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
  • Oklahoma fraternity's racist chant learned on a cruise
    Oklahoma fraternity's racist chant learned on a cruise

    Members of a University of Oklahoma fraternity apparently learned a racist chant that recently got their chapter disbanded during a national leadership cruise four years ago that was sponsored by the fraternity's national administration, the university's president said Friday.

  • In NYC building collapse, mayor cites 'inappropriately' tapped gas line; 2 missing
    In NYC building collapse, mayor cites 'inappropriately' tapped gas line; 2 missing

    Someone may have improperly tapped a gas line before an explosion that leveled three apartment buildings and injured nearly two dozen people, Mayor Bill de Blasio said Friday as firefighters soaked the still-smoldering buildings and police searched for at least two missing people.

  • Construction ongoing at Wrigley Field
    Construction ongoing at Wrigley Field

    From bleachers to structural details, work to renovate Wrigley Field continues.

  • Emanuel uses borrowing to cope with Daley's debt burden
    Emanuel uses borrowing to cope with Daley's debt burden

    Mayor Rahm Emanuel has reduced spending and increased fines, fees and certain taxes to shrink the chronic budget deficits left over from his predecessor, Richard M. Daley.

  • Six Flags Great America's lost attractions
    Six Flags Great America's lost attractions

    Not every ride's the Willard's Whizzer. That iconic coaster debuted in 1976 when Marriott's Great America, now Six Flags Great America, in Gurnee, Ill., first opened. And it's still popular today. But for every Whizzer there's a Tidal Wave, Shockwave or Z-Force, rides existing only in memory.

  • Denim's just getting started
    Denim's just getting started

    Five years ago, denim-on-denim defied all of the dire warnings in the "Undateable" handbook: Instead of evoking John Denver or Britney Spears in her misstyled youth, chambray shirts paired with darker blue jeans became as cool as actor Johnny Depp and street-style heroine Alexa Chung.

Comments
Loading