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Greta's New Wave: Frances Ha

by Leonard Maltin
May 17, 2013 9:27 PM
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Greta Gerwig-Frances Ha-2-485
Photo Courtesy of Pine District, LLC

Noah Baumbach, who made an impressive directorial debut with The Squid and the Whale, continues to blaze his own trail with an effervescent little film called Frances Ha, which he wrote with its star, Greta Gerwig. A tribute to the spirit of French New Wave cinema, it’s shot in black & white and scored by the music of Georges Delerue, a lovely homage in itself—but Baumbach never positions form over content, and there isn’t an ounce of pretension here.

Indie darling Gerwig has a great deal to do with the picture’s success: she’s disarmingly likable, even though her character isn’t terribly bright or focused. Frances is a young woman trying to get along in New York City, where things are tough if you don’t have a solid job and a decent income—not to mention a committed relationship. For aspiring dancer Frances, the routine of her existence is shaken up when her best pal and roommate (Mickey Sumner) decides to move out with her boyfriend. They remain friends, but the easy rhythm of their relationship has been disrupted.

At this point, Frances’ seemingly simple, spontaneous life goes adrift. She can’t seem to get her act together, whether it’s finding the right place to live or deciding on the right career path. Even an unexpected trip to Paris doesn’t fulfill its romantic promise. It sounds rather trivial and lightweight, but Baumbach and his cast—especially Gerwig—embody a youthful spirit that makes it all work.

Best of all, Frances Ha pays off with a wonderful punchline, the kind of finale that leaves the audience with a smile… a seemingly simple achievement that too few films can claim. Nicely done!



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  • snacks and papaya. yes | June 7, 2013 5:50 PMReply

    flava flave is disapointed in you you fat bit ch.

  • mo dive slacks | June 7, 2013 5:50 PMReply

    kicking and screaming you taco. kicking and screaming. how dare ya

  • jenifer | May 18, 2013 3:58 PMReply

    Love Greta Gerwig, both in the parts she plays and the person.

  • Bruno Pereira | May 18, 2013 11:31 AMReply

    Don't really get the hype around this one, especially cause we've all seen this done a lot better so many times. I saw it in Lisbon in a film festival some weeks ago and left the theater dissapointed , cause it tries to be a "À bout de souffle" fot the hipster generation (minus the innovation and actual creativity) and it fails miserably. It feels forced, calculated, right from the start, and apart from a good couple of scenes ( like the ending ), this is a styless, shallow movie trying to be hip. That's what happens when people try to shove "charm" and "quirky" right down the audience's throat. Baumbach has proved that he can do a lot better than this.

  • Jim Reinecke | May 18, 2013 11:03 AMReply

    How dare you fall short of perfection, Leonard? Wow, I guess that I'll just have to stop reading your blog and never again purchase an edition of your Movie Guide(s) since you actually make a mistake occasionally. However I do promise your six critics below that I will be first in line to buy a ticket when they have their game of 3-on-3 basketball on water. I do so admire people that are error-free and virtual messiahs!

  • Alan B | May 18, 2013 3:33 AMReply

    If there's one line - just one - that needs to be correct, it's the first one.

  • Jeffrey | May 18, 2013 1:06 AMReply

    Kicking and Screaming (1995) is a cult classic? That's news to me and I followed movies fanatically back then.

  • Sean | May 18, 2013 12:37 AMReply

    That really is sad. I stopped reading the article after that sentence. There was no need to take his word seriously anymore at that point.

  • gregwlocke | May 17, 2013 11:38 PMReply

    Whoa! I thought Leonard Maltin knew at least a little bit about film. And sort of figured his editors might, too. Baumbach's debut was The Squid and the Whale? Whoooooooa! He directed THREE films before Squid, including a little cult classic called Kicking and Screaming.

    Fire that bag of vanilla.

  • THOR | May 17, 2013 9:58 PMReply

    This is ridiculous. The Squid and the Whale is his FOURTH feature film.

  • windikah | May 17, 2013 9:53 PMReply


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