be a world renowned dancer. But that was before Sophie about to ditch her because she got an offer to share an apartment at Tribeca (the fact that she used to think the new roommate is a bitch suddenly become irrelevant).
Suddenly the two best friend drift apart. Sophie seemed to be growing up, having new apartment, doing well in her job, getting into a serious relationship with her boyfriend, and settling down into adulthood. But Frances seemed like loosing her balance, both in her personal life and her professional life. As if that is not enough, she’s also broke and deemed ‘undateable’ by her friend. We could not help but cringe everytime Frances made mistakes or missed an opportunities. Unfortunate timings lead to disastrous turn of events that made us wonder just how Frances could pick herself up and move on, both literally and figuratively. There are definitely much to admire about Frances Halladay, she did not crumble and fall to the pit of depression, she accept the unsavory situations and steadfastly picked herself up and getting back on her two feet. Frances depression sneak to the surface as she interacts with other people, we saw how other people respond to her and how she put a brave face forward. There were a lot of times i question why do i still root for her, even at times when i felt her character is annoying as hell. But i think that is where the charm of Greta Gerwig, ever the living embodiment of the character that brought lightness, optimism, and impressive amount of likability even as we doubt Frances for who she became.
Gerwig and Baumbach collaboration on the script is what made the film truly brilliant. Just like Julie Delphy and Ethan Hawke collaboration with Linklater on the sequels of Before Sunrise brought the character into a new level of realism. Gerwig charm oozes out of Frances every line, through natural intonation and choices of words that delivered with a great flow, injecting optimism and flightiness without sounding dramatized. Tribute to Woody Allen’s Manhattan probably seemed obvious, both film does capture the essence of the city in an intimate way.
WHY BLACK AND WHITE? The choice of filming in digital black and white film might seemed gimmicky but Baumbach intent was to make the film seemed nostalgic. For me the black and white made my attention focused on the dialogue instead of what happening on screen, i think the emotion came across more organically and lend an emphasis to the naturalistic nature of the feature. However, the decision of shooting in B&W came because Baumbach wanted to make a film that seemed like a first film, he wanted the film to be quick and scaled down, with only a few crew involved. The choice with the format is an ode to the art of filmmaking. Baumbach shot using Canon 5D, after experimenting with different film (16mm, 35mm, Alexa, Red), his choice to go with 5D using Canon L-Series primes designed to work with the 5D: a 35mm, a 50mm and an 85mm.
I feel very emotionally connected to the film in general, especially with Frances. The quarter life crisis can be very daunting indeed. It made me think of my own friendship with a dear friend too. There are definitely a lot to learn from Frances, and i think the overall scrappiness of her nature and her optimism and acceptance are great feats indeed. I adore Frances Hallaway. For being adorkable as hell and made me fall for all of her faults and flaws and her positivity. What a character! What a film! What a joy to watch!
Frances Ha is going to be released as a part of the Criterion Collection with spine number 681. It will be available in DVD and Bluray formats on November 12, 2013 (so tempted to get myself a copy!). The digital download is already available from iTunes.
FRANCES HA (2013)
GENRE Drama, Romance
DIRECTOR Noah Baumbach | PRODUCER Noah Baumbach, Scott Rudin, Lila Yacoub, Rodrigo Teixeira | WRITER Noah Baumbach, Greta Gerwig | CINEMATOGRAPHER Sam Levy | EDITOR Jennifer Lame | STUDIO RT Features, Pine District Pictures, Scott Rudin Productions | DISTRIBUTOR IFC Films | COUNTRY United States | RUNNING TIME 86 minutes | RATING R for sexual references and language | RELEASE May 17, 2013 (US)
STARRING Greta Gerwig, Mickey Sumner, Adam Driver