On the latest episode of Reel Shorts, guest critic, Travis Hopson of Punch Drunk Critics looks at Greta Gerwig’s coming of age tale, Frances Ha.
Hilarious, insightful, devastating, and jubilant, Frances Ha isn’t the sort of film one would expect to see from Noah Baumbach. Best known for his debilitating, hurtful dramedies like The Squid and the Whale or Margot at the Wedding, Baumbach is displaying an exciting new comedic voice and a completely different narrative rhythm than we’ve ever seen from him before. While he’s hardly the only filmmaker to try to do things a little differently, it’s safe to say that the real motivation behind this drastic shift is the presence of his muse, the wonderfully-talented Greta Gerwig.
Considering Gerwig began her ascendance to the mantle of “indie queen” in Baumbach’s Greenberg (the two are now dating, by the way), it’s a perfect bit of synergy to see them reunited in a passion project such as this. Her vibrant influence is all over the script, which she co-wrote alongside Baumbach, and has her as a hot mess of a 20-something New Yorker navigating that time when your dreams are still fresh, but slowly creeping out of reach as reality takes hold.
She’s a live-wire, an aimless creative soul whose opportunity may never come. She works as a ballet understudy, meaning the career of her choice is by no means guaranteed, but then again nothing much in Frances’ life seems certain. In her mind, the only real guarantee is that she and her best friend/roommate Sophie (Mickey Sumner) will be together forever. “We’re like the same person”, Frances says, and that’s true to a certain extent. They both have odd lingo only they can understand, and love to play fight, but deep down they couldn’t be more different. Sophie has a steady job, and a boyfriend named “Patch” who Frances hates. Frances had a boyfriend, too, but they broke up because she basically chose Sophie over living with him. When Sophie decides to move out to live in Tribeca, Frances isn’t just hurt, she’s thrown for a world-shattering loop.
All of this may sound like a three-episode of HBO’s Girls, but Lena Dunham has never created characters as authentic as this. Nor has she touched on a female friendship that feels quite as lived-in and real as that between Frances and Sophie. Free from Dunham’s pretentious notions and Baumbach’s typical cynicism, the film takes a witty and observant look at how life can drive a wedge between life-long friends.
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