Summer movies usually equate to “popcorn” movies: these movies are easily digestible due to their very familiar themes and arcs, and can range from your run of the mill romantic comedy to your next comic book adaptation. It’s all a lot of fun, but as we roll into the end of July, these movies start to feel less cozy and just more mundane. However, as we still dwell in smash-hit summer and don’t want to quite plunge into arthouse autumn, our appetites are wet for a change in perspective yet we still desire some easy watching. Finding that happy medium can be difficult, but it is perfectly balanced in Frances Ha.
The story follows an aspiring dancer Frances (Greta Gerwig, Damsels in Distress, To Rome with Love) desperately trying to get a grasp upon her life. As she sees her best friend Sophie (Mickey Sumner) begin to move on with her life, Frances scrambles to not be left in the dust.
Much like other popcorn films, Frances Ha takes root in an already popular genre; quirkxplotation. With the success of shows like New Girl and the MPDG movement in general, Frances Ha fits into the mold of that jovial, off-beat personality that is so inviting to audiences. However, the film far from embodies the genre.
Co-written by Gerwig herself, Frances does live her life with whimsicality, but also carries much anxiety in her shoulders as the impending mortality of her youth hangs above her. Far from an MPDG, Frances graduates to a fully realized character with flying colors.
Director and co-writer Noah Baumbach (The Squid and the Whale, Greenberg) heavily borrows both narrative and aesthetics from Truffaut’s 400 Blows and Woody Allen’s Manhattan. The black and white cinematography perfectly encapsulates the romanticism of the urban landscape as well as a nostalgic flare. Frances Ha also does not tether itself so a strict narrative structure, seeming more like a modern art photo gallery. While Truffaut and Allen were both masters of their craft, their arthouse aesthetics and high culture laden dialogue can made them alienating to a wider audience. Frances Ha does not fall victim to this flaw.
Frances Ha has a bit of an arthouse exterior, but the inner core hits the heart of universal themes: evolution of friendships, anxiety of adulthood, aimless sense of identity, and pathways to self expression. The film is quick and precise; cutting through the fat of any exclusionary practices.
Ultimately, the inviting quality was carried through by Greta Gerwig’s electric performance. Her enthusiasm and charm create an enjoyable film for a movie lover’s summer diet and makes it impossible for a viewer not to become invested in the trials of Frances. For any naysayers, you can just say “ha” to their face.
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