Review: Frances Ha

Frances Ha

Frances Ha - Credit: Archant

Everybody loves Greta Gerwig. Well not everybody, but that select group of cinema opinion formers who constitute everybody to all effects and purposes. Since her breakthrough opposite Ben Stiller in Greenberg, her list of credits hasn't been stellar (she was in the Russell Brand remake of Arthur).

However a few well placed American indies have been enough to elevate her to the position where a film is made all about her.

Gerwig stars and co-wrote the movie with Greenberg director Baumbach and they have come up with a star vehicle about a scatty, down-on-her luck dance student in New York. Her one solid thing she is her relationship with best friend Sophie (Mickey Sumner). They're 'the same person with different hair', until Sophie decides to move out of their shared apartment to share with another friend in her favourite street in Tribeca.

What follows is a year spent trying to cover the rent from one rented room to the next – all shot in that particular Woody Allen shade of Manhattan black and white.

The key to Gerwig's enormous appeal is her blissful mix of innocent optimism and crushing insecurity and the way she can play archetypal American characters but give them a jolly hockey sticks feel.

She moves in trendy Bohemian circles, is supposed to be a dancer/choreographer yet she clumps around like an American version of Miranda.

Frances Ha skims lightly through a series of vignettes and sketches. It eschews anything that overtly suggests depth but it surely builds up a portrait of a woman who is slowly sliding towards despair but remains too upbeat to fully face it. It is a very aspirational kind of misery.

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Frances has a telling habit of describing things as 'hilarious' when they're not even funny and Baumbach specialises in a humour that is so refined, so nuanced and character-driven that it often refines itself out of existence. There are, though, some genuinely funny moments, usually in the more sustained set pieces.

It's a showcase for one of the most beguiling young American performers yet it may irritate as much as it charms. Much as I love her, I fear she may be set for a Parker Posey future: the diminishing returns of the eternal indie film queen.


Director: Noah Baumbach

Starring: Greta Gerwig, Mickey Sumner, Adam Driver, Michael Esper, Grace Gummer and Michael Zegen

Length: 86 mins