Offbeat indie film-makers are ten-a-penny in Hollywood at the moment but, along with close friend Wes Anderson, Noah Baumbach is one of the directors whose films ensure he’s head and shoulders above most of the competition. His films tackle everyday life and relationships, often with a central focal point; finding fame with The Squid and the Whale but Greenberg and Margot at the Wedding both have their moments.
Our eponymous heroine Frances (Gerwig) (the Ha is explained right at the end) is a dancer living in New York who doesn’t really have an apartment. Frances has big dreams but isn’t really making progress of holding onto anything. Drifting through life, and struggling to find her place, she has best friend Sophie (Sumner) and hipsters Benji (Zegen) and Lev (Driver) to help her along the way.
Shot in black and white, Frances Ha looks ageless yet inherently modern. In an interview Baumbach revealed that the choice to shoot in monochrome wasn’t an attempt to age the film but to enhance its modernity. It is a very modern film, which could be seen as a snapshot of time and place. He’s a big fan of Woody Allen, and this is apparent by the way its shot and written. He has in a sense made Manhattan his own in the way Allen has done with many cities. Easily his most heart-warming and oddly touching film, ‘Frances’ has a smattering of offbeat humour immersed in the sharp yet unassuming dialogue.
Written in collaboration with Gerwig after a year long conversation between the pair, ‘Frances’ may be a personal work about a difficult age for the director, but the main protagonist embodies much of the persona of Gerwig. Indeed, the pair ended up getting together, so in another way he is emulating Woody Allen. Gerwig is a charm as the unhappy heroine, bumbling and bouncing around New York, gamely struggling to find her way in life whilst everyone is moving around her.
The supporting cast is made up of celebrity offspring and indie actors, which adds an authenticity to the film that you rarely see nowardays. Frances Ha is beautifully shot, wonderfully acted and a real little gem of a film.
Dir: Noah Baumbach
Stars: Greta Gerwig, Mickey Sumner, Michael Zegen, Adam Driver
For screening times visit the Showroom’s website