The last time Greta Gerwig and Noah Baumbach collaborated, I left the theater fuming. But the abysmal Greenberg was a full three years ago. In Frances Ha, there's no crotchety Ben Stiller to deal with, no queasy subject matter on display. There's just Greta Gerwig in a star-making turn as Frances, whose life falls apart when her best friend and roommate Sophie (Mickey Sumner) moves out.
Yes, there are plenty of similarities to HBO's Girls, but Frances Ha has a more sympathetic and grounded lead. It's also sharper and more honest than that show (which I do happen to enjoy quite a bit). You've got the supporting cast of guys, the fractured friendship, and utter romantic failure. One character repeatedly calls her "Undateable."
But even when things are at their lowest, the tone remains light, making everything go down a bit easier. If you're under the age of 35, you're bound to see yourself in at least one character and probably a few more. It's going to hit hard when you're watching Frances barely scrape together her rent or gets passed over for a promotion, but she's got such an indomitable spirit it's difficult not to be at least a little bit inspired.
Frances Ha feels like a deeply personal film for Gerwig. So personal, in fact, she has her own parents playing her parents. The ensemble, including Adam Driver from Girls, is excellent across the board, but this is Gerwig's show, and she pulls it off beautifully. Frances's life may be a mess, but never once does it come off as annoyingly precious like so many films and shows about New York hipsters easily can.
This is a film about striking it out on your own in the face of disconcerting odds, some of your own making and some that have been thrust upon you. Frances faces setback after setback, yet remains an infectious positivity that will leave you feeling hopeful as you leave the theater. What a difference a few years make.