Frances Ha by Noah Baumbauch

Frances Ha by Noah Baumbauch

Postby jasperjoffe » Tue Sep 03, 2013 1:52 pm

Having read the usual worshipful chattering classes PR puff about Noah Bumfuck, masquerading as intelligent journalism in the New Yorker, I was looking forward to this, despite misgivings about it starring NB's GF Greta Earwig, who I have found uncharming, nay excruciatingly twee in the past.

I was let down by this limp meandering woody allenish black and white coming (or not) of age Brooklyn sort of rich kid, 20 something, perhaps somewhat hipster type story of Frances, the children's book badger of the same name is more engaging, going about things with that irritating blank kind of cuteness, which is neither irony, freedom, or anything else, just a type of living in quotation marks, where there is really no joke or inner life to be in on.

Mildly diverting as best, give me Annie Hall any day.
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Re: Frances Ha by Noah Baumbauch

Postby CAP » Wed Sep 04, 2013 12:48 am

Greta is 100% babe but her looks don't compensate for NB's crappy scripts. :P

She reminds me a lot of Sean Young, who played the babe in Bladerunner all those years ago... before that there was Cybil Sheppard in the early 70s.... Ingenues I think they used to call them. 8-)
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Re: Frances Ha by Noah Baumbauch

Postby CAP » Wed Oct 02, 2013 6:07 am

That said, I did end up seeing this, as usual mixing up my session times and intending to see Rush. :roll:

Okay it’s not brilliant, and Greta is not Dianne Keaton and can’t quite carry a leading role yet but I did think it was a slight improvement on Greenberg where she is disastrously paired with Ben Stiller, trying to play one of life’s also-rans. As JJ said in some other review – glamorous/famous people trying to play normals is never going to work. Stiller, by definition is never going to be anonymous enough for the role – he looks just like Ben Stiller! There’s suspension of disbelief and then there’s denial. And something similar dogs this one where Gerwig is just too much of a babe to supposedly go undateable and ignored in something built on appearances and performance like the dance scene in NYC. In the story she is supposed to be a contemporary ballet dancer. Again it just begs credibility – all the frumpy outfits and unkempt hairstyles cannot disguise her model-like looks. At the very least you’d think she could look for work as a model when she finds herself dropped from her dance company.

I suppose the main thing I liked about it, apart from Greta’s looks, is the theme of best friends parting over one’s choice of lover. I confess to recognising this in my own life. But I’ve always thought of it as a teenage thing although I suppose it’s just as likely at college and after, if you can sustain those kind of close friendships that long. But best friends are always slightly threatened by lovers, their intimacy devalued or exchanged by a deeper, fuller relationship. The friendship becomes a little lopsided when one has a lover and the other doesn’t, one knows more about the other than they know about one. You’ve confided everything to this person and now there’s no telling how much of that your best friend might confide to their lover. Then there’s the pressure to approve of the choice of lover or partner, and they’re always not quite good enough (making you feel a bit like a mother – but at the same time secretly relieved they have not hooked someone totally awesome) or the lover is so good you are jealous. Suddenly there is this tacit competitive streak to the friendship. A threesome is never going to happen and so there’s added pressure for you to pair off with someone, if only to balance out your friendship. But it has to be someone as good or better than your best friend’s partner! And that just makes it harder to find a suitable lover. The whole thing is fucked frankly and you’re better off just drifting apart, making other friends, waiting to see it they might turn into a lover, waiting to see if you can become a more particular person.

So anyway I give Frances Ha a 4 or 5 mostly for touching on this side to relationships. The other thing I responded to was the NYC dance scene and all the little rehearsal spaces and hastily converted church halls or basements or what-have-you, for performances. There was a time, readers, when I was ushered briefly into that world, its endless, hyper parties and get-togethers over austere dinners that follow the little shows, all the talk of injuries, drugs and diets, the promiscuity and narcissism. So I was sort of touched at the end when Frances’ first foray into choreography looked much as I remembered such shows, although the dancers, somewhat heavier builds than in my day and more numerous. But I’m grateful Baumbach resisted the temptation to make Frances out to be another Twyla Tharp or Mark Morris – her choreography is okay, but nothing special. This seems about right in that it at least gives Frances a focus for her life; something the film has heavily hinted lies at the heart of her failures up until this point.

There are two reasons I wouldn’t rate the movie higher and probably wouldn’t really recommend it. Well, three really. The first is the interminable dinner party scene where Frances proceeds to unwittingly offend her hosts and guests with her reckless opinions about new parents and absent acquaintances. It’s not even funny. We get that she is gauche in about a minute and the rest is just tedious dialogue Baumbach and Gerwig (the script writers) fell in love with. This scene all but kills any momentum the story has. The second flaw I thought was the sudden reversal of her best friend, Sophie’s (Mickey Sumner) romance, where she suddenly reappears at their old college (I think Vassar is the location, if not named) for a benefit evening, thoroughly disillusioned with her partner, Patch, a broker, and hopelessly drunk. There is just a little too much calculation here, her reappearance a little too convenient for the turning of the story, where Frances eventually starts to get it together. Sumner is really good though and the scenes with Gerwig are amongst the strongest in the film. Hopefully, Baumbach will use her again. The third is the black and white photography which is meant to echo Gordon Willis's cinematography for Woody Allen but mostly looks way way too grey. It lacks Willis' lighting and light touch. It mostly just looks like it was shot in colour and then had the colour turned off (it was shot in digital - so there is considerable scope to tweak stuff like contrast) but Baumbach is not really a shots or set-ups man - more your dialogue/performance guy. Visually, it actually looks more like early Jarmusch than Allen.
Last edited by CAP on Wed Oct 02, 2013 11:30 am, edited 1 time in total.
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