Modern Love – ★★★★
Frances Ha is the latest film from Noah Baumbach and the first time he has co-written the story with his girlfriend Greta Gerwig who happens to be the main protagonist, Frances. It’s obvious that Gerwig’s contributions to the screenplay are what sets this film apart. A funny, touching and honest examination of love between female friends and how one woman tries to find her way in a life.
Gerwig plays Frances, a 27-year-old dancer living in New York, desperately trying to break out from being an understudy to a part of the touring production company. She’s good but not quite good enough and when her best friend Sophie (Mickey Sumner) ditches their living arrangement to move to Tribecca she begins to go into a bit of a tailspin. She moves in with two New York rich kids Benji (Michael Zegan) and Lev (Adam Driver) and tries to scrape together enough money to pay the rent while all the time being seemingly undatable.With it being shot in black and white, set in New York and a comedy of sorts about relationships, comparisons will definitely be made to Woody Allen. It’s true it has the feel of a Woody film but it’s very much its own beast. The film is predominantly about the friendship between Frances and Sophie, their ups and downs, platonic love for one another and pain felt as friendships become less intense as we grow up and move apart. The use of black and white gives it an old-fashioned feel, it wouldn’t be nearly as charming or lovely if shot in colour. It certainly feels like a film from a different time, only for the use of mobile phones it could be set in the 70s or earlier. With some frank discussions about sex there isn’t one sex scene to be seen and I’m struggling to remember if there is even an on screen kiss. It feels like television show “Girls” bigger sister, while still concentrating on the same broad issues it isn’t as brash or in your face seeming that little bit more grown up and worldly wise.
Gerwig is the star, the new queen of quirky and awkward. She inhabits the role with ease and like all great actors lets her body and facial expressions do most of the work. She is keenly aware of herself and includes it in the script with one character remarking ” I recognised you from your weird man walk”. The film bursts with one liners and will require many viewings to catch them all. While they use a standard device of going to Paris it’s very original in the fact that she has a shit time and spends most of it sleeping or by herself.
Baumbach’s direction is un-intrusive letting Gerwig work her magic on screen. He enables you to fall in love with New York all over again and see why so many people are drawn to it and strive to make it their home. With this we see the lengths people, chiefly Frances, need to go to earn a crust. Frances is a fantastic role model, she keeps getting dealt shitty hands but manages to dust herself off and get back in the game. That’s life.
Limited release in Ireland on July 26th 2013