Frances Ha Movie Review: Modern (Platonic) Love

Written by Chris Morgan

The first minutes of Frances Ha are a bit of a slog to get through. The way the main character, Frances, and her dear friend, Sophie, are introduced is a bit grating. At the same times, it moves too fast but also too slow. Too fast in as much as it feels sort of jolting and slapdash. Too slow because it is also irritating, so it isn’t like you necessarily want it to continue. The concern is that these characters, and this script, will be too precious, too twee, too whatever word in a similar vein you want to use. Some might call these characters “hipsters,” if that is their wont. However, if you hold on, your patience will be rewarded.

In the end, the movie is more a coming-of-age story about a woman, Frances, who should have come of age already. The movie is not entirely in the corner of these characters. It recognizes, and condemns, their faults. It isn’t just about too really close female friends. That’s just a part of a larger, more interesting tale. It isn’t all Frances and Sophie. It is Frances and Sophie and some dudes and travels and all sorts of stuff. Good stuff. Not grating stuff.

Frances is played by Greta Gerwig, who co-wrote this movie with Noah Baumbach, who directed it. Baumbach is, by and large, a terrible filmmaker, but the presence of Gerwig must have helped curtail some of the negatives you find in his earlier movies. Gerwig is fantastic, which certainly helps as well. She has a very unique acting style, both physically and in terms of her vocal cadence. It keeps the character engaging, even when her antics aren’t terribly endearing.

Sophie is played by Sting’s daughter, which is cool. Adam Driver, known mostly for Girls, has a role. Much as in Inside Llewyn Davis, he does a lot with his somewhat limited screentime. There are some other good performances as well. The movie is shot in black-and-white, which fair enough, looks fine. The cinematography is good. The film uses “Modern Love” by David Bowie, which is always a great idea. It is reprised, in its entirety, over the credits, which may keep you sticking around. Hey, always end on a high note.

As previously stated, Frances is a sort of drifting modern dancer, and when her best friend Sophie moves, Frances’ journey begins, and it is a good journey. Watching those two hang out was not fun, but watching Frances deal with their separation is much more worthwhile. The script is funny; it is a bit too precious at times and the dialogue feels a bit too self-satisfied, but overall it works well, and the storytelling elements are well-constructed as well. Plus, at only 86 minutes, it doesn’t overstay its welcome.

Powered largely on the abilities of Gerwig, Frances Ha does the nigh unthinkable and makes a Baumbach movie not only watchable, but good. She is one of those tours de force you hear about from time to time. If you aren’t feeling the movie early on, give it a few minutes, wait until the inciting incident, and then things should pick up for you. Or just go listen to “Modern Love.” That’s a great way to spend your time as well.

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