Frances Ha (Noah Baumbach, USA, 2012) – Theatrical Viewing / Rating: 8.5
The title character of Frances Ha is a 27-year-old “aspiring” dancer and California-to-New York transplant played with warmth and great humor by Greta Gerwig. The film details Frances’ co-dependent relationship with her roommate and best friend, Sophie (Mickey Sumner), which supersedes any relationships she might have with numerous would-be male suitors. So it’s a film centered on female friendship, which is rare enough these days, but one that is also memorably shot through with the same genuine feeling for the kind of awkward, embarrassing or just plain painful social situations that have always been the acidic stock-in-trade of co-writer/director Noah Baumbach (The Squid and the Whale). Frances is an endearing fuck-up, which is nowhere better typified than in the scenes depicting her spontaneous — and disastrous — weekend jaunt to Paris (“When did Puss in Boots start?”). This is fitting because, stylistically, the film is a valentine to French cinema (the freewheeling black-and-white cinematography, snappy montages, Brechtian chapter headings and hijacked Georges Delerue musical excerpts are all straight out of the 1960s Nouvelle Vague) as well as to its charming star; Gerwig is Baumbach’s leading lady in real life and his camera consequently frames her in loving close-up — but she is also, crucially, the co-author of the screenplay and thus never comes across as an objectified presence. In a similar vein, one gets the sense that the film’s wise moral about the importance of readjusting one’s dreams may not be one that either Baumbach or Gerwig would have arrived at independently of each other; most likely it sprang, serendipitously, from the creative symbiosis between them. Regardless of how their collaboration works, it is certainly refreshing to see a new movie that doesn’t bow to genre conventions — even typical “indie movie” formulae — but instead shows with great accuracy and sympathy the kind of big disappointments and small victories that most twenty-something Americans experience on this crazy merry-go-round called life. Frances Ha is ultimately about real people, real relationships, real emotions. And it’s hilarious.
Evil Dead (Fede Alvarez, USA, 2013) – Theatrical Viewing / Rating: 4.4