Tuesday, December 10, 2013

Frances Ha

Imagine if Jim Jarmusch and Woody Allen got together and made a movie. That progeny would be a lot like what Frances Ha is. The film has Jarmusch’s trademark coffee and cigarettes approach to the postmodern psycho-social youth subculture, with Allen’s wonderfully buoyant and neurotic air, along with director Noah Baumbach’s own unmistakable sensitive touch.

Starring Greta Gerwig in her breakthrough role, Frances Ha is for everyone and anyone who would like to gain some perspective on their own life through a film. On that front Baumbach has pretty much made a movie for every twenty-something in Bombay. Gerwig’s character Frances is in her late twenties, and is struggling to get her life in order. Like so many young folks in Versova she chose to take the 'artistic' route rather than the corporate one, and is naturally scuffling to find any firm ground and draft a career. 

Baumbach does a cool job of developing the perceptual problems of Frances’ stagnant life and her inability to achieve any focus or independence. People in their late twenties are supposed to be settled but Frances is unable pay her rent. She struggles to grow up as a person and is so attached to her best friend and roomie Sophie that she is unable to process anything when the latter decides to move out. She has to face the realization of suddenly being too old to date someone in their early twenties. She has to deal with the fact that her close friends are moving on with their lives and leaving her behind. She has to digest the bitter irony of being single while facing the eventuality of her roomie getting married.

The best part is all these seemingly depressing themes are established with humor and Gerwig’s lovable persona and her terrific comic timing. There are plenty of laugh out loud moments to complement the icky sweet and the tear jerking ones. Not to mention the lovely black and white NY landscapes to gawp at.

Gerwig and Baumbach are in a relationship in real life and it’s fun to wonder how much of the film was based on her own life’s experiences. So many of Gerwig's previous movies have been meta, including the mumblecore long distance relationship dramedy Nights and Weekends and the highly underrated Lola Versus. There are very few movies of this genre that have a protagonist which exudes sympathy without exacting kitsch, and Baumbach and Gerwig deserve brownie points for that. It's also a rare movie that ends on a hopeful note that doesn’t feel like a contrived life lesson. The film may be set in New York but the Bombay parallels are simply too obvious, and Frances Ha is really a piece of art for Bombayites who can project their own experiences onto it. It’s their own personal little film.

(First published in DNA)

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