Entertainment Movies
Entertainment Entertainment Movies

'Frances Ha' review: A knowing salute to the understudies

***1/2 (out of four)

Many people will recognize themselves, or someone they know, in “Frances Ha”—though there may be an even split between those who specifically recommend the film to the people who would most appreciate it and those who merely say to a third party, “Oh, man. This totally reminds me of [fill in name]. But I’d never tell her that.”

Passive-aggressive and expertly generational, “Frances Ha” is either hilarious or devastating, and probably both. Featuring characters long-explored in indie cinema and most recently as the focus of “Girls,” “Frances” is a film that’s incredibly wise about its characters’ faults and idiosyncrasies yet never feels like star/co-writer Greta Gerwig and director/co-writer Noah Baumbach (“Greenberg”) are judging. Just telling it like it is, with a helpless shrug and a genuine tear.

Gerwig plays Frances, an awkward mess of a 27-year-old whose best days can still be called shenanigans and worst days seem like perfect epitomes of everything that’s wrong. What is wrong, exactly? She’s the person the world doesn’t seem to have time for, the creative type without the talent to cut it, the high-culture fiend without the funds to support her habit. Frances proudly declares that she and her best friend Sophie (Mickey Sumner, Sting’s daughter) are the same person, but it’s only true in their quirks. Sophie’s got a job at Random House and a boyfriend she likes enough, while Frances understudies at a dance company (where they shout “Understudies, out!”) and splits with her boyfriend over her loyalty to living with Sophie. Who soon moves to live with a lesser friend in a better neighborhood.

The mentions of buzzy authors and artists isn’t being elitist; “Frances Ha” touches on how culture divides people and how pretentiousness can be unintentional when it comes from oblivious elitists. Someone asks Frances if she ever gets to Paris and doesn’t mean anything by it, but that doesn’t make the question any less absurd for someone whose precarious finances constantly change her living situation.

Whether it’s a dude texting, “Ahoy, sexy,” or Frances returning from an international trip just to make a meeting that could have been rescheduled, the film is beautifully attuned to mid-20s ridiculousness. A few lines don’t sound like something anyone would ever say (Frances notes, “I have trouble leaving places”), but the resentments and inside jokes between friends couldn’t shine through any stronger. It’s a girl movie for both genders, a testament to the double-edged liberation sword of loneliness and swallowing pride.

Meanwhile, love and work look like the toughest thing in the world, but only for those on the outside.

Watch Matt on “You & Me This Morning,” Friday at 6:55 a.m. on WCIU, the U

mpais@tribune.com

 

Want more? Discuss this article and others on RedEye's Facebook page.

 

Copyright © 2015, RedEye
Related Content
  • Q&A: 'Frances Ha' star Greta Gerwig

    Q&A: 'Frances Ha' star Greta Gerwig

    Yes, the title character of “Frances Ha” is a New York woman in her 20s struggling with her professional life and the romantic and platonic tiers of her personal life. Still, don’t ask Greta Gerwig, who plays Frances and co-wrote the film with director and Gerwig’s reported boyfriend Noah Baumbach...

  • Autoplaying videos: A pitiful and pathetic idea from the beginning

    Autoplaying videos: A pitiful and pathetic idea from the beginning

    I hate having the thought in my head that it took something as upsetting as Alison Parker and Adam Ward’s horrendous killings to finally showcase how pathetic the autoplay feature is on various media and social websites.

  • Group to Park District: Build DuSable Park

    Group to Park District: Build DuSable Park

    Where Lake Michigan meets the Chicago River is three acres of overgrown weeds and shrubs. It is referred to by some as a "ghost park" because it is hidden in plain sight.

  • Rejoice! Adele's new album is rumored to arrive this fall

    Rejoice! Adele's new album is rumored to arrive this fall

    There's a fire starting in my heart and it's making me realize it's been kind of a while since Adele released an album. Her last full-length "21" dropped in 2011 and I barely remember that year it feels so long ago. But now, there's some good news to fill our recently Adele-less lives and it's...

  • Chicago rappers Probcause and Saba team up on 'M.I.A.'

    Chicago rappers Probcause and Saba team up on 'M.I.A.'

    Welcome to RedEye's "Song of the Day," an ongoing feature where music reporter Josh Terry or another RedEye staff member highlights something they're listening to. Some days the track will be new, and some days it will be old. No matter what, each offering is something you should check out. Check...

  • Trump vows never to eat Oreos again, citing move from Chicago to Mexico

    Trump vows never to eat Oreos again, citing move from Chicago to Mexico

    Republican presidential candidate Donald Trump repeated his claim Tuesday evening that he would stop eating Oreos, citing the cookie maker's decision to close a plant in Chicago and move it to Mexico.

  • Let's talk about this new Justin Bieber song 'What Do You Mean?'

    Let's talk about this new Justin Bieber song 'What Do You Mean?'

    Don't get me wrong, Justin Bieber is still really embarrassing. He's the young pop star who recently said something only a 21-year-old would say, "Now being 21, and going through some hardships, I think you can hear that in my vocals." This is a guy who, last year at a charity gala benefiting AIDS...

  • Illinois lottery winners have to wait for payout due to budget impasse

    Illinois lottery winners have to wait for payout due to budget impasse

    After years of struggling financially, Susan Rick thought things were looking up when her boyfriend won $250,000 from the Illinois Lottery last month. She could stop working seven days a week, maybe fix up the house and take a trip to Minnesota to visit her daughter.

Comments
Loading
74°