Frances Ha – review


Frances Handley is undergoing a “quarter-life crisis”. She’s a twenty-something year-old modern dancer, barely able to pay rent, and with no serious job or relationship. She doesn’t take sensible job offers when they do appear, and she squanders her money on trips to Paris, which leave her broke, and lonely.

Quite frankly, she’s infuriating, and not dissimilar to Hannah Horvath from Lena Dunham’s popular television series, Girls. Girls attracted criticism for the insularity of its storyline: four spoilt, white, middle-class women with a misguided sense of entitlement, desperately wondering when their time will come.

As in Girls, Frances, played by Greta Gerwig, finds stability through her platonic relationship with her friend Sophie.  Part of the beauty of the film is the lack of romance, indeed, the lack of any dramatic incident. It is simply a film about an unremarkable, yet touching friendship between two women. It is reminiscent of Woody Allen’s Annie Hall, which similarly explored the intricacies and idiosyncrasies of a relationship, albeit a romantic one.

The film is shot in black and white, which will displease some cynics already disenchanted by self-centered Frances and the film’s indie-boho feel. Yet some films suit monochrome, such as the bleak 2007 biopic Control, which followed the tragically short life of Joy Division’s Ian Curtis. With Frances Ha, there’s something pleasingly odd about it. It makes the film stick out from today’s other offerings, like Frances. It’s also cheaper to shoot in black and white, and as Frances is penniless, you can’t help but feel she’d approve.

Overall the film is a charming vignette of a very funny, chaotic woman living in New York, trying to get by. It is warm, simple and honest, with well-cast characters who we feel little sympathy for, yet who we also identify with.

Frances eventually discovers happiness as a choreographer. A troupe of modern dancers create bizarre yet beautiful shapes on stage, and we realise with some satisfaction that this is a reflection of Frances’s life: not the achingly immaculate ballerina version perhaps, but a more daring, thoroughly modern, often frustrating one. The same could be said of the film.