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“Frances Ha”

Susan Granger’s review of “Frances Ha” (IFC Films)

 

Years ago, coming-of-age films revolved around confused adolescents/teenagers. Now the
demographic has expanded: entitled twentysomethings are still floundering, trying to find themselves.

Writing the script with his leading lady, Greta Gerwig, director Noah Baumbach (“The Squid and the Whale,” “Margot at the Wedding”) has fashioned an arrested development serio-comedy
about a well-educated, yet socially awkward 27 year-old New Yorker named Frances, who enjoys telling people that she and her inseparable Vassar college roommate/best-friend Sophie (Mickey Sumner) “are the same person with different hair.” But they’re not. Self-absorbed Sophie has a good job in publishing, while disarmingly delusional, self-deprecating Frances is a klutzy apprentice
at an artsy modern-dance company. And while Frances wouldn’t even consider leaving Brooklyn – and Sophie – to move in with her boyfriend, Sophie has no hesitation about ditching Frances for a swankier move to TriBeCa. Sophie’s departure leaves Frances floating from apartment to apartment. Title cards list her various addresses.

“I’m so embarrassed,” she admits. “I’m not a real person yet.”

Filmed by cinematographer Sam Levy in black-and-white, like the French New Wave, with an obviously miniscule budget, it’s a facile, off-beat, female friendship story that’s adorned with excerpts from musical scores by Georges Delerue, who often collaborated with Francois Truffaut, along with vintage David Bowie and other rock/pop tunes.

Quirky, beguiling Greta Gerwig, who worked with Noah Baumbach previously in Ben Stiller’s “Greenberg” and became his off-screen girl-friend, also emoted in Woody Allen’s “To Rome With Love” and Whit Stillman’s “Damsels in Distress.”  Here, Gerwig’s Sacramento-based parents are
played by her real-life mother and father. British actress Mickey Sumner is the daughter of Sting and Trudy Styler.  And seeing Adam Driver from TV’s “Girls,” as a womanizing artist, reinforces the
similarity with Lena Dunham’s hit HBO series.

Why the title? Peripatetic Frances’s name is Frances Halliday, though only “Ha” fits on the mailbox.

On the Granger Movie Gauge of 1 to 10, “Frances Ha” is an improbable yet engaging 8,
particularly endearing to those who can’t quite get their lives together.

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