Features The Weekend Binge

Unpopped Kernels: Frances Ha (2013)

There are movies out there that just speak to you. It’s like they pull up a chair beside you and huskily whispering into your ear, “Hey little mama, don’t you want to be spiritually affected tonight?”

Yep. There are films that just speak to you, slowly seducing you with their characters, story, and heart. For me, as a young becoming film journalist, Frances Ha was a movie that captured me, spinning me around with this sense of resonance and empathy. I saw myself in Frances Ha, I feel in love with Greta Gerwig and Baumbach, and I have rabbited on about this movie ever since as it circles my soul and mind.

Now Gerwig is on the cusp of history with her Academy Award nominated Lady Bird, we’re celebrating Frances Ha again.

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Directed by Noah Baumbach, and staring Gerwig, who also writes,  Frances Ha is about the titular character who, ia twenty-something haze, is struggling through the ups and downs of life like a pre-mid-life crisis. Living in New York with her best friend, Sophie, Frances is content with her simple and close life, even after a break up However, when Sophie announces that she is leaving to move in with another friend, Frances world is turned upside down. Causing her to reassess her life, Frances realises that she hasn’t much and doesn’t do much. The modern dancer soon flits through the city and a series of moments, ever optimistic at what little she has on the place just hoping to reap the rewards of her positivisty.

This is a stylish yet affectionate piece. Frances Ha is a beautiful and warming movie that feels for its characters. Set idealistically on the outskirts of New York life and culture, Frances Ha could really fall into cliché hipster characters that a more caricatures. Put thanks to a refreshing partnership between writer Gerwig and director Baumbach, Frances Ha is  delightful. Our leading lady Frances is a “glass half full” girl despite the fact most of her glasses are empty. As she struggles to keep her head a float and connected to the city, as well as earning money, Frances is a wonderfully unique spirit who is constantly on the edge. Her determination is much her detriment; the more she tries to connect is the more it slips out of her fingers.

With not much going for her, it could be very easy to slip in a romance to “give her meaning”. But even with her non sexual relationship with the similarly impoverished Levi and Benji, it is Frances alone that has to earn the validation of her self. The best relationship Frances has is with Sophie and the only time Frances is wounded is when that friendship is in trouble. It is a stunningly realistic portrayal of a woman getting her life together and on track despite society’s views against her.

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Frances Ha has some bittersweet moments; a solo trip to Paris is particularly vexing as it mirrors just how lonely Frances’ life has become. But this movie is never bogged down by overplayed emotions. Some may find this movie tiresome but it is definitely refreshing. Baumbach keeps the narrative as troubled yet breezy as Frances. And she is a character that most can relate to. Immature yet trying, Frances Ha is a warming portrayal of those on the outskirts of their life attempting to reach stability. Poignant and endearing, Frances Ha is a brilliantly written, acted and directed indie flick


Frances Ha is available on BFI Player 

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