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Reviews » Theatrical Reviews » Frances Ha
Frances Ha
IFC Films // R // May 17, 2013
Review by Jeff Nelson | posted May 16, 2013 | E-mail the Author
Highly Recommended
E - M A I L
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Some of the most enthralling films are those that capture humanity. Certain experiences have the power to change our psychological state and transform us for the better. Life isn't easy, as it continually attempts to knock us down and keep us there. However, we have to fight for what we want and for who we love. Movies that explore such themes make for a more genuine experience. We can all relate in one way or another to a person who is down on their luck. It's all about how we handle being in such a situation that shapes who we truly are. Frances Ha introduces its take on this idea with its main character. By the time the credits are rolling, you will be left with a smile that won't immediately be wiped off your face.

Frances (Greta Gerwig) is a New York woman who finds herself in a disappointing situation. She's forced to leave "her apartment" after her best friend, Sophie (Mickey Sumner), leaves. Frances is having difficulty receiving a full-time job with the dance company she wishes to work at, although she can't seem to become anything more than an apprentice. Finally, she's having trouble settling down with any single man in a relationship, leading her down a path of moving from one apartment to the other. However, these life lessons might be exactly what she needs for the long haul.

Despite her age, Frances often acts more like a teenager than an adult. She doesn't take anything seriously, as the audience can clearly identify within the first scene of this picture. However, her immaturity is only part of the problem. The rest has to do with her lack of motivation and self-confidence. She leans on Sophie for support, until she decides to move in with somebody else. Since Frances can't afford an apartment on her own, she decides to move in with others. This ultimately leads to jumping from place to place, as she attempts to find herself. Frances is a highly energetic woman who knows what she wants, but doesn't always necessarily admit it. This character is incredibly relatable, as countless people have been in similar situations. While life continues to knock her down, she keeps getting up. We rarely see these occurrences keep her down, as she continues to focus on the positive things in life. There aren't a lot of roles that come across quite as infectious as Frances.

Once independent film buffs heard that Noah Baumbach and Greta Gerwig were teaming up and writing the screenplay together, they were incredibly excited to see the finished product. Since this is a comedy, as well as a drama, it should be funny. Well, it most certainly had me laughing numerous times throughout the picture. This movie wouldn't be the same without the well-written humor. Frances Ha has a structure that flows quite well. Each apartment jump can be seen as an entirely different segment. She lives with and encounters completely different people, which significantly adds to her life experiences and allows her to learn more about herself. Frances continues to open up throughout the film's short duration, which is under an hour and a half. Her character development is quite interesting, as she changes a little bit with each major plot point. By the time the ending credits are rolling, it feels as if we got to see her grow into an adult.

From the moment Frances Ha starts, we're instantly hooked with its infectious qualities. However, there are a few times when the picture almost tries a little bit too hard to get the audience on Frances' side. This is unnecessary, since the character speaks for herself. This shows that the filmmakers aren't entirely confident that the viewers will fall on her side of the fence. Fortunately, this isn't an often occurrence and isn't much of a distraction. It ultimately returns to its successful roots rather quickly. Frances is a character that will instantly win audiences over. The final few moments provide a small amount of ambiguity, even though the picture leaves us with a pretty good idea of what will happen after the feature comes to an end.

One of the strongest assets of this film is its acting. Greta Gerwig is utterly convincing in the role of Frances. There isn't a single moment when she isn't completely believable. She's so natural to the point where it never feels as if Frances is a fictional character. She feels like a living, breathing person, and we're simply the "fly-on-the-wall." While a lot of the dialogue is funny, she manages to make it flow a lot better than it would otherwise. Gerwig's delivery is on point and even when the picture slightly falters, she doesn't. Her interactions with the rest of the cast are outstanding. Mickey Sumner is fitting in the role of Sophie. The best friend relationship between the two is genuine on screen, which allows us to become further immersed.

The picture's quirky nature is carried from its narrative into its visuals. The entire feature is presented in black-and-white, and there are numerous scenes with Frances skipping down the street with loud music in the background. Baumbach utilizes an array of medium shots, as he saves long shots for dance sequences and a few conversations on the street. Quite a few of the jokes are presented through the visual structure, which director Noah Baumbach accomplishes rather well.

Frances Ha is funny and charming. The main character and the narrative are both so infectious, you won't ever find your mind wandering during this picture. Baumbach and Gerwig keep the audience entirely engaged from start to finish, as we watch a New York woman continue to fight in order to keep her head above water. One of the film's biggest strengths is that it has enough heart to be warming, but not enough to smother us. Frances Ha is a rare gem that is often difficult to find. Highly recommended.

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