Frances Ha – a Coming of Age for Those Who Have Come of Age

Frances Ha Review

Runtime: 95mins | Director: Noah Baumbach | Rating: 5 Stars

Having recently graduated from University, I find myself at a point in my life where I feel somewhat lost. I need to find a job. I need to move out my parents’ house. Essentially, I need to figure out my life. Frances Ha, directed by Noah Baumbach, deals with similar questions and I am finding it very easy to relate to.

The story follows the life of Frances (Greta Gerwig) – a 27-year-old woman living in New York. She doesn’t have much luck romantically, she doesn’t have much luck financially. In fact, she doesn’t have much luck in general. This streak of bad luck worsens when her best friend, Sophie, who Frances constantly jokes about being married to enters into a relationship meaning they have little time to spend together anymore. With Sophie gone from her life, Frances then tries to find a stable job and get her life back on track. This proves easier said than done.

Part of what makes this film so brilliant is that it’s incredibly grounded. There are no megalomaniacal villains or moments of unrealistic and grandiose romance to win back a lover. The only struggle throughout the film is life itself. Frances struggles to pay her rent, and as a result, moves from apartment to apartment as they steadily decline in quality. Frances worries about finding a relationship due to the fact she’s quirky and branded as “un-dateable” by her roommate. Frances also loses her best friend when she moves to Tokyo with her fiancé. In summary, Frances needs to get her life together too. This is perhaps best illustrated in the film when Frances offers to pay for dinner whilst on a date and her card is declined, leading her to say, “I’m so sorry, I’m so embarrassed… I’m not a real person yet!”

Another reason I love this film so much is that friendship is at its centre. I think it’s a relatively uncontroversial claim to make that in most films, romantic love is thematically prominent. A rom-com, for example, where the two main characters nimbly weave between emotional obstacles to end up together or an action movie where the hero reunites with their partner at any and all cost, saving them from the villain. In a nutshell, Hollywood (and stories in general) have become constipated with romantic love. It’s everywhere. You can’t escape it. Frances Ha is the incredibly refreshing exception to this.

Rather than giving Frances a love interest, she instead has Sophie. Baumbach constantly forces a comparison between Frances and Sophie’s friendship to that of a romance, however. The very opening of the film stages it as one, mimicking the ‘honeymoon’ period montage so often used in rom-coms. Frances and Sophie skip through a park with music playing, they then have an intimate lunch together, they play fight and then Frances falls asleep on Sophie’s shoulder on the subway ride home. Whilst at a dinner party later in the film, the topic of love is raised and Frances muses that she wants the kind of love where “It's that thing when you're with someone, and you love them and they know it, and they love you and you know it... but it's a party... and you're both talking to other people, and you're laughing and shining... and you look across the room and catch each other's eyes... but - but not because you're possessive, or it's precisely sexual... but because... that is your person in this life.” At the end of the film, Frances and Sophie do exactly this, showing that platonic love is just as valuable as romantic love (if not more so). I particularly liked this message given films so often pressure the message of finding your true love. It makes you stop and think about those who are already in your life rather than looking for someone new. It also raises the question of which kind of love is more valuable - friendship or romantic - but I won’t be wading into such a deep philosophical question here.

While Frances Ha may not be a new film (having been released in 2012), it is one that I feel people may not have heard of which I think is a shame. If you haven’t had a chance to see it, and you are at a loose end one night for something to watch, I highly recommend it. It’s incredibly charming, very funny and a joy to watch. As well as this, Greta Gerwig acts phenomenally in it. If you don’t fall in love with Frances by the end, then you have a heart of stone. 


Popular posts from this blog

Jurassic World: Fallen Kingdom Review

Phantom Thread - A Finely Woven Tale or Narratively Thread Bare?

Barbie Film Review: Is Life In Plastic Fantastic?