Lower East Side
350 Grand Street, New York, NY 10002
F, J, M, Z to Delancey Street-Essex Street; B, D, Q to Grand Street
Frances Ha (Noah Baumbach | USA | 95 min.)
Shot in black-and-white that lends this New York odyssey an enjoyably scrappy feel, Frances Ha foregrounds a characteristically endearing Greta Gerwig performance defined by her combination of energetic wit and awkward self-effacement, qualities that sync nicely with the movie's acerbic script (co-written by Baumbach and his star). Frances Ha delivers smart riffs on arrested development that drift along with the rhythms of the life depicted. As Frances, Gerwig portrays a disoriented Vassar grad attempting to lead a stable life in the city. At first she inhabits a bubble of ignorance alongside her pal Sophie (rising star Mickey Sumner, Sting's daughter), an equally spirited young woman with whom Frances runs amuck in the city. When complications arise to challenge that relationship, Frances enters into an alternately sad and hilarious cycle of denial that gives the movie a rich dimension of pathos.
The world is changing faster than Frances can keep pace, and Baumbach follows her loopy misadventures with an eye for urban eccentricities. As she ekes out a living apprenticing for a post-modern dance company while couch-surfing, Frances becomes a contemporary symbol for New York's struggling youth culture. While Sophie settles into domestic life, Frances merely stumbles along. But the more we watch her valiantly trudging ahead, the more we root for her.
Describing herself as "undateable," Frances breaks up with her boyfriend in an early scene and remains a loner. The particulars of her romantic dysfunction are both cringeworthy and amusingly offbeat: Frances' ability to demonstrate her disinterest in a suitor halfway through a bad date leads to some sidesplitting slapstick comedy. Gerwig excels at this tricky balance between lovable naif and shrewd, individualistic loner. Baumbach never revels in Frances' problems; the movie is a celebration of her ability to navigate them one (literally) uneasy step at a time.
Frances Ha is a crowd-pleasing return to the terrain of Baumbach's The Squid and the Whale, as the movie amplifies similar uncomfortable coming-of-age phobias, but is ultimately a warm ode to nascent adulthood.
- Eric Kohn