Wednesday, May 22, 2013

Frances Ha

After one of our day trips, Daniel told me he'd especially enjoyed it because it seemed so spontaneous. "You have no idea," I assured him, "how much planning spontaneity takes." Similarly, there's a very planned spontaneity to Noah Baumbach's hapless and happy-go-lucky "Frances Ha" that loses some of its charm for feeling so studied and practiced - so fabricated. Greta Gerwig, who co-wrote, stars as Frances, a modern dancer who graduated from Vassar and now lives in New York City and shuffles from apartment to apartment while apprenticing with a modern dance company and taking whatever teaching gigs she can. 

Frances is feckless and idiosyncratic and garrulous beyond belief. She never focuses on her own pieces for long, or makes it into the regular company, or even the Christmas show. (At times, the script comes close to cruelty in heaping indignities on her; though it's hard to tell how good she's meant to be, she has enough talent and training that at least she's being underutilized.) She has enough quirks and tics for an entire undergraduate college, some of which produce big laughs when put in socially awkward settings but all of which - especially since she never stops talking - induce a desire to get away from her.

The movie's a case of a script with a lot of strong material (it has a musician's ear for the way young people talk just now, a beautiful black-and-white look, and some terrific song choices) that's too in love with its own intelligence and adorableness. And the quality I respected most - its thorough preoccupation with the importance of modest amounts of money to someone in Frances's position - gives way to a rushed ending in which Frances has suddenly become a produced choreographer. How she got there might have made "Frances Ha" more memorable.

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