Noah Baumbach (The Squid and the Whale, Margot at the Wedding) teams up with his Greenberg leading lady (and queen of the mumblecore movement), Greta Gerwig to present this smart and disarming dramedy following Frances as she makes the difficult shift from post graduate life to full-on, self-reliant adulthood.
A dance company trainee, Frances seems to be stuck in limbo as she struggles to come to terms with a world that is slowly moving away from her. Involved in one of the most brilliantly low-key break-ups set to celluloid, she finds her life starting to drift as her best friend and flatmate, Sophie, moves to a part of town that she can’t afford and she finds herself moving in with two (parentally wealthy) artistes.
Baumbach and co-writer Gerwig succeed in focussing on a time of change in motivation and ambition in someone’s life without throwing unnecessary drama into the mix. The script (and its delivery) is deceptively simple and peppered with moments of brilliantly banal and recognisable conversation (“you love that phone with email more than you love me”) amidst beautiful, awkward encounters. One of the highlights is a meandering and eventually pointless tale delivered at a dinner party with unassuming ease by Gerwig, who charms throughout.
Her “un-dateable” Frances is thoroughly relatable as we follow her from address to address as she tries to catch up with a world that seems to be growing up without her. On the cusp of ‘real’ adulthood she struggles to pay rent, find a regular dancing gig and hide her fears with daily little white lies, which appear to be just as much about convincing herself as others, that things are going fine. Her happy-go-lucky nature is a fortunate buffer against the potentially harsh realities if she just stopped and thought about things for a while. But she is a whirlwind of friendships and movement, inside jokes and drink.
She is given magnificent support, particularly from Mickey Sumner as best friend Sophie who brings out the best and worst of her. Their relationship is portrayed with a dexterity and lightness of touch that is genuine and moving, and Sumner is fiery and considerate in equal measures. The easy friendship with new flatmate, Benji is also a joy. Michael Zegen is a wonderfully relaxed sparring partner and brings just enough sexual tension to this story of girl-meets-life.
The black-and white visuals lend the film a classic feel, with the grounded nature of the script and the low-key delivery throughout garnering an excellent balance of empathy and sympathy for Frances, as the audience recognises their own lives, friendships and hardships in her experiences.
Frances Ha is released in the UK on 26th July 2013