Discovered my love for Noah Baumbach with 2005’s The Squid and the Whale. He’s a unique writer/director with a distinct and dark sense of humor. Frances Ha showcases this in a new way.
First 5 minutes I was very concerned with the black and whiteness, the stoic tone and the all so New Yorkey location. I was worried that Baumbach was doing a Woody Allen thing. We already have a Woody and I want Baumbach to be Baumbach. Turned out I was wrong. Very wrong. No way Woody could make Frances Ha. Frances is a very particular kind of movie about a very particular type of person in a very particular place and time. Yes, Woody is alive in this time and sure, Woody is as New York as the Brooklyn Bridge, but Woody couldn’t and wouldn’t dare tell a story with this kind of frenetic location skipping and attention deficit disordered pace. Enough about Woody. Got all caught up on Woody and the point is, this is not a Woody Allen movie.
If you’re going to enjoy this one, you’re going to have to connect with Frances, played by Greta Gerwig
who co wrote this as well. (At the risk of you confusing this for a gossip blog I’ll go ahead and mention that the two are an item.) If she does not resonate with you within the first 30 minutes then walk out, turn it off, send it back, it’s over. Frances did
hit me and I ended up loving her. She’s imperfect, impulsive, implicitly unassuming and imploding all at once, but she’s as realistic a character as anyone could hope for. 30 years from now a person, any person will be able to view Frances Ha on their futuristic video viewer and see and feel what it was like to be a directionless woman in her mid to late 20s in 2013 New York.
The film, however, was anything but directionless. Told in quick vignettes, no scene or location lasts longer than 3 minutes and with an authentic almost eavesdropping quality in it’s setups. Remarkably, Baumbach is able to achieve this raw flavor without the overdone trembling handheld camera work . We are always with Frances, but Frances is always moving both figuratively and literally and thus so are we. The story unfolds like a collection of memories from that span of her life rather than a traditional linear narrative. It’s as though we are in an older Frances’ head as she recalls her early years in NY. Not a stream of consciousness style like a Malick
flick, but a style all it’s own.
At first glance this comes off as a snooty, black and white, under-stylized indie film from the mid 90s, but it is so much more.
All that being said, The Squid and The Whale continues to be the filet of Baumbach’s collective work. 😉
Must Watch = 5 0f 5 (See it in the theater if possible/buy it or pay for rental)
Should Watch = 4 of 5 (Worth sending away for)
Could Watch = 3 of 5 (If it’s on a pay channel or streaming for free)
Should Not Watch = 2 of 5 (Only if friends or family insist)
Do Not Watch = 1 of 5 (Don’t allow friends or family to make this mistake)