Frances Ha is like a French expressionist New York hipster film, and I say that in the best way possible. Noah Baumbach of course gets pigeon-holed into making “hipster” films, whatever that may be, basically indie movies set around New York and concern a protagonist a bit off-kilter and retro than others trying to deal with some shit. There’s plenty of that here, Greta Gerwig plays a dancer in her late 20s, trying to scrape by with little money, and really just trying to find her way in life. If that isn’t enough, the film is in B&W and takes several music cues from 60s French films. Paris is even seen as not only a vacation destination, but a destination of mind for Gerwig, who uses the place as an escape from New York to try and get her life in order.
I haven’t thought all too much about this, but I feel like Baumbach’s films are kinda like stripped down versions of Wes Anderson films. I know they’re friends, and make seemingly similarly themed films, but they’re often different in presentation. Anderson films are more of an extravagance, a grand presentation with a cavalcade of characters and oft whimsy. They don’t take themselves all that seriously at all, while occasion the seriousness is backed by some kind of wacky background. Baumbach’s films are more small, and deal on a more personal level, largely concerning the plight of one main character. The Squid And The Whale, Margot At The Wedding, Greenberg and now Frances Ha, are a long line of such films, an exploration of these people in a stage of their life, their oddities and considering just how they fit into the world.
Greta Gerwig is consistently great throughout, and easily carries the film on her shoulders. She’s often in a world of her own, a bit odd and aloof, but carrying of the people around her, and sometimes unable to see when a separation between them occurs. It’s often cringe-inducing watching her try and interact with people, but you feel for her all the same, being a small fish in this large pond she’s been thrown into. She anchors the film wonderfully, and gets us to feel for every hardship she endures and triumph at her successes.