Monday, May 27, 2013

This character's ambivalence interesting, but

Frances Ha stars contemporary indie queen Greta Gerwig and yes as per previous posts I’m a fan. So I went out my way this weekend to catch her at the Main Art. I liked this film and yet I was a little disappointed. Gerwig wrote this, after all, with director Noah Baumbach (Margot at the Wedding (2007), The Squid and The Whale (2005)), and this might be her biggest star vehicle yet (even after To Rome with Love (2012) and Damsels in Distress (2011)). The film’s poster says it all: she’s the sole focus as she kicks her heels in a New York park. Gerwig plays Frances, an aspiring dancer in the contemporary dance capital. But the operative word is “aspiring.” Her career is going nowhere, even faltering. But that’s not the main subject of the movie, though it ends up being so. No, the real focus is Frances’s relationship (call it a love affair without the sex) with roommate Sophie (Mickey Sumner, who’s been in The Borgias). The movie opens with various scenes of them in all sorts of settings, seemingly inseparable as their energy, jokes and intellect bounce off one another. All is for naught, however. Because out of nowhere – and with an insulting one day’s notice - Sophie announces she’s shacking up with her fiancé, an unlikely jock for a cerebral publishing type (Patch played by Patrick Heusinger) but there you have it. This sends Frances into some distress and she ends up moving in with a couple of artsy guts to share their $4000 per month apartment (she gets a discount at $950). Problem is, Frances can’t gain traction in her work or even in her life. She constantly describes herself as “undateable” and has mini crises of confidence, such as when someone tells her, “You look older but less grown up” or that she walks awkwardly and man-like. I found a few of this movie’s scenes stilted and the actors seemed like they were regurgitating script. Frances’s souring relationship with Sophie, and her ambivalence towards men and sometimes life, were interesting themes. But all of a sudden, at the end, we see that this damsel has succeeded in becoming a full-fledged choreographer. Gee, how did she pick herself up by her bootstraps and do that? The movie doesn’t at all say. So, okay, I guess best of luck to her.

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