You know that best friend you almost want, but secretly wouldn’t let meet your parents? Inside Noah Baumbach’s framework of a typical “Brooklyn indie,” where vaguely recognizable 20-30-somethings hold inferior jobs and wonder where their lives are going, is a fresh take on the manic dream girl. In this film, not such a dream. Greta Gerwig’s Frances looks older than she is and acts younger. She bursts into play-fights with her friends on the sidewalk; she takes an impromptu weekend to Paris and charges it to a junk-mail credit card.

For all its familiar notes, Frances Ha captures that moment when we near adulthood and resist it. Baumbach and Gerwig, who co-writes and stars, call out every new apartment Frances lives in like a sad Craigslist travelogue. Her hopes are easily deflated: When she rushes home from Paris to make a Monday meeting with the head of the dance company, her boss admits she almost canceled. Paris isn’t great to Frances, either; the city has never seemed lonelier. We’re used to discomforting characters these days; as much as Baumbach wants to make the next black-and-white Manhattan, he can’t avoid the influence of Girls.

Can’t you see Hannah Horvath in this exact moment?

Some of Baumbach’s previous films were too cerebral (The Squid and the Whale) or too unpleasant (Greenberg) for my tastes. Frances isn’t maladjusted as much as fiercely independent, and often spontaneously funny. But underneath the comedy, I had the very real concern that Frances can’t tough it forever in the city. Adulthood feels more like an enemy than an opportunity. New Yorkers are trying harder than ever these days, and getting nowhere.

One comment

  1. […] Ha‘s nod to Manhattan (and how reviewers didn’t name-check that? I sure did.) We’ll see more black-and-white movies, and we’ll hear those indictments of […]

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