Full disclosure – I honestly didn’t expect to like this one. The oh so kooky trailer, the hipster hype, the unbearable tweeness of being… I already had a good Frances Ho Hum line ready to roll.
Maybe if I’d gone with higher expectations I would have been a bit disappointed, but Frances Ha is funny, clever and just the right side of knowing. It’s not the best comedy of the year, as the posters proclaim – and it didn’t get many belly laughs at the screening I was in, apart from the crisp-eating man behind me who guffawed at the final reveal. But I definitely released a wry smile now and again that I couldn’t put down to trapped wind… which is more than good enough for a rainy afternoon.
Frances is 27, living with her best friend in Brooklyn and trying to make a living as a dancer. But as her dreams start to dissolve, and her friends start moving on without her, she’s left scrabbling for rent money and relying on their goodwill to get by. You do feel for those friends, Frances is massively irritating – she has an almost autistic lack of ability to read other people, talks for too long about the wrong things and doesn’t know when to make her excuses and leave. Gerwig’s skill as an actress is such that despite all this, Frances is never unlikable. It would be a pretty shit film if she was. But Gerwig plays her with warmth and sympathy, never hiding the growing sense of panic underneath her relentlessly chirpy disposition.
Written by Gerwig and her partner Noah Baumbach (who directs), there is certainly a whiff of early Woody Allen here, in the precise quirks of language and the arty black and white portrayal of New York. And while it’s not quite as good as it thinks it is, there’s lots to enjoy.
[Oh, and the scene of Frances dancing through the streets of New York to Bowie’s Modern Love is sublime. I would have recreated it on my way home through the mean streets of Muswell Hill, but it was raining.]