I’m not messy, I’m busy…
The Dominion cinema in Edinburgh was the venue for the UK premiere of Frances Ha, introduced by the director Noah Baumbach and co-writer/star Greta Gerwig. Officially it is part of the American Dreams programme of films at the Edinburgh Film Festival, but together with yesterday’s Oh Boy it is a member of an unofficial strand entitled Slackers in big cities filmed in black and white.
Frances is a twenty-something dancer and choreographer, hoping to be taken on full-time by her dance company. The film is structured around the different places where Frances lives over a period of a few months. This isn’t the sort of film that needs a plot synopsis, but in case you want one – girl moves in with friend, moves out, repeats. More important are her relationships with fellow hipsters in Brooklyn. We follow her from room-mate to room-mate, starting with her best friend Sophie. The actors are twenty-something New Yorkers portraying twenty-something New Yorkers – there’s a reason they look the part. I wondered if the piece would feel self-indulgent, but as it went on I was sucked into Gerwig’s performance and began to care about the awkward Frances.
Like Niko in Oh Boy (reviewed yesterday) she is searching for a position in life, and finding it difficult. The two scripts share one exact line – Frances is also asked ‘What do you do?’ and she finds it as hard to answer as Niko. He went for ‘Nothing’, Frances answers, ‘It’s kinda hard to explain.’ At one point she even says that she is ‘trying to be pro-active about my life,’ but mostly she is at the behest of circumstances, most clearly shown by the way rent demands dictate when she moves house. ‘I’m not a real person yet,’ she says, believing that there will come a time when she is somehow different and more able.
At the start of the film Frances has a stronger bond with her best friend Sophie than her boyfriend. Her mention of Virginia Woolf and Proust renders her undateable according to one housemate and she spends the film wanting but not having a partner. The film investigates the possibility of friendships, focusing on their changing and uncontrollable natures.
Film is interesting in the way it gives an insight into other, different lives. The lives of New York bohemians have had more than their fair share of coverage so a film that takes this subject has to be sure it has something new to say. Frances Ha reiterates the point that life is not easy, that ultimately humans are individuals and have to figure it all out for themselves. But it does it nicely in that rich black and white that makes you think Oh why did they invent colour. ‘I’ll be very surprised if you don’t think it’s brilliant,’ said the festival representative before the start. I wouldn’t go that far, but I enjoyed Frances Ha and can see it as a double bill with Oh Boy at the Riverside Studios sometime in the future.
Why’s it called Frances Ha? You’ll just have to watch until the very end.