Before you hit middle age it’s possible to have a Quarter-Life Crisis (QLC). People prone to QLC are usually from Gen-Y and somewhere in their twenties. Despite having money, shelter and employment their life is a great struggle. Lena Dunham has turned QLC into a career with Girls and Josh Radnor embarrassed himself with the QLC inspired film Liberal Arts. For all the whining and complaining of disaffected and entitled young people, Frances Ha arrives with a refreshing amount of buoyancy to dance and charm its way through QLC territory.
Frances (Greta Gerwig) is a dancer living in New York City and stuck in a rut. All her friends seem to be progressing with their lives while she enthusiastically attempts to take action but ends up nowhere.
Gerwig occupies almost every frame of Frances Ha with her special brand of awkwardness and the results are outstanding. Her character is not one to mope around and there is a relentless kinetic energy Gerwig gives to Frances through the good times and the bad. Sure, she has her flat moments but there’s no sign of invitations being sent out to a pity party, and instantly Frances earns your sympathy where it’s necessary. Whether she’s dancing through the streets of Manhattan to David Bowie’s song Fashion, botching an impulsive trip to Paris or bumbling her way through a smarmy dinner party; it’s an absolute pleasure to be in her company and it's one of the best performances of Gerwig’s career to date.
On scripting duties Gerwig and co-writer and director, Noah Baumbach, distribute giant lashings of witty dialogue and lots of memorable one-liners. It’s resembles the work of an astringent slacker Aaron Sorkin if he was born in the 1980s. The film is full of an eclectic mix of characters that all represent different attitudes towards Frances’ status, as well as the generation she holds membership. There is the housemate who is always talking about the things he’s going to do but does nothing (thanks to rich parents), and the best friend who has everything (great job and a fiancé) but wants none of it. Frances is surrounded by varying levels of cynicism and entitlement but she never gets caught up in it. She’s also not bound or defined by a romance like so many female characters are in horrid romantic comedies. There is a nice core relationship she shares with her longtime friend which comes with several ups and downs. The overall optimistic approach that Gerwig and Baumbach take to the material is uplifting. By shooting the film in black and white, it gives the New York setting a timeless authenticity with a light nod to Woody Allen’s work in the Big Apple. The plot is a little misty and it does get repetitive but it’s a fetching character piece overall.
Frances Ha is a revitalisation and embrace of the good life so many people decide to take for granted. The simple pleasures are indulged and a whole generation can look to a bubbly new icon.
[rating=4] and a half
Cameron Williams - follow Cam on Twitter here: @popcornjunkies