Thursday, May 30, 2013

Growing Up is a Bitch


Growing Up is Hard to Do in “Frances Ha”

By Skip Sheffield

“Frances Ha” is a creative collaboration between two people who love and understand each other.
Those people are writer-director Noah Baumbach and wife, writer-actress Greta Gerwig.
Baumbach is a semi-famous filmmaker with such provocative fare as “The Squid and the Whale” and “Greenberg.” He has also done commercial stuff: “Madagascar 3."
Greta Gerwig is 14 years younger than her husband. She has played young babe roles in “No Strings Attached” and “Arthur.” Like Gerwig, her character of Frances (last name Hawthorne, we finally learn) is at a crossroad at age 27. She came to New York City to pursue a career as dancer, even though she is a bit klutzy. She rooms with Sophie (Mickey Sumner, daughter of rock star Sting), her best friend since high school. The girls love each other, but not in a sexual way. When Sophie announces she is moving out to live with her boyfriend, Frances feels saddened and betrayed. When Frances fails to get a part in a big Christmas show she was counting on, her entire career seems in doubt.
“Frances Ha” is about that awkward time after college graduation and before “real life.” Frances has been living a prolonged adolescence, and moving from place to place, comic mishap after comic mishap, she learns ruefully she needs to “grow up-” whatever that means.
“Frances Ha” is by no means a downer. Despite her disappointments, Frances always has a veneer of optimism, consistently radiated by Gerwig. This is a “chick flick’ with important male characters who are neither evil nor nefarious, but agents of change. The film is a kind of 83-minute mood piece on the letting go of childish pursuits. It is neither sad nor happy, but as performed by this ensemble in just 12 shooting days in luminous high definition digital black-and-white, it is quite lovely.

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