out of Five
Running time: 86
Brilliantly directed and beautifully shot, this is an utterly delightful, warm-hearted and very funny comedy with a wonderful script and a terrific central performance from Greta Gerwig. Make no mistake, this is one of the best films of the year.
What's it all about?
Co-written and directed by Noah Baumbach, Frances Ha is set in present day New York and stars Greta Gerwig (who co-wrote the script) as happy-go-lucky Frances, a 27 year old aspiring dancer who shares a Brooklyn apartment with her inseparable best friend Sophie (Mickey Sumner), describing their relationship as being ‘like a lesbian couple that doesn’t have sex anymore’. However, when Sophie's relationship with boyfriend Patch (Patrick Heusinger) starts getting serious she decides she's going to move in with him, so Frances has to look for a new apartment, despite having something of a cash-flow problem.
Greta Gerwig is sensational as Frances (her surname isn't really Ha – the meaning of the film's title is revealed in the wonderful closing shot), delivering a fully-rounded, physical performance that is utterly charming and enormously endearing – she's warm-hearted, funny, impulsive, quirky without being annoying and recognisably flawed; she also has impeccable comic timing. In addition, there's superb support from Adam Driver (as Lev, a friend who puts Frances up) and Mickey Sumner (Sting's daughter), whose relationship with Frances is both believable and touching, as well as a lovely turn from Gerwig's own parents (Gordon and Christine Gerwig) as Frances' parents.
Baumbach and cinematographer Sam Levy shoot the film in gorgeous black and white, immediately recalling both Woody Allen's Manhattan and the films of the French New Wave, both of which are heavy influences here, the latter further reflected in Baumbach's use of French film scores on the soundtrack. There are also shades of Lena Dunham's HBO series Girls, though the tone and outlook are markedly more upbeat.
The hilarious script is packed full of great dialogue and it's a genuine pleasure to see such an optimistic, warm-hearted film. Frances is quite simply irrepressible: whatever disaster comes her way, she simply picks herself up and carries on (literally, at one point).
Baumbach maintains a suitably freewheeling pace throughout and orchestrates some truly wonderful scenes: highlights include Frances bluffing her way through a dinner party conversation; a very funny sequence where she gets a job as a waitress and is assigned the task of continually topping up the glass of a special guest at a drinks event; and a hilarious scene where Frances, having promised to pay for her dinner while on a date, has her card declined and has to run several blocks looking for a cash machine.
Frances Ha is an absolute joy from start to finish, thanks to a wonderful script and a career-defining performance from Greta Gerwig; at the very least, if she isn't nominated for an Oscar, there is officially no justice. Unmissable, and one of the best films of the year.