Starring: Greta Gerwig, Mickey Sumner, Adam Driver, Michael Esper, Michael Zegen.
Running Time: 86 minutes.
Synopsis: Frances (Greta Gerwig), a floundering apprentice in a dance company in New York City, embarks on a journey of self-identification after her long-term friend Sophie (Mickey Sumner) decides to finally accept the rigours of adulthood.
After collaborating with the stoic, brilliant GREENBERG, director Noah Baumbach and his latest muse – the sultry and unwaveringly endearing Greta Gerwig – return with easily the most charming and consistently likable film of the year. Co-written by real life couple Baumbach and Gerwig, the film is a natural twinning of French nouvelle vague cinema with the kind of ultra-contemporary, zeitgeist targeting approach to storytelling and characterisation that has treated Lena Dunham’s invigorating HBO show GIRLS (to which this is a loving appendage) with such commendation. It is also, unabashedly, a lively ode to a particularly fruitful period in the career of Woody Allen, who, aided by Gordon Willis’ cinematography in MANHATTAN, graphed a tale of angst against a gorgeously photographed portrait of New York City.
Depicting, like Allen, New York City at its most picturesque, mobile and alienating, Baumbach and Gerwig plant their titular protagonist in and amongst the Big Apple’s post-youth milieu, as she struggles to come to terms with her own floundering appropriation of a looming and unavoidable entrance into adulthood. Frances is 27 years old and still living with college friend Sophie in Brooklyn. The two share a contemporaneous friendship, which is ruptured when Sophie suddenly enters into a committed relationship and moves to Tribeca. An aspiring dancer with a futile career path, Frances begins a slow descent into halted ambition fuelled by marginal employment and a roster of relationship setbacks that force her onto a winding road of self-identification.
Within its zingy 90 minutes, Baumbach charts Frances’ perpetual arrested development and her hope-filled, but constantly uphill manoeuvres to break free and find enlightenment. Sharing his heroine’s nonchalant and affable zeal, the director has her couch surfing, living with wannabe artists who label her “undateable” and, briefly, moving back in with her parents in Sacramento. As her voyage of discovery continues apace, the film mirrors its protagonist’s sprightliness and desire to make real her dreams by dragging them, kicking and screaming, down to reality.
Whereas GREENBERG was set in a muggy, sun-dappled Los Angeles, Baumbach returns to New York City (the setting for earlier film THE SQUID AND THE WHALE) and shoots it in majestic monochrome, creating – along with a soundtrack which blends Bowie with Georges Delerue – a sublime product of homage that fully stands on its own poised, melodious legs. As emotional drifter and social fuckwit, Gerwig is as alluring and charismatic as usual, embodying a character that is almost resistant to aversion; delightful is she in her ongoing search for herself. Just like the Hot Chocolate song Baumbach humorously uses in Frances’ cost-guzzling trip to Paris, ‘Everyone’s A Winner’, and so is his latest film.