Director: Noah Baumbach (also directed The Squid and the Whale, Greenburg, While We’re Young)
Screenplay: Greta Gerwig, Noah Baumbach
Starring: Greta Gerwig, Mickey Sumner, Adam Driver
Watched: December 2015
Frances Halladay (Greta Gerwig) is a 29 year old dancer living in New York, apprentice at a dance company and hoping to finally make it into the company. She lives with her best friend from college Sophie (Mickey Sumner), an editor at Random House. The two of them are immensely close until Sophie decides to move into a new apartment in her dream New York suburb Tribeca with someone else, leaving Frances unable to pay the rent. The film follows Frances through a variety of new abodes as she tries to keep hold of the dreams she’s held on for so long while everyone else is moving on and growing up around her.
This is a friend of mine’s favourite film and I finally got round to watching, not sure what to expect but I was sure it would be good as my friend’s recommendations usually are. She did not fail me because I did enjoy this film a lot. And more than that, the feel of this film has really stuck with and often scenes from the film kind of float into my mind which has kept this film in my conscious.
Firstly what made me love this film is that it is about friendship. A very real and rich friendship of two girls. While romantic topics and possible romantic partners for Frances exist in the film, that takes a side line to the friendship, an incredibly refreshing flip to the mainstream.
Frances describes their friendship as “We’re basically the same person” but it’s pretty clear to the audience early on that Frances and Sophie are very different in their own ways. Sophie moves in with her long time boyfriend Patch (Patrick Huesinger) and they both move Tokyo for his work, something Frances cannot understand, especially as she doesn’t particularly like Patch. So alongside Frances working out her place in the world, this film is about her coming to understand that friendships are fluid and to accept that Sophie changing her world doesn’t have to change their friendship.
Secondly you’d have to be a hard hearted person not to love Greta Gerwig’s Frances. Although bumbling and naïve, she never crosses the line into annoying and her friendly and enthusiastic manner is infectious. She’s not refusing to grow up as such, just oblivious as to why anyone would want to, happy as she is with her life with Sophie and still steadfastly believing in her long held dream of being a dancer. When she starts lying to others about being better off than she is, it feels like a panicked response of having reached an age of sudden expected stability and life direction which she herself has no particular interest in. The scene with Frances dining with a bunch of “adults” perfectly encapsulates what it’s like to be among people who might be the same age and live in the same place as you, but have a completely different understanding of their life and world around them.
Each chapter of the move begins with Frances new address as she moves around, unable to pay her rent when she is told she won’t be asked to join the dance company, the sole income she was relying on. Her relative poverty is contrasted with two male friends she moves in with, who like to see themselves as struggling artists but in reality are secure financially by wealthy relatives. She never pities herself though, in one conversation talking about how she is still immensely privileged.
Some might find the black and white pretentious, I felt it was perfectly suited. New York has been filmed countless times as this big, vibrant, colourful city and the black and white helped to confine the film to its own smallness and a reminder of how the inhabitants of new might see their city. It also helped evoke the obvious French new Wave influences to the film.
The soundtrack also is evocative and definitely sounded like a playlist of Frances’ own making.
The movie culminates in Frances returning to her old college to work. Inevitably she finds even going back there can’t bring back her college years and she comes to realise that relinquishing her dancing dream and her wish to be forever young is, rather than the end, a new beginning. On her old dance teacher’s advice she finds passion in dance choreography, working a desk job at the school to pay the bills and she reignites her friendship with Sophie. The final scene is her moving into a new apartment of her own, representing her new found independence and a feeling that her future is full of possibilities, that she can do whatever she likes and it is all of her own making.