A low-budget, black-and-white production set in New York: Could Noah Baumbach be channeling Woody Allen’s Manhattan any harder if he tried?
Admittedly, that’s a simplistic reading of Frances Ha but it’s easy enough to draw comparisons (and don’t get us started on all those French New Wave comparisons. Perhaps the movie should have been titled France’s Ha?) But instead of Diane Keaton’s Annie Hall, we find ourselves confronted with Greta Gerwig’s eponymous character. Gerwig has plenty riding on Frances Ha, considering that she co-wrote the movie with Baumbach, who also happens to be her off-screen partner.
And as with so much of Allen’s work, New York is more than just a location but a place to explore weighty topics such as friendship, class, ambition, failure, and redemption (and ballet dancing). “What do you do?” Frances is asked at a dinner party, who replies “It’s kind of hard to explain.” “Because what you do is complicated?” comes the retort. “Because I don’t really do it,” she fires back. But what Gerwig does do is put herself firmly at the heart of the picture. She (as well as the film) seems to have captured something pretty special, if we go by critical reaction, which has been stellar. Variety is so smitten by her that much of its review is devoted to the 29-year-old. The opening words are “You gotta love Greta Gerwig,” and the final sentence is, “Where other performers act, Gerwig manages to just be, making her precisely the right young star to carry such a genial glimpse at a character who doesn’t even seem to realize she’s trying to find herself.”
The Hollywood Reporter is similarly charmed, pointing out that “This is unquestionably Gerwig’s defining performance to date.” The New Yorker manages to praise Baumbach, Gerwig and the film, noting that “Frances is an artist whose medium is life itself, and Baumbach, his camera open with calm adoration, channels her waves of wonder and possibility.” And New York magazine, though able to offer a little criticism – “Baumbach has a hard time letting go of the notion that drama means building to humiliation” – still has to concede that “When he does, though, Frances Ha is beautiful and surprising.”
GRETA GERWIG ON FRANCES HA: “I Feel Like an Adult”
NewsFeed’s Flicks Pick: Two solid choices this week, with Star Trek Into Darkness clearly going to score big at the box office. But if a screen near you is showing Frances Ha, it doesn’t look like it will let you down.