Frances Ha

February 20, 2014

Frances is trying to make it. Like everyone else who moves to the Big Apple, she has hopes and dreams larger than their hometown residencies can handle. And it helps tremendously to rub shoulders with those kindred spirits, who have taken off the leash of the simple life in pursuit of the good life.


Fortunately for Frances she found this spirit through her passageway in college. They comfortably become apartment-mates, and constantly fantasize about what they will be. Frances wants to be a dancer. Sophie wants to be a publishing titan. They are both on their way, working up the rungs from the lower end of the totem pole. Everything is going according to plan.


When it feels as though that plan may be slightly disrupted, when France’s boyfriend invites her to move in, Frances sacrifices her boyfriend commitment for her BFF. Throwing her boyfriend under the bus does not signify an obedience or subservience to Sophie, but to the dream and the expectation of the journey toward fulfilling that dream. Living with a boyfriend was not written in the stars.


The core of this film is in the dismantling of the expectations of how that dream blends into reality. But it also cleverly captures this trend of showcasing mid-20’s Brooklynites who could not afford their rents if they were not privately subsidized by their families. It’s quite astonishing to think of how many families have had to relocate because of the artificial surplus in demand for living quarters that are elevated by the relatively affluent young. These, Noah Baumbach shows, are the new creatives, socializing and fraternizing amongst themselves with the expectation of success at their goals. Mr. Baumbach is not cynical in making it predictably clear they will all fall flat on their face; he has no animosity against these narcissists. He instead is an admirer of the laughter of God in reaction to the mortal plans which man wraps his mind around.


After Frances’ expected world becomes wildly disrupted, she enters freefall. Completely clueless in how to respond, she does well to keep her head above water. Her blind enthusiasm shelters her from more poisonous and tragic remedies, e.g. drugs, which would be much more poisonous and self-destructive means to cope to an unfulfilled life. The film exposes the charm in this blindness by placing Frances in a dinner party with a much more mature audience. Her random self-absorptions do not come off as troubled in this context, but actually cute – which may explain why, after her rudeness, she was still able to snag a Parisian apartment to stay at, owned by one of the dinner’s participants.


Her chaotic tumbleweed tussling is merely indicative of this age range – of people “discovering themselves.” And she does in a way. The ultimate wisdom she engulfs, what we may call an act of maturation, is that things do not always go as planned. But that does not necessarily mean that things are worse off. The effort, the courage, the bravery, the will – this is what matters above all in mastering fate. The fruit fate bears will taste equally delicious and fulfilling.


Grade: A



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