Frances Ha

I don’t normally craft a blog immediately after seeing a film, even if I am really inspired, but I feel it is pertinent to document my thoughts on “Frances Ha” tonight.
My sister and I attended a screening of it at Walker Cinema as part of their retrospective of Noah Baumbach films (such as “Kicking and Screaming” and “The Squid and the Whale.”)
“Frances Ha” is Baumbach’s latest work that has been popular on the festival circuit during the last year and hopefully will advance to other cinemas so more people can see it.
Tonight Scott Foundas, the chief film critic for Variety, introduced the screening of “Frances Ha.”
He dedicated it to Roger Ebert, a legendary critic who Foundas said had been in the very theater where the screening took place. Of course it is known Ebert died today at the age of 70.
Ebert actually posted a blog on Monday about his hope for the future mixed with complete honesty about the challenges in life that took him away from his focus on films.
But he also said watching films could take him away from those challenges and the impact of his illness.
I will admit I haven’t consistently read Ebert’s work but I am influenced by his long time presence as a writer, critic and movie lover, complete with the “thumbs up” catch phrases and “I’ll see you at the movies.”
Foundas said in his brief dedication to Ebert tonight that he knew him for 20 years. There didn’t appear to be any connection between Ebert and the film about to be shown, but comparing his last blog and the themes explored in “Frances Ha,” I do see it.
Ebert’s words from Monday reflected hope no matter what the future would bring and Frances, yes she is a fictional 27-year-old woman living in New York City, ultimately does the same.
I think it’s fitting, while sad, that the screening was today.
Baumbach directed the film and co-wrote it with star Greta Gerwig, who he is reportedly coupled with in real life.
Gerwig, 29, helped Baumbach, 43, develop his idea and build a character audiences could relate to.
According to Foundas, Baumbach’s characters in films such as “Margot at the Wedding” and “Greenberg” did not get a favorable response.
But Frances is irresistible and in turn audiences are loving the film, he said.
I concur.
The story centers on Frances, of course, as she pursues a career with a dance company in New York and battles the city with her best friend Sophie.
But there is soon trouble in paradise and Frances ends up moving from apartment to apartment in between seeing her parents in Sacramento for Christmas (without Sophie at her side) and going on a jaunt to Paris she can’t afford.
Sophie continues to be present throughout the film and very important in Frances’ life, even though she tries to pretend that’s not the case. But the rift between the two friends and their lives also allows Frances to step out on her own.
The film is tough to watch at times and, while perhaps it was not intentional, does express a bit of hopelessness in Frances.
Whether or not Baumbach created that twist to contrast the hope that ultimately defines Frances, it does make the end all the more satisfying when things work for her the way they should.
Baumbach chose to make the film in black and white, which prevented any distractions from the character’s faces, dialogue and actions.
It’s a brilliant work, story and character that I personally relate to.
Regardless if that is the case for other viewers, on the surface “Frances Ha” is an inspirational film and I hope you see it.

“I got a tax refund, want to go to dinner?”


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