Frances Ha

June, 2013, Comedy

 There are some movies which appear to have been made for such a discrete slice of the public they’re akin to designer drugs; highly valuable for some and of no particular interest to everyone else. Of course it’s also true that some actors fit especially well in these movies -think Maggie Smith in The Best Exotic Marigold Hotel & Quartet. Such is the case with Greta Gerwig, the blowsy, 30-something, actress/screenwriter who appeared in last year’s Damsels In Distress and in Greenberg, also directed by Noah Baumbach (The Squid & The Whale). The pair co-wrote the script for this film and are collaborating on yet another, due out next year; it seems as though respective muses have found each other.

 Ms. Gerwig excels in portraying attractive, well-educated and apparently intelligent young women who haven’t the slightest clue about how they’re perceived by others. A Gerwig character isn’t nerdy - - just oblivious to her impact on others…and because Baumbach is a master of the comedic understatement (in the way of Woody Allen’s early films) the talents of Ms. Gerwig and Mr. Baumbach really do seem made for each other.

 Nothing much happens in Frances Ha; (even the title remains a mystery until the last frame) the camera follows a late-20’s wanna-be modern dancer as she wanders through shared apartments and a kaleidoscope of friends in contemporary New York, incessantly searching for herself. Always upbeat while stunningly incapable of detecting her impact on everyone from best friend to potential lover to bewildered parents, Frances careens from one interpersonal disaster to another, frequently broken - - but never bowed. As she finally settles into a daytime desk job and part-time work as choreographer for an amateur dance group, Frances surveys her life and finds it satisfying. Like Ulysses, she’s sailed turbulent waters and arrived just where she ought to be.

 All this is captured in continuously profane dialogue and the pitch-perfect performance of Ms. Gerwig and her many supporting characters. And support they do, for this is an intensely focused 86 minute-case study of low self-awareness meeting high self-acceptance. That it’s content and milieu will appeal primarily to college educated Caucasians 25-40 isn’t to denigrate Baumbach’s brilliance behind the camera nor Ms. Gerwig’s skills in front of it. But next time, let’s hope this highly talented pair choose material that targets a little wider age group.

 The Verdict? A bemused (but rarely overtly funny) examination of the worldview of middle/upper class urbanites experiencing life after the sheltering security of their privileged upbringing.   

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