Written by: Noah Baumbach & Greta Grewig
Starring: Greta Gerwig, Mickey Sumner, Charlotte d’Amboise, Adam Driver, Michael Zegen
Taking the full plunge into adulthood comes at different times for each individual. College provides the transition for it but other safeguards in place can further delay the moment when you have to accept the reality of life and that all dreams cannot be fully reached. A struggle many in my particular age group must reckon with and gets empathetically realized in the wonderful Frances Ha. A look into the specific subgroup of New York living with plenty of insight and humor.
Living with her best friend in the whole world, Frances (Greta Gerwig) continues to chase her dream of touring with a dance company. Several moments arrive at her doorstep where she needs to become a fully realized adult to which she skirts until being confronted with reality when her friend Sophie (Mickey Sumner) moves out. Now with every aspect of her dream beginning to fall apart, she needs to figure out what it means to be an adult.
Capturing a beautiful kernel of authenticity to such a relatable level, Frances Ha has become a film I can turn to whenever I need something comforting. Whether it be the black-and-white aesthetic, the New York setting, or the character of Frances, the truths this film explores show the triumphs and fears of fully growing up. I personally had this moment right out of college when I got married and suddenly had to learn how to manage finances, taxes, insurance, medical appointments, and everything else associated with being an adult. For some, this becomes a reality at an even earlier age, and for Frances, it hits her at 27. The film as a whole captures the millennial experience so well because it comes from such an authentic place.
So many lines of dialogue throughout this feature hit at such a core level with a strong emphasis coming from managing one’s dreams and the realities of paying the bills. Frances finds herself trying to succeed as a dancer. A noble pursuit but one without the lasting financial support for her to even pay her rent. When the times are good she can take care of everything, but during the slower seasons, she needs help paying for her basic necessities. It comes with the struggle of being an artist but she also does not have the financial safeguards to protect her from the realities of life. As Frances goes through her own internal struggle, she passes through experiences with others at different stages of adult recognition and how it aligns with financial freedom.
As Frances aptly states, the only people who can afford to be artists in New York are rich people. Given the current rate of rent in the city, this statement holds plenty of accuracy. She certainly holds plenty of privilege, which the film never fully reckons with, but her interactions with the various people she lives with throughout the film give credence to this observation. It appears at its most blatant when she lives with Lev (Adam Driver) and Benji (Michel Zegen). Two guys similarly trying to make it in the arts like Frances with Lev working as a sculptor and Benji as an unemployed aspiring SNL sketch writer. These two can afford to just mess around and do nothing because they’re bankrolled by family members, a luxury not available to Frances. It shows who can truly succeed in the arts in New York seeing the pay disparity and the general cost of living in the area.
Even with this reality, the film certainly shows Frances does not handle her finances in the best way. As someone all about personal finance, the moment where she received a tax rebate and immediately decided to spend it on a dinner nearly had my heart leave my body. In many moments throughout the film, it becomes easy to judge Frances for her decision making but everything serves as a learning moment for her. These mistakes become part of her development and something she must undergo to come out stronger in the end. Simultaneously, Frances allows us, as the audience, to indulge in a level of freedom not available to most individuals. Entirely her own person to the bone, she becomes someone you can easily root for because elements of her live in the hearts of many in this generation.
By far the most touching element of this excellent film comes from the relationship between Frances and her friend, Sophie. With the film opening with a montage of them spending time together and displaying what makes them the perfect pair, the journeys they both go on become necessary in order for them to come together in a better and more mature manner towards the end. The initial fracture occurs when Sophie decides to live with others because of it being on her favorite street, which seems shallow knowing the agreement made with Frances and how it would leave her stranded. The inconsiderate moments appear from Frances as well in her actions but the way these two come together really get at the emotional strings pulled with the development of the titular character.
In a scene where she had far too much to drink, Frances describes the ideal relationship she would love to have with someone. One where they have an infectious amount of love to the point where they can be across the room, make eye contact, and know they are each other’s person not in a possessive manner but just an acknowledgment. Not to spoil the story, but this was never going to be with another male, as Sophie always represented this for her, which makes for such a beautiful moment between them towards the conclusion. It sums up the power of friendship and just how much two friends can care for each other even when breaks occur.
Truly a collaboration for the ages, Greta Gerwig and Noah Baumbach have proved to be such a dynamic duo, who vibe with my sensibilities. After first working together in Greenberg, they created a flat out masterpiece here in Frances Ha. With them co-writing the screenplay, Baumbach directing, and Gerwig starring, they beautifully display this journey in such an authentic manner. These two have never been better than when they began their collaboration and it shows in the way the cynicism and optimism get balanced in this feature, which has exclusively become the trademarks for both of these artists. The black-and-white cinematography gives the film a timeless look seeing as this story can carry on for ages for what adulthood means for people once they reach it. These two can attach their names to any project and I will stand right in line for it and this film serves as one of the biggest examples of why.
Everyone goes at their own pace when becoming an adult, but the moment where it finally strikes comes with a great moment of recognition. It hit me at 22, for Frances it comes at 27, and it varies for each individual. Frances Ha proves to be universal in its message but also personal in the journey it takes us on, which adds to the wondrous appeal it has as a story. It has undoubtedly become comfort food for me and something I can switch on whenever I’m feeling down because it covers the ups and downs life has to offer, but as long as you have your person, everything will work out.