Thursday, June 13, 2013

FRANCES HA: She's Undateable & Her Film Is Just Barely Watchable

Now playing in Raleigh at the Colony Theater, in Durham at the Carolina Theatre, and in Chapel Hill at the Chelsea Theater:

FRANCES HA (Dir. Noah Baumbach, 2012)

Things that came to mind while watching indie “it” girl Greta Gerwig as a lanky loser of a New York-based dancer in Noah Baumbach’s newest, FRANCES HA: She’s adorkable; she’s a mess; she’s irritating; she’s endearing; she’s embarrassing; she’s self absorbed; she’s undateable; can she really still be considered an indie “it” girl?

I dunno, but the next-to-last thought, “undateable” is something I couldn't help thinking because it’s said about the title character throughout the film, mainly by her roommate (Michael Esper), but then by Gerwig herself when reflecting on her own cringe-inducing awkwardness. It could be an alternate title to the movie.

Because it’s in black and white and concerns pretentious New Yorkers, Baumbach’s seventh film as writer/director and second collaboration with girlfriend Gerwig, (GREENBERG, starring Ben Stiller, was their first), can’t help but recall Woody Allen (particularly MANHATTAN), and its portrait of aimless young women in the big city echoes Lena Dunham’s hit HBO show Girls (especially in the casting of Girls regular Adam Driver as a member of Gerwig’s social scene), but sadly FRANCES HA has neither of those influences’ depth.

Gerwig’s Frances (to explain why the movie’s title is FRANCES HA would be a Spoiler I guess), a woman in her late ‘20s who’s been treading water for years as an apprentice for a dance company, loses one of her strongest bonds when her BFF (Mickey Sumner) gets engaged to be married.

This leaves Gerwig to have to figure out alone what to do with her life, as she bounces around couch surfing at friends’ places, stays with her parents in Sacramento (played by her real parents: Christine and Gordon Gerwig), and then even winds up on a two day trip to Paris (where she wastes most of by oversleeping) where, like at the other locations, not much happens.

Gerwig, who co-write the screenplay with boyfriend Baumbach, is a likable presence but this characters’ collection of quirks never fully forms into somebody to relate to or be entertained by, unless nodding one’s head in disapproval at questionable decisions equals entertainment.

While it can be refreshing to see a grainy black and white shaky cam production in this season of CGI spectacle, FRANCES HA ultimately has a less to say than most of the big ass summer movies in the top 5 at the box office right now.

It may work as a showcase for Gerwig’s finely tuned quirkiness, but as a fully functioning film, her and Baumbach’s little art project is a non-starter. Despite a few choice moments, and a few instances of solid acting (as Gerwig’s best friend, Sumner is terrific – especially when her character gets drunk), the movie is as flighty and disconnected as its lead protagonist is. Undateable? Try just barely watchable.

More later...

No comments: