June 24, 2013

Review: 'Frances Ha' – Dancing by Herself

"But your blog looks so happy."

"Tell me the story of us." Greenberg collaborators, director Noah Baumbauch and actress/co-writer Greta Gerwig, have re-teamed to tell the universal story of a twenty-something dancer's struggles, her friends, and getting it together. Frances Ha, both the film and the titular character played so charmingly by Gerwig, revolve around her friendships and coming of age after post-graduate life amidst personal chaos and uncertainty.

Frances Ha takes Woody Allen comedies of the 1970s (think Annie Hall and Manhattan) and makes them more familiar and relevant for contemporary audiences. Baubauch frames the film as a dialogue driven comedy about relationships and people moving in and out of your life. It has a timeless, universal feel while incorporating timely humour and modern conveyances like texting and Brooklyn hipster artist rich kids.

"We're like a lesbian couple that doesn't have sex anymore." This sums up the refreshing female friendship at the centre of the film. Frances and her best friend Sophie (played by Mickey Sumner) have a non-romantic, codependent relationship (a girl "bromance", if you will) as we are told through a series of amusing montages. We explore the complexity of female relationships through them and how young people form attachments to those around them in the face of practical hurdles.

Gerwig proves she's a gifted, naturalistic comedian with an efflortless style. Her physical comedy is understated enough to be awkward in a fun and endearing way. We follow her misguided, questionable life choices with bemusement. Her presence glides through the screen as she walks the streets of New York, dancing and stumbling through life.

Frances Ha takes full advantage of its lush black and white cinematography to frame New York City with a nice street level feel evoking French new wave cinema. Anchored by Gerwig's captivating performance, the film is a wholly entertaining and satisfying series of vignettes and side stories culminating in, not a moment of revelation but instead, a slow, progression of growth and maturation on screen. Baumbach's film is a story of closeness and loneliness all at the same time. It's magic.

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