Firstly, a couple of jokes that were probably already made about this book:
Frances Ha? More like “Frances Heh.” Or “Frances Ugh.”
I’m kidding. I actually really like the title of this movie. And the reasoning behind it, which is revealed in a very beautiful final scene. But I have a lot of deep issues with this movie, too, many of which I hashed out with a friend who was in total agreement. Let’s get into it, to paraphrase Pete Holmes.
I’ll start surface-level: The black and white filming is fantastic. It’s not used often enough, probably for fear of pretentiousness and because it’s harder to market. But this film was plenty pretentious and still benefitted from it. When you take away the color, you somehow eliminate an element of distraction. It’s hard to quantify. Here, it made the story seem so much more clear and focused, even if its main character wasn’t. Also, the acting itself is great. Greta Gerwig has a unique magnetism about her, and I identified with the way she carried herself throughout the movie — namely in that I, too, am a tall woman. Not insanely tall, but taller than most other women. And Frances, her character, embodied that certain specific awkwardness that comes with knowing how to carry yourself — she’s a dancer, after all — but still acquiescing to the expectations of society that somehow see you as Too Tall. She still slouches. I do too. It’s a weird existence. I also love that, in addition to finding a muse in his actual partner (Gerwig), Noah Baumbach has also found one in Adam Driver. He’s got a magnetism all his own, and I like seeing his face in so many things.
I identified with lots of other things about Frances, too. She’s a late-twentysomething living in New York, with some tunnel vision about her career, with a perfectly nice family back in California that gave her a solid upbringing, and with a need for longstanding friendship that she’s struggling to fulfill for herself. That’s the thing that made me empathize with her the most, actually, the friendship thing. I recognize that in myself, as I cling to many old connections probably long past their expiration dates, because like her, I want things to be as they were instead of as they are. It’s hard to watch, but it’s nice to know that there’s a filmmaker (Baumbach) out there who likely also experienced that. I also really love the line she uses when she’s on a date, and her credit card doesn’t work: “I’m so embarrassed I’m not a real person yet.”
However. Despite being neither Manic (she’s pretty #CHILL) nor Pixie (aforementioned height being a prominent factor there), she falls squarely, roundly, perfectly into the Manic Pixie Dream Girl mould, in the worst way. The aforementioned career tunnel vision is hard to watch, too — she was offered a job by her dance teacher, and she didn’t take it, citing some vague reasons. She knows perfectly well how to deal with adults, because she returns home to Sacramento to talk to her family over the holidays, yet she seeks out a shittier job opportunity at her old college later on so that she can feel younger, and it only makes her feel worse. She enjoys receiving attention when she’s doing what she thinks she does best — being an anomaly — but she ends up looking pathetic. It’s okay for someone just out of college not to have her shit together, and it’s really okay for anyone not to have their shit together, but having it together is all relative. She’s intentionally absent-minded, intentionally impulsive (she flies to Paris for 48 hours and sleeps, what the fuck), all because she thinks it’s charming. It’s not. I think we’re supposed to be the same age, and despite me not being remotely close to finding my Lifelong Career, I know roughly how to spend my money. I know that an impulsive trip to Paris is stupid. I know how to dress myself not to look like I’m twelve. She so desperately wants to be treated like an artist, but she doesn’t quite know what that means. The result is… scattered.
I wonder if, before indie movies like Baumbach’s and Lena Dunham’s and the Duplass bros’s, people actually talked like how they do in those movies. The intimate bumble of mumblecore has seeped into our speech, and has made us think it’s an okay way to communicate, that every thought should be shared. It shouldn’t. Some thoughts are not interesting. I don’t necessarily hate mumblecore movies, but I do hate how they enable a certain kind of character, and thus glorify a certain kind of person — the aforementioned intentionally absent-minded. I hate those people.
Now that I’ve said the word “aforementioned” to cover myself for the next week, I’ll get off my high horse. Truth is, in case you couldn’t already tell, this movie hit home pretty hard. Funly enough, it’s time for me to also head back to Northern California for the holidays and talk to some adults. Maybe I’ll paint the whole trip black and white in my head. It’s more fun to live inside of a movie, even if that movie evokes complex, annoying feelings.