[FRANCES HA screens Thursday September 26th at 6:45 pm and Friday September 27th at 9:35 pm at the Cleveland Cinematheque.]
A meandering and nearly plotless comedy/character study, FRANCES HA focuses on 27 year-old apprentice dancer Frances (Greta Gerwig) as she struggles to find love, keep a roof over her head, and maybe grow up a little while living in New York City. As such it either sinks or swims on the strength of its main character. If you don't like and relate to Frances or at least find her interesting, there isn't much here to keep you watching.
Personally I was teetering on the edge. The film's saving grace is Gerwig, who co-wrote the screenplay with director Noah Baumbach. Her performance manages to imbue Frances with enough humanity and likability to make up for the fact that, as written, the character is little more than a directionless self-absorbed bundle of quirks and cluelessness.
In homage to Woody Allen's MANHATTAN, Baumbach opted to have the film shot in flat digital black and white. As much as I love seeing a modern film shot in black and white, the dingy monochrome on display here does little besides make the film look cheap and add another layer of contrivance to the affair.
If there's one thing other than sequels and remakes that the movies have enough of, it's indie films about self-absorbed artist types living in New York or L.A. and stressing out over first world problems. Speaking of first world problems, whining about there being too many movies about self absorbed artist types probably qualifies, so I'll try to end on a more positive note. As far as these kind of things go, FRANCES HA isn't too bad. It doesn't quite manage to make this familiar material feel fresh, but at least there are some laughs and a few moments of genuine emotional resonance. And at least it's not TINY FURNITURE. 2 1/2 out of 4 stars.