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!