Across A Crowded Room
Frances Ha
Stars: Greta Gerwig, Mickey Sumner, Adam Driver, Patrick Heusinger, Grace Gummer, Michael Esper, Charlotte d'Amboise and Michael Zegen
Director: Noah Baumbach
Scriptwriters: Noah Baumbach and Greta Gerwig
Cinematographer: Sam Levy
IFC Films/Pine District Films
B & W
Rating: R
Running Length: 90 minutes
"Frances Ha" is a challenging title. Are we to laugh at Frances? Then, what age would Frances be? Child, adult or senior citizen?  In Noah Baumbach's latest film, collaborating with actress Greta Gerwig, Frances Ha turns out to be a girl in her late twenties who is always told she looks "older" than her years. However, Frances  acts much younger than her years, in fact, with close friend, Sophie (Mickey Sumner, daughter of rock star Sting), they both act like adolescents. Flailing through life and not caring much about anything. New York is a city to enjoy on a budget. The film is show in black & white, giving it a 1970's look though it is present time. It fits.
The film begins with two girls in adolescence having fun with pranks. Fast forward to adulthood and Frances and Sophie are room-mates with the lease on their apartment due. Frances is an apprentice to a dance company, but is taller and older than the rest of the group, something not unnoticed by the head mistress, Colleen (Charlotte d'Amboise.) When Sophie acts on her own and takes an apartment in another area of town with another girl, Frances is taken aback. From there on, she is invited by friends to bunk at their apartments and we get to meet new people, some of who, like Frances, live from paycheck to paycheck. Frances and Sophie are drifting apart, though it is not comfortable with either of them. Frances gets a part-time job at a summer dance school and there is a humorous moment when she is to chaperone an important woman senator around only to find the lady drinking and looking at younger men. Sophie gets engaged and moves to Japan with her fiance'. When there is a funeral in the fiance's family, Sophie comes back and we see there is trouble in Paradise. Will the girls resume their friendship? Will Frances find a way to even out her finances? Can she actually make a decision for herself? At times, you want to reach out to the movie screen and give her a push to change course.
Frances comes to a realization about herself when she makes an impetuous decision to take a new credit card and use it on a weekend trip to Paris. She is secure, and everyone's little girl when home for the holidays in California, but it is clear this girl, somewhere inside her, wants to grow up. The Paris trip is like most everything in Frances' life, it doesn't go according to plan and there are lonely times in this beautiful City of Lights to make her realize there is no one to tell about the trip and no one really cares. Frances had said that she wants a love/friendship where, when eyes meet across the room, it is only for those two people. At this point in her life, it is not there.
"Frances Ha" is a look at people who are in their mid-twenties to early thirties now. As this film describes it, if you have a little money, you share it with friends, the best items are found online, rooms are not clean or beds made, hang on to your adolescence as long as you can, sometimes sex is important and sometimes not and you enter the real world of job interviews only when you have to. Those who have achieved a 9-5 job and dress accordingly seem from another planet. Yet, there is hope for Frances.
Greta Gerwig does a very good job as the gangly Frances, who always seems out of place wherever she goes. Mickey Sumner as her best friend, Sophie, is equally good as a person who is on a different plane than Frances and knows it, but how to tell her best friend? The rest of the cast are fine as the characters who accept Frances and mix her into their own idiosyncrasies. It's like watching fish swim in an aquarium, they are everywhere and sometimes together, all in the same environment.
Aside note: Look for a family resemblance, as one of the actresses in this movie is Grace Gummer, daughter of actress Meryl Streep  Also, Greta Gerwig's parents, Christine and Gordon Gerwig, play the part of Frances' parents in the film. You learn at the end of the movie how Frances gets her last name.
The black and white cinematography by Sam Levy is effective, especially the Paris at night scenes. Reminds one of a Woody Allen film.
Copyright 2013 Marie Asner
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