Dr. Donna Copeland’s
This Indie hit from the writer/director Noah Baumbach (The Squid and the Whale, Margot at the Wedding, Greenberg) and co-written by its star, Greta Gerwig, is laid back, and reflects everyday experience of most people with their successes and foibles in the same vein as Baumbach’s previous films. Its characters move through life, relating to different people, attaching to some, and going through emotional experiences of longing, being mildly disappointed, and just hanging out and acting stupid, but never being deliriously happy.
Fran (Gerwig) seems reasonably satisfied as the story begins; she loves her roommate Sophie (Mickey Sumner) and has prospects for dancing in a company. She has a boyfriend who suggests she move in with him, and although she says, “yes”, he can tell by her reaction that she is loyal to her roommate and not ready to part from her. That ends their relationship, and from then on, Fran bumbles through life being adrift, while her roommate and most of the people she knows move along. Somehow, whatever she attempts, does not work out. Her encounters with others and forays into possibilities are meant to be funny; however, she is so much adrift and makes so many mistakes with her eyes wide open, I found it to be rather sad. There are some absurd situations that many of us can identify with in some part of our lives, and that now make us smile—which I think the filmmakers intended to highlight—but there are so many in this film it began to feel tiresome. By the end, Fran does get on track, but it is a long way getting there.
Gerwig’s character is somewhat similar to her role in Woody Allen’s To Rome with Love, and she plays it well—a good-hearted, trusting young woman who is easy to be friends with. Here, the character is more slapstick and the film goes for that kind of humor. More intriguing is her friend Sophie, who has more depth and is not so stereotypical. I would like to have seen Sophie as the main character and Fran used to add some lightness and humor, rather than Fran being the primary focus. Baumbach is good at depicting the psychological make-up of his characters, and I think he should emphasize this in his films and minimize the comedic aspects. The supporting actors including Driver, Zegen, and Bummer, as well as Greta Gerwig’s own parents, contribute to the quality of the film.
By: Donna R. Copeland
Three minutes and 44 seconds into the film I understood that I detested this character Frances, played by indie favorite Greta Gerwig (Greenberg, To Rome with Love). Part of the immediate dislike was the similarities to Gerwig’s obnoxious character in Lola Versus, which was one of the worst films in the last ten years. Gerwig has built a reputation on playing the same type of aimless, pathetic and loose characters on screen that I assume mirror her own personality since she co-wrote Frances Ha. For starters, her character is introduced as someone unable to grow up and act mature. “I’m so embarrassed. I’m not a real person yet,” she says to a date when she is unable to pay for the meal after insisting.
Frances (Gerwig) and Sophie (Mickey Summer) went to college together and now share an apartment in New York. Sophie has a strong sense of normalcy and what she wants in life while Frances clings to the idea of her and Sophie being in this never ending cycle of “in between” irresponsible and maturity. When Sophie moves out and gets engaged, Frances’ world begins to crumble as she loses her apprenticeship job at the ballet company, has nowhere to live and decides that with everything wrong in her life its better just to stay inside and listen to tunes.
Noah Baumbach (The Squid & the Whale) once again writes and directs New Yorkers that epitomize the very behavior that much of the US despises about the type of people that live in The Big Apple. While I understand the interest in exploring a character as complicated and self-destructive as Frances, the observation of her annoying behavior, traits and inability to help herself in any way makes for terrible entertainment and had me wishing for the random serial killer to show up and do both me and the characters she was driving insane a favor.
We all have people in our lives or know someone who, when in their presence we just cringe until the time has expired so we can get away from them. They don’t understand how to behave in a rational, normal way, and not because of some physical or mental impairment, that’s different--they are just obnoxious and unwilling to understand or perceive the eb and flow of the world around them. Frances is that type of character, and as the viewer we are forced to be uncomfortable in her presence for an hour and twenty minutes as she brags on herself for asking a question, urinates on the subway rail and makes terrible decisions.
Final Thought – One of the worst, most excruciating films of 2013, featuring the most annoying character and performance.
By: Dustin Chase