Love and scandal are the best sweeteners of tea. —Henry Fielding

20 November 2013

Frances Ha(!) and How I'm Still a Mess

Finally had the chance to check out Noah Baumbach's latest picture Frances Ha and it is charming.

Frances follows a woman in her mid-twenties who lives in Brooklyn but doesn't have / can't quite afford an apartment. There is more to her than this: she wants to be a professional dancer, appears to be terrible at relationships with men, reserves her most sincere attachment for her best (female) friend, and tends to be a sloppy drunk (like most of us).

I identified with her a lot. Frances is a total mess, and she seems sort of clueless about her own position in life and her own choices. It would be easy to look at Frances and feel that we are smarter/cleverer/more together than she is. But I couldn't do that. As much of a mess as Frances is – clueless about her relationships with men, clueless about her friendships with women, ignorant about her artistic abilities – I know I have been Frances at several points in my life. I looked at my roommate at one point during the movie and said I feel like her.

No way, he said. But even if most of the time I can feel as though I have my life together, or feel as though I can confidently talk about who my friends are and how close we are and whom I can depend on thoroughly and where my career is headed, I also constantly feel as though I am hurtling headlong toward nothing, as though I have absolutely no idea what I'm doing or what I'm going to do next.

What's great about Frances is that she runs wherever she's going, spinning her way down the streets of New York at breakneck pace.

The film also refuses to be a romantic comedy. Actively refuses. And I appreciated that.

Frances Ha is my favorite of Baumbach's movies. Baumbach is obviously obsessed with the 1970s, and with Frances he captures our current hipster culture in the film-style of Woody Allen's Manhattan, black-and-white film and all. It's a lovely homage that makes perfect sense. The film is also very funny – frustrating, of course, and messy, and she makes such stupid decisions! – but as much as I laughed at Frances, I found myself directing my laughter inward. I have probably done most of the stupid things she does. Frances Ha is on Netflix Instant at the moment, and it's only about 90 minutes. Believe me, it's worth your time.