- Frances Ha is an interesting character study that features terrific performances, and a distinct sense of setting, but only marginal thematic application.
- Greta Gerwig is terrific as Frances. She carries the movie from start to finish, imbuing it with energy, charisma and charm. She is equal parts fun and emotionally riveting, giving Frances Ha (a tale she co-wrote with Director Noah Baumbach) a somber tone despite its many light-hearted scenes. Cate Blanchett’s Jasmine is more emotionally draining, but Gerwig’s Frances is more entertaining, so I have a hard time deciding which actor is superior. In the end, it probably doesn’t matter. 2013 has been a terrific year for female leads, and Gerwig can count herself part of the crowd.
- Mickey Sumner as Sophie and Michael Zegen as Benji are also strong. Frankly, so is the rest of the cast.
- Narratively, Frances Ha lacks focus, but that isn’t a flaw. With a clever frame built around the various apartments in which Frances lives, this film always keeps the pace moving, probably because it isn’t about what happens. It’s about Frances. And, to a lesser extent, Sophie.
- Which is Francis Ha’s greatest strength. The relationship between Frances and Sophie feels familiar; real; at it’s core, human. Which is good, because their relationship is Frances Ha’s center. It is the element that binds the narrative, even when the plot meanders.
- Frances is a well-developed character. So is Sophie. The less important characters, especially Benji, have just enough depth to feel real, as well.
- Yet, for all of Frances Ha’s merits, it stumbles in defining theme. Is this about our universal search for self? Sure. But whatever lessons it holds therein are clouded by Frances’ individual journey, by her strengths and flaws, delusions and dreams. By the end of the film, we care about her, we feel her pain, and we are thrilled to see her finally succeed, but we aren’t precisely certain how her path applies to our lives.
- I like Frances Ha. A lot. But I would like it even more if I better understood the lessons it is trying to teach.
- Final Grade: B-