Real-life couple Noah Baumbach and Greta Gerwig reteam for Frances Ha, a black and white New York-set comedy-drama that infuses Annie Hall/Manhattan-era Woody Allen with 21st Century malaise. It’s a quirky little movie that follows the titular Frances Halladay (Gerwig), a dancer (and something of a dreamer) who is trying to build a life for herself in the Big Apple.
Baumbach and Gerwig co-wrote Frances Ha and it plays to the leading lady’s strengths. In lesser hands the character could have been irritating, someone who stumbles through life giving little regard to others around her, or even worse – the now ridiculous cinematic trope – the Manic Pixie Dream girl. However, Baumbach and Gerwig make Frances more grounded and it feels like she is trying to get her life in order, it’s just that she can’t seem to get a grip on how to do it.
Baumbach’s film is quintessential American Independent cinema. It perpetually captures that light and breezy melancholy that was first delivered by the likes of Richard Linklater in the early ‘90s (right down to the cool soundtrack). There’s nothing wrong with that, but deep down you know that everything is going to work out for Frances, despite all of her problems. This removes any emotional peril from the film, but in a way it makes it a more pleasant viewing experience.
If the usual Hollywood blockbuster is a popcorn movie, then Frances Ha is a cappuccino and biscotti movie. It’s one for a relaxing Sunday afternoon, where you simply want to be entertained in a quirky fashion.