"I'm so embarrassed, I'm not a real person yet."
This weeks Franchise Fatigue column is going to talk about a movie that I've touched upon a few times on The Filibuster podcast with Matt, 2013's 'Frances Ha'. This is without a doubt my favourite movie of the past few years and probably my most watched, i cannot stop talking about this movie and recommending it to friends and anyone who will listen. Now it's your turn to be subjected to this well worn pitch!
The plot of 'Frances Ha' focuses on the twenty-something Frances Halladay, a struggling apprentice dancer who finds herself moving from apartment to apartment in New York. Frances is struggling to cope with the loss of her best friend Sophie who has moved in with her boyfriend and begins to find her confidence and place in the world in doubt, Frances is experiencing her quarter life crisis.
I've often said that the movies I love the most are those that I can relate to and invest my own experiences and troubles into. At the time this movie was released my eight year spell in Edinburgh had been broken and I was back living at home with my parents in Aberdeen, my four year relationship had come to an end and my friends living at the other side of the country. So when I sat down to watch this movie in the beautiful Belmont cinema, I wasn't in the greatest and most happiest places in my life. Two hours later, when the curtain closed on this black and white shot movie, I felt like I had experienced a very cathartic and therapeutic movie, I was very emotional. The movie introduced me to the concept of the quarter life crisis and gave a name to what I was experiencing. It was something all of us in our twenties have gone through or are going through. How did I not know at the time about this?
Noah Baumbach who had co-written the amazing Fantastic Mr. fox and The Life Aquatic with Steve Zissou with Wes Anderson and written & directed critically acclaimed 'The Squid and The Whale' and the underrated 'Kicking (no not the Will Farrell film) and Screaming'. Baumbach being attached to any film is enough to guarantee my money and time but the build up to this movie was very low and largely went under my radar. Isn't that the best way to watch a movie?
In the beginning, we are introduced to Frances who is in a relationship with what looks like the perfect man, who is ready to take the next step with her and wants to move in together. However, Frances wants to stay in her small flat in a shared bed with her best friend Sophie. Unknown to Frances, Sophie is ready to move out and in with her partner and this starts Frances journey.
I related a lot to the experience of Frances and she moves from flat to flat, flatmate to flatmate and the troubles she encounters along the way. It reminded me of my student days, I would end up living in flats with people for months or years, where the relationships were built on tension and it showed the trials and tribulations of living with people who are essentially strangers.
I thought this aspect of the movie was excellent, and showed what really is a right of passage for those in their twenties. When you look back at your own life and when you see how it effects Frances, every different flat help defines you and teaches you new lessons and brings new people into your life and challenges you. If living with Sophie was living with best friend who you shared the deepest of non sexual relationships with , moving in to all these different apartments showed Frances having to live in the real world of bills and living with people who aren’t as accommodating of her personality!
Frances along the way struggles with romance and seems to put every man who expresses an interest in her into a friends zone. One of her friends, remarks that she is "Frances undateable" whenever they meet. It seems like Frances is unable to commit or process romantic interest and seems to have a very child like approach to love. I wonder if this is down to her love for Sophie and no one can match that and wanting to keep her time free for her friend? I loved the scene with Frances getting a tax rebate and instead of spending it on bills, rent or her life, she takes a pre Star Wars and full on New York hipster, Adam Driver, out on a date to a restaurant. Who hasn’t come in to a little bit of money and used it as an excuse to take someone out on a date?
I feel that ‘Frances Ha’ just nails so wonderfully the difficulty in your twenties of finding your way once you’ve left university or college and those safety blankets of youth behind. Anyone in their twenties or lived through them can relate to this movie in one way or more. There were so many little moments in it that I’ve experienced or seen friends go through in this movie. Frances and her gangly walking style that resembles a young deer, it is a great visual analogy for how we stumble through those years as we try to get a firm footing in life.
There's a scene at the dinner party where Frances with her arrested development, struggles to fit in with those of her same age or slightly older which is brilliant and tragic comedy. We’ve all been there where we clearly don’t fit in with the company we're in and those awkward conversations we find ourselves in or trying to act like a grown up or like we have our life together. Moments like these are where ‘Frances Ha’ is at it’s best, allowing us to feel for Frances in these common experiences we’ve all had and relate to the character because we are all or have been Frances.
The performance of Greta Gerwig really is incredible and doesn’t fall into parody or buffoonery that it could in the wrong hands. She is an inspiring character because she falls and falls but keeps picking herself up and pushing on without losing her charm or innocence. As Frances finds her way, the experiences and journey feels natural and believable, the sense of joy this film naturally generates is down to Gerwig's performance of the script she co-wrote with Baumbach.
I think 'Frances Ha' really is a wonderful movie reflecting the quarter life crisis and moving through those years when your dreams, ambitions and friendships begun to face the harsh real world. The success of the movie is down to making it relatable and real and that is a great credit to the star and writer, Greta Gerwig and director Baumbach. I enjoyed the movie so much because I could relate to so many of Frances' highs and lows, I love watching this movie when I'm feeling blue and just as much when I'm happy and wanting to relax on a Sunday night.
WHERE TO WATCH FRANCES HA? The USA Netflix and selected European regions. Apple TV in Germany, Great Britain and Canada and other select countries.
If you're looking for the DVD or blu-Ray, it is available on the prestigious Criterion Collection.