Wednesday Picks Indie Flix: ‘Frances Ha’ will kiss your worries away

The struggle to conquer your 20s has never been so alive. The adventures (or misadventures) of young millennials navigating through the realities of the job market and social media boom is fairly depicted in shows like New Girl and Broad City. Both series parody the extremes young people go through (one better than the other, ahem), releasing a 20-year-old’s tension by just appearing relatable (Jess for example is relatable because she like dessert like you, duh). There are a handful of shows and films that have tackled the growing quarter-life-crisis plot before it became a trend; paving the way for future slacker anti-heroes characters everywhere.

However, this doesn’t mean audiences will respond well to the thousands of stories centered on a whiny 24-year-old who is trying Tindr for the first time. Sometimes we don’t need to be reminded of bullshit like that.

So when I first watched comedy Frances Ha, I was reassured that the 20-something storytelling phenomenon was not only being trusted in the hands of bandwagon writers. Carefully put together and entertaining with all of its simplicity, Frances Ha is the 20-something-failure story 20-something-failures (myself included) need.

Frances Ha 1

The story is simple, and admittedly unoriginal: a young free-spirited girl tries to comprehend the changing variables in her life that once seemed so set in stone, particularly her friendship with her best friend who moves out of their apartment to move in with her boyfriend. You can hear the “Best Friends Forever” necklaces clanging to the floor, yet, the sound isn’t unbearable- it is a quiet thud we’ve all heard plenty times before.

Frances Hallady (Greta Gerwig) is an eccentric Manic Pixie Dream Girl-type aspiring to be a dancer. When her dancing career doesn’t go the way she’d like, she finds comfort in her best friend Sophie (Mickey Summer) who has her back and retells the story of how, one day, they will both be successful and happy. Sophie is much more mature and forward minded than Frances, making Sophie the equivalent to a mother-figure for Frances, regardless of their same age. Frances does not panic when shit hits the wall because she believes Sophie, who is also struggling, will be there to help her up and cutely make “this is our 20s” jokes to cheer her up. That is until the worst possible happens- Sophie’s life improves in a faster pace than Frances’.

Frances Ha 4Moving out of their shared apartment, Sophie is leaving Frances for her boyfriend. She is also leaving the country. Yes, the best friend is following the ambitious boyfriend to a trendy country (Japan in this case) for a job opportunity. Classic bitch, huh?

That’s the magic of Frances Ha; you don’t feel irrationally angry at Sophie. You actually don’t even believe Frances herself is irrationally angry- she just seems jealous and abandoned.  She is just being left behind, which is a worst feeling whenever the “But you should be happy for me” card is pulled out. Sophie is moving on to better things, and Frances, well, she’s moving on to what she knows best- being free-spirited, adorable, and ultimately, a typical 20-something.

In her journey to success (Isn’t it great when we subconsciously compete with friends?), she moves in with two trust fund babies Lev (Adam Driver) and Dan (Michael Esper), who flirtatiously nickname her “undateable” (clearly they’ve never seen 500 Days of Summer, cause this MPDG would get laid all the time in real life). Though the rent is much more than the rent she split with Sophie, she lives there carelessly as she attempts to move up in her dance teacher job (of sorts). As you can imagine, this dancing gig isn’t bringing home the bacon (or pot) for Frances, especially when an unexpected hiatus at work throws Frances off the road to small success.

To distract her from this distress, Frances participates in a number of stress-relieving techniques, including fake fighting with strangers, volunteering at her alma mater, and randomly flying to Paris for two days with borrowed money (I mean credit card). MPDGism is escalating at this point in the film.

Still from Frances Ha

When Frances runs into a maybe-not-so-happy Sophie, Frances confronts the age-old puzzle of the true meaning of happiness. Let me give you a clue: its not always being an uppity educated accomplishment.

Frances Ha rocketed Gret Gerwig’s career, adding her to the growing collection of girls you want to be around, but don’t want to be (case in point: Lena Dunham). Attractive and great to have as a friend, you too wish she would get her shit together, but what makes Frances Ha different from, lets say, Tiny Furniture, is that her immaturity and emptiness is not aggravating. I did not want to punch her in the face, not once. And when Frances finally grows up (sort of) she does it quietly and naturally. There’s no scene cutting into the film proclaiming, “See look Frances is an adult!”. No, it just naturally happens.

Frances Ha 2

What also adds to the brilliance of Frances Ha is the film’s black and white cinematography, which will take you back to Woody Allen’s Manhattan and Kevin Smith’s Clerks. The film isn’t in black and white to try to provide the overly used point that “this is an artsy film”; it instead adds to the simplicity of Frances’ world, just like Clerks and Manhattan’s old school film technique did for them. Black and white films don’t always have to be serious (or old).

Written by director Noah Baumbach and Gerwig herself, Frances Ha is by far one of the most successful indie films of the past five years. It was even nominated for a Golden Globe, a major high-five for 20-something movies everywhere. What the Golden Globes and its many other accolades won’t tell you though is that Frances Ha is a reflection of how shitty people’s lives can be, but in the most flattering light. Sometimes the shit on the wall can make for beautiful art. Yeah…. I wrote that.