Thursday, July 18, 2013
Many a soul has been swallowed up by the great gulf between post-adolescence and adulthood, and Noah Baumbach’s Frances Ha is a knowing survey of the wreckage of 20-something ennui. Frances is a 27-year-old dancer that doesn’t dance, a dream girl without a dreamer, a whirling mess of a woman. She’s charmingly whimsical and infuriatingly impractical. The beauty of Greta Gerwig’s portrayal of Frances lies in how she can capture this clumsy vitality without becoming completely obnoxious. Good thing, too, because her buoyant presence serves as a counterbalance to the occasionally leaden touch of the director, who sometimes seems like he would be happier just stomping all over the dreams of these deluded art-school kids without all this pretence of comedy—and that is hardly the only way he creates trouble for himself. Drawing stylistic inspiration from the French New Wave (there’s also a Leos Carax homage thrown in for good measure), Baumbach invites unflattering comparisons to the most iconic cinematic representations of wayward 20-something dreamers. For all the film’s liveliness and wit, the director is too calculating to match the loose energy of early Truffaut, much too constrained to recreate the probing methods of a young Godard. But perhaps that is the point, as he treats his cinematic forebears with the same wry fondness he feels for Frances and her cohorts. The film’s black-and-white look, couched in New Wave mannerisms, is equal parts tribute to and critique of those lost in the romanticism of youthful freedom.