Published Sep 10, 2012An idiosyncratic free spirit and aspiring dancer, the titular Frances (Greta Gerwig) – whose surname remains a deliberate mystery until the final frames – glides through modern NYC, desperate to get into a dance company while barely able to pay her rent. Her best friend, Sophie (Mickey Sumner), describes Frances as an anomaly, noting that aside from her, anyone trying to be an artist in NYC has to be a rich kid in order to get by.
The pair are inseparable roommates that share inside jokes, finish each other's sentences, play fight in the park and dole out non-sequiturs and social observations aplenty. They're the overeducated and underemployed youth of today.
While a film about self-aware urban hipsters could easily fall into pretence and sanctimony, especially when shot entirely in black & white, the script from Noah Baumbach and Greta Gerwig balances culturally defined signifiers with effervescent and candid sincerity from the weirdly optimistic and socially awkward Frances.
Moving from apartment to apartment and establishing friendships with a kinship she's incapable of demonstrating in a romantic capacity, she casually urinates on subway platforms, dances in the streets and blurts out extremely personal information in new social settings without apology or self-consciousness.
This oddly sunny look at modern mediocrity and dreams unfulfilled balances the many modifications we make in life with an endless array of hilarious one-liners specific to our times. When having a cigarette in the apartment of affected tool Miles (Adam Driver) – he wears a fedora indoors – she blurts out, "I feel like a bad 1987 mom."
Later, after Sophie leaves her to go down the traditionalist relationship path with a guy that can only achieve orgasm if he releases in her face, Frances attempts to recreate their bond with a temporary roommate and fellow dancer (Grace Gummer) by awkwardly starting a play fight without permission.
Because this role was tailor-made for Gerwig's particular sensibilities, mixing intelligence with naiveté and genuine dorkiness, these comic scenes all shine, fulfilling their potential to the utmost.
In addition to making an observation about the modern urban lexicon, Frances Ha manages to entertain from beginning to end, detailing a character we wish we could see more of. (Pine District)