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Frances Ha

Year: 2012
Production Co: RT Features
Director: Noah Baumbach
Writer: Noah Baumbach/Greta Gerwig
Cast: Greta Gerwig, Mickey Sumner, Michael Esper, Adam Driver

If your experience of Greta Gerwig has already convinced you she's the most aspirational modern successor to Woody Allen, nothing about Frances Ha will convince you otherwise.

Just like in Allen's heyday, Frances (Gerwig, who co-wrote with director Noah Baumbach) kind of drifts through life, the trappings of modern technology and society a mere foil to facilitate the age-old dance of love, jealousy, betrayal and dating – all of it set amid the backdrop of the most filmable corners of New York city (although Brooklyn and Bedford/Stuyvesant are usually cooler than midtown Manhattan to anyone under 30 these days.

Frances lives with her best friend Sophie (Mickey Sumner). She's supposed to want to be a dancer even though we never see her with any particular interest or talent for it. What we do see is her outer circle of acquaintances start to grow when Sophie unexpectedly tells Frances she's moving out – pulling the rug out from under the latter after thinking they were hetero life mates.

All the while she's not dancing (because her dance troupe isn't hiring) and falls in with two hipster boys, Dan (Michael Esper) and Lev (Adam Driver), doesn't do any more to get her life together than before and even goes on a trip to Paris on what appears to be a complete whim.

She also goes to visit her family at Christmas back in California and has to take a fairly humiliating job as a waitress at the same college she went to years before, but that does nothing but add to the sense that the movie is just piling on episodes because it knows it has to be at least another half hour long. Throughout the whole thing Frances generally (to the extent I could remember) goes nowhere.

I think the point is that even as her life crumbles somewhat under the demands of reality and adulthood and she falls over every obstacle, she's so irrepressible and bursting with earnest enthusiasm it never slows her down.

At least I think so – not much about the story seems to have a narrative drive in any particular direction, it's just another tale of romantically clumsy and lost twentysomethings in the Big Apple (see Girls, et al). If you happen to have seen Mistress America before this as I did, you can see Gerwig (however cute and talented) is following very much in Woody Allen's footsteps in more than just aesthetic and location – she's playing the same character every time.

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