Review: Frances Ha
When I first saw the trailers and reviews for Frances Ha (2012) I was pretty excited. This was a new black and white comedy film, set in New York – and I envisaged it as possibly a modern-day Manhattan, but with a eccentric female protagonist in the lead. Perhaps a bit more artsy and more openly serious than Woody Allen’s style, but hopefully somewhere in that ball-park.
The film follows Frances, a woman in her late twenties, as she moves from place to place across New York and further a field over a indeterminable period of time. She starts off living with her best friend Sophie, as she attempts to become a professional dancer. However, when Sophie decides to move to a more expensive apartment it causes a rupture in their friendship, and Frances is left drifting from rented place to rented place, whilst it becomes clearer and clearer that she’s not going to be taken on by the dance company. As the year progresses their friendship is tested further and further, as Frances bumbles along alone, broke but still hoping to become a dancer. Though I applaud Frances Ha for being about a more realistic woman – a woman who is going though a horrible drifting period of not having a secure job or home and for whom the most important things in her life are her friendship and her career – I can’t honestly say I found it funny.
There were a few moments, a few lines here and there which I noticed – such as ‘Ahoy sexy’ which I love – but otherwise I found very little to laugh about in it. To me it felt more sad and slow. I think part of it is recognising that feeling of being stalled in your life, when everyone seems to be doing fine and you’re still scrambling away trying to find a foothold – a job, a home, something to say at the dinner table. Yet at the same time, Frances living in New York basically hopping from apartment to apartment, is so far removed from my own experience it seems almost alien at the same at time as being a little familiar – but that’s just my person opinion.
There also quite a few moments, random moments, that I assumed were meant to highlight her everyday life, but didn’t seem to add much to the plot. So, she is had an old chair that wouldn’t fit in her storage container and had to leave it on the pavement with a sign to take it for free? Yes it reiterates the fact she has no permanent home of her own, but it surely could have been incorporated into another scene with dialogue. The only one of these scenes I really enjoyed was one of her dancing down the street, enjoying the moment, doing what she loves. I love a good dance scene too.
There’s also a scene where she has to run to ATM because she has promised to pay for her date’s dinner. I liked that scene, I had to go on a similar quest for an ATM once. However, I wasn’t impressed when said Frances fell over running back to the restaurant. I felt this was a bit of a cheap attempt at physical humour. You can’t even say it was meant to happen to get her to her date’s flat. It seemed like that would’ve have happened scraped elbow or no scraped elbow.
I like parts of Frances Ha – the black and white, Frances, the friendship – but somehow the whole just feels dour, and most of all, I really don’t find it that funny. Frances is a funny character but the circumstances she finds herself in are not, and it pulls her and us down into basically a quiet, drama about everyday life.
I really wanted to like Frances Ha but in the end I just didn’t find it funny. Whether its because I just didn’t get the jokes, I don’t know. Otherwise, not a bad film about an uncomfortable period in a young woman’s life, though it does meander, and the action unrolls slowly and indulgently.