A consistently intelligent (or at least bright), coherently constructed comedy that is on occasion a rather pointed critique of the American education system in the…
Who nowadays makes plush-looking feature films in black-and-white? Well, Noah Baumbach does, and if you consider that his “Frances Ha” lavishes its gorgeous monochromes on contemporary New York and the luminous countenance of Greta Gerwig (his star, current g.f. and co-writer), you might suspect that Baumbach’s latest owes more than a tiny debt to Woody Allen’s “Manhattan.” If you also factor in that the film is full of nods to the French New Wave, including an obnoxious overuse of classic scores by Georges Delerue, you might deduce that Baumbach’s reverential hyper-cinephilia has gotten the better of him again. And you would be right. But only to a point.
The truth is, the brittle self-consciousness (half boastful, half embarrassed) signified by his cinematic name-dropping has always been Baumbach’s artistic Achilles heel — his previous films include “Kicking and Screaming,” “The Squid and the Whale” and “Margot at the Wedding” — but thankfully it doesn’t completely undo “Frances Ha.” His collaboration with Gerwig has a freshness that may or not owe something to first-blush romance but that renders this bittersweet comedy occasionally inspired, frequently charming and always watchable.
film’s shambling story is rooted in a particular passage of life.
Frances Halliday (Gerwig) at age 27 finds herself in that Janus-like,
post-college phase where part of her seems to want to retreat to the
womb, or at least Vassar, while another part wants to forge confidently
into the realities of grown-up life in New York. For the moment, she’s
stuck between the poles, going round and round. As the film opens, she’s
trying not very successfully to get some career traction in a dance
company, while her closest relationship is with her roommate and best
friend Sofie (Mickey Sumner). The two young women act like teenagers,
playing all sorts of silly games and saying “I love you” to each other
more frequently than people who actually are in love do.
is the kind of giddy, reality-escaping youthful friendship that seems
eternal until (as inevitably happens) one party decides to loosen the
ties in order to move on. When Sofie does just that, moving out in order
to share a coveted Tribeca apartment with another friend, Frances is
left unmoored. For a while she moves in with Lev (Adam Driver) and Benji
(Michael Zegen), dry-witted Brooklyn hipsters whose lives seem to
consist mainly of wisecracks, beer and hookups. For a few moments it
seems like there might be a spark between Frances and Benji, an aspiring
"SNL" writer, but that passes and he soon dubs her, in a bit of teasing