Frances Ha (2013)

Greta Gerwig and Mickey Sumner in Frances Ha (2013)

Noah Baumbach’s Frances Ha is a curious blend of universality and specificity. It tells the tale of young Frances Halliday (Greta Gerwig), an aspiring dancer, as she bounces from apartment to apartment in New York City. We follow her successes and her failures, and watch her orbit through and around various friendship groups, moving away from some relationships while developing new bonds. The focal relationship of the film is that of Frances and her friend Sophie (Mickey Sumner); they share a bond that wanes and strengthens like an oscillating rubber band.

The film is intentionally aimless; Frances walks a winding track, finding her working odd jobs with odd people. Frances Ha feels like an amalgamation of Manhattan and Girls: a conflicted ode to the city of New York. The specificity comes from the way it rests heavily on the cultural capital of New Yorkers: budding artists and aspirational professionals who all have an intimate knowledge of Proust and the French New Wave. It’s all lovingly shot and beautifully acted and well-written, but to me it just came across as a bit insular, as though I was trying to hang out with the cool kids without really understanding who they were.

Rating: 149/200

17 thoughts on “Frances Ha (2013)

    • I think, due to the brevity necessitated by two hundred words, my review comes across as more negative than I intended. It was a good film, and I enjoyed it: Gerwig’s performance in particular. I didn’t feel like it was as good as the other two Baumbach films I’ve seen though (Greenberg and The Squid and the Whale). Partly this was how significantly it rested on the NY-artiste milieu, but this isn’t necessarily a problem! I can relate to people outside my own personal experience, and heck, I love Girls and have a friend who went to Vassar.

      I think the biggest thing to me was the pacing of the film; significant conversations breeze past easily, flowing from one to the next. At first it seemed like an asset but by the end I felt like I never really spent long enough with Frances – at least, not consistently long enough – to truly understand her. I felt like an observer rather than a participant.

      • Fair enough, Dave. Also, I guess I’m not completely certain how your “rating” system works. Is it explained somewhere on your blog? I was very fond of “Frances Ha”(as well as “Greenberg”, “The Squid and the Whale”, and even the underrated “Margot at the Wedding), and Gerwig, in particular, gives one of my favorite performances of the year. Plus, the trailer is infectious! I did a piece on Gerwig being the new “It” girl before I even reviewed “Frances Ha” back in the spring. When I finally got to see the film—it did not disappoint. Happy that you enjoyed it, even if to a lesser degree than myself. Btw, I don’t know if you realize, but Mickey Sumner is rock-star Sting’s daughter! ML

      • The 200 point ratings system is (deliberately) a little silly and contrived. The basic idea is summed up here: but basically now I just look at my list of current rankings and compare the film to those. 139 is pretty much “good but not great.”

        I think Gerwig is great, and wouldn’t be surprised to see her breakthrough to proper A-list stardom soon. I just felt that this kinda didn’t have enough to say, and didn’t engage me enough in the characters? It was, y’know, fine. I’ll have to hunt down your review!

    • Yeah, it’s the kind of film I can totally respect people ranking as one of the best of the year, even if it didn’t hit that mark for me. It’s certainly a good film!

  1. This was on my watchlist but I was really unsure about it. Now after reading your review it almost seems like I want to stay away from it… I am too old to try to hang out with the cool kids, LoL, I am who I am and I don’t think I am going to like this. Great Review!

    • Thanks. It’s not really “about” anything (well, I guess that transitional stage of early adulthood is its focus but it’s got broader goals than that); I was kinda the same walking into the film, not knowing what to expect!

  2. Nice review. I felt the same way, I loved the performances but the film is a bit off-putting at parts. I think some of the scenes could have been cut, but it’s a good movie altogether.

  3. My favourite film of the year so far. I didn’t exactly like the ‘cool’ kids (excluding Frances, who I couldn’t help but love). However, that took no enjoyment away from their story and dialogue. Twas an interesting look at a bunch of interesting New Yorkers. Great review 🙂

    • I keep hearing so many people who seem to love this film more than I did – not that I disliked it! I will definitely have to watch it again in the near-future and see if I warm to it more 🙂

      Thanks for the comment!

  4. Pingback: Baumbach’s Back, Alright: Mistress America Finds Wit and Insight in Screwball Pastiche | ccpopculture

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