Film review: ‘Frances Ha’ is a low budget delight

Greta Gerwig and Mickey Summer play besties split apart in "Frances Ha." Credit: Pine District LLC
Greta Gerwig and Mickey Summer play besties split apart in “Frances Ha.”
Credit: Pine District LLC

‘Frances Ha’
Director Noah Baumbach
Stars: Greta Gerwig, Mickey Summer
Rating: R
4 (out of 5) Globes

“Bridesmaids” did not invent the type of film where an immature woman loses her bestie to adulthood. But if that film was shot on a very small budget, filmed in black-and-white, bore influences from the French New Wave — and did not include any set pieces in which someone poops in a busy street — it might nearly resemble Noah Baumbach’s “Frances Ha.” “Bridesmaids” also had a foundation in deep trauma, about the pain of being the last among your peers to settle down. “Frances Ha” goes deeper with this idea, and even features better jokes.

Greta Gerwig plays Frances, a twentysomething in an unprofitable nonprofession (dancing), living in a bubble of comfortable security with roommate Sophie (Mickey Summer, Sting’s wry daughter). A montage right out of “Jules and Jim” kicks off the film, with the two bounding about New York, without a care in the world. In “Jules and Jim,” the blissful opening was a harbinger of certain doom. It is here, too, but on a much more manageable scale: Sophie simply and suddenly finds a man. This turn of events hits Frances and the viewer like a brick: abruptly, the good days are gone.

With no one to lean on as a crutch, questionable living situations, ill-advised Paris trips (funded “with that credit card I got in the mail”) and other, sometimes cruel humiliations follow. What makes this tolerable, and even enjoyable, is Gerwig and Baumbach. This is their second joint effort, after “Greenberg,” and it’s a melange of “indie” film styles: its grainy, deep-contrast black-and-white film could be Francois Truffaut, while Gerwig herself summons up the so-called mumblecore movement that made her an up-and-comer.

The personality, though, is equal parts its star and director. Gerwig has a loopy, vaguely medicated charm where she blurts out embarrassing admissions, as though she wasn’t even trying to stop them. Baumbach is a wit with a gift for sharp, self-aware one-liners. The dialogue leans more towards Gerwig, but the film has the tight shape of its director’s films (“Kicking and Screaming,” “The Squid and the Whale”). Like its hero, it never succumbs to self-pity. Even when Frances hits a strange and inspired kind of rock bottom, she remains cautiously almost-optimistic, puttering along as though used to living terribly.

As a director, Baumbach’s mood is even brighter. The pace is fast, made faster by giant ellipses in which major events are simply elided: suddenly Frances is moving out of a spacious Manhattan apartment; suddenly she’s in California. The music is unfailingly peppy. He even borrows, almost shamelessly, a scene from “Holy Motors” director Leos Carax’s 1986 film “Mauvais Sang,” where Denis Lavant sprinted as fast as he could down an empty city street at night to David Bowie’s “Modern Love.” Frances does the same thing, only the street is crowded, the daylight beaming, her mood even brighter. “Frances Ha” should be more depressing than it is. Luckily it’s usually the opposite.


Winning $7 million New York lottery ticket sold…

The only $7 million winning New York Lottery ticket for Monday's Cash4Life drawing was sold at a Queens 7-Eleven, officials said on Tuesday.


Brooklyn man charged in roommate's stabbing death

A Brooklyn man accused of violently stabbing his roommate to death on Monday is in police custody and faces murder charges.


Dinosaurs could have survived asteroid strike

It turns out there is a good and a bad time for the planet to be hit by a meteor, and dinosaurs were just unlucky.…


OkCupid admits to Facebook-style experimenting on customers

By Sarah McBrideSAN FRANCISCO (Reuters) - OkCupid, a top U.S. matchmaking website, intentionally mismatched users to test its technology, the IAC/InterActive Corp service said on…


Review: 'Child of God' finds director James Franco…

James Franco's 11th directed feature is a noble but sloppy adaptation of Cormac McCarthy's "Child of God," about a feral mountain man (Scott Haze).


Review: Alex Gibney's Fela Kuti doc 'Finding Fela'…

Prolific documentarian Alex Gibney takes on Afrobeat god Fela Kuti in "Finding Fela," but fails to capture his unique essence.


Playing the Field: Valentine's Day coupling edition

  It’s Valentine’s Day, a day created by Hallmark to make couples spend loads and loads of money on candy, flowers and gourmet dinners. Or…


Incubus singer Brandon Boyd on his newest act,…

The rocker is releasing two new passion projects.


Playing the Field: Valentine's Day coupling edition

  It’s Valentine’s Day, a day created by Hallmark to make couples spend loads and loads of money on candy, flowers and gourmet dinners. Or…


Angelo Cataldi: Ryan Howard deserves better from Phillies

Just last week, Ryan Howard endured the embarrassment of a benching that was inevitable, and yet still shocking.


Larry Donnell has inside track in Giants tight…

Little-known Larry Donnell of Grambling State currently has the inside track, as the second-year player has received the bulk of the first-team reps.


Computer to Jets: Start Michael Vick over Geno…

Jets general manager John Idzik says the choice of who starts between second-year quarterback Geno Smith and veteran Michael Vick will be a “Jets decision.”


What do you wear to a career fair?…

Getting that gig starts with presenting the most polished and memorable version of yourself, so refer to our expert fashion advice.


Editors pick: Margiela's finger armor ring

These cool rings from Maison Martin Margiela are designed to overlap over the finger, covering each joint like armor.


Givenchy champions diversity

Riccardo Tisci's uses a variety of ethnically diverse ladies for his spring campaign including Erykah Badu.


Don't settle for the hotel fitness center with…

Travelers who want to skip the hotel fitness center in favor of local gyms that may offer better equipment, classes and amenities can turn to…