Noah Baumbach and rising indie star Greta Gerwig combine their talented forces once more after the well-received Greenberg for Frances Ha, a thoughtful, witty and nostalgic portrait of twenty-something discontent. Filmed in black and white at the directors discretion and blending the old with the new, Frances Ha emerges as a true winner and Baumbach’s best in years.
Frances (Gerwig) shares an apartment with her inseparable best friend Sophie (Mickey Sumner). But when Sophie decides to move out, Frances is forced to leave her familiar lifestyle and take shelter with Lev (Adam Driver) and Benji (Michael Zegen). Her setback has a knock-on effect on her career as a dance teacher, leaving her to start back at the beginning while everyone else is moving forward.
Frances Ha concerns a brief time in Frances’ life when the comfortable rug is pulled from under her feet and she’s forced to find new meaning in her life. Unravelled through a series of sketches that range from the immature to the plain unfortunate, the narrative is an effortless blend of the happy and the sad, the fun and the serious, all captured through Frances’ undeterred optimism.
The buoyant mood beautifully offsets the often dark, heavyweight themes that are explored, and awards the film a light, zippy sensibility that feels like a breath of fresh air compared to Baumbach’s previous works. It’s Baumbach’s decision to shoot in black and white that makes Frances Ha truly stand out, letting the very contemporary setting sync with Frances’ old fashioned, resilient spirit.
Gerwig, with the camera framing her perfectly, lights up the screen with her presence as Frances, creating a protagonist who’s socially awkward and off-putting, yet likeable, fun-loving and artful all the same. She owns the film and shows what she’s truly capable when the material – which here, coincidently, is co-written by herself – suits her incredibly open persona.
Support is dispensed ably by the supporting cast (Sumner and Driver are particular highlights), and the music – Georges Delerue compositions mixed with 80’s pop music – compliments the proceedings, from Frances’ rhapsodic highs to her sorrowful lows, in seamless fashion. Frances Ha, with all those wonderful ingredients in place, a complete and utter joy – one that you’ll instantly want to revisit.