by Anuja Pal
As an indie buff who is always on the lookout for the best independent films made in the last few years, it was inevitable that I would find my way to the magic that is Frances Ha. A friend had told me once, "Nothing can go wrong when it's Noah Baumbach and Greta Gerwig together," and I realized the reality of the remark after watching this simplistic comedy-drama.
Directed and written by Noah Baumbach, the film follows the (mis)adventures of 27-year-old Frances Halladay, (played by Greta Gerwig, who also co-wrote the script) a free-spirited dancer in Brooklyn who shares an apartment with her best friend, Sophie.
The opening two minutes give us a glimpse into their lives, which are so closely intertwined that they have been accused of being a lesbian couple who don't have sex anymore. According to Frances, they're the same person with different hair. This statement is justified when we see the ease with which they seemingly fit into one another. But the director clearly shows something greater than best-friendship between the pair, and Sophie is more of a platonic soulmate for Frances.
The female friendship, when it clicks transcends into something more than “I like you, we’re both so alike,” or even “You’ve always been there for me, I love you.” The space where it enters is hard to define, but one should know that should you ever find the Sophie to your Frances, don’t let go. A shot of the two, sitting on the window sill (and talking about possibly eating domesticated dogs) stands out in particular, because it embodies what this film is all about - the little moments that make your life, yours. And Sophie is an integral part of Fran's life.
So when she receives the news that Sophie will be moving to her dream neighbourhood, Tribeca, situations turn upside down for the already struggling Frances. Luck seems to elude her way, each time, as life throws one curve ball after the other. Her impulsive nature takes her to places ranging from Sacramento to Paris, where she spends a rather uneventful two days. For the major part of the 86 minutes of running time, we see her trying to fit in, trying to make both ends meet while her career goes awry and an "undateable" nature denies her happiness in relationships.
The reason why this film might appeal to a lot of people, is that Frances Halladay reflects all of us in some way, us being the present generation – forever broke whilst struggling in big cities. She dances, she makes messy beds, she sleeps with her socks on, she speaks about imperceptible dimensions that exist all around us in a brilliant monologue, and she cracks stupid jokes which elite dinner party crowds can't understand. She ballets her way across China Town, despite all the shortcomings in her life, and that is the message that the film gives us.
"Dance against all odds."
And Greta Gerwig does an exceptional job as Frances. She delivers uneasy and confused lines with a spontaneous aura that's hard to miss. The irony lies in the fact that Baumbach filmed multiple takes, so the scenes that look natural and improvised, aren't so.
The film is shot entirely in black and white, and the New York cityscape that we see is highly reminiscent of Woody Allen's Manhattan, which Baumbach is said to have been inspired by. Certain jump cuts also take us back to the French New Wave style of cinematography.
A special mention must be made for the soundtrack, which includes 'Blue Sway' by Paul McCartney and 'Modern Love' by David Bowie. It also uses music by Georges Delerue, Jean Constantin and Antoine Duhamel - all of which were written for films of the French New Wave.
One needs to watch this film more than once, to truly get its essence. My personal count increased to 4 for the purpose of writing this review, and I have found that the more I watch it, the more are the intricacies I discover in the scenes - and I find myself falling in love with Frances Halladay all over again.