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The one movie that makes me feel comforted about struggling to find myself in my 20s is Frances Ha. Directed by Noah Baumbach and co-written with Greta Gerwig, the film follows a 27-year-old dancer living in New York. Gerwig plays the titular role, and Mickey Summer portrays Frances’ best friend, Sophie.
The two had met in college and have been inseparable since, sharing an apartment in Brooklyn. In the beginning of the film, Frances goes through a breakup because her boyfriend wants to move in together with two cats. Sophie is about to move out with a different friend, out of Frances’ budget. Thus, the two separate, and Frances spends time trying to make ends meet, bouncing from house to house all while figuring out her own purpose.
While it may seem like just a movie with no set structure as you follow the chaos, there is complexity in such simplicity. The film is shot in black and white, giving it a more intimate setting. There’s a beauty of grey in a lonely place.
“I’m so embarrassed. I’m not a real person yet.”
Sometimes I overthink this movie. I build it up in my head because why would I want to watch chaos when I’m surrounded by my own constant mess? But I put it on, and I’m comforted. I’m comforted because someone had the same thoughts I do. Thoughts so strong they needed to put it in a movie. Someone besides my friends in it with me knows exactly how I feel, struggling to live in a big city. Someone like Baumbach and Gerwig validate all these feelings I have in the pursuit for happiness as a creative in my 20s. Even if you’re not in your 20s, the black and white feeds into the nostalgia of being that little, feeling that small.
This film is about finding the beauty in the chaos, the beauty in struggle, family, self. Through all of the mess and figuring out situations like living and money, Frances keeps a smile and awkwardly positive attitude.
The dialogue seems improvised by these professionals, but there was no playing, as Gerwig told IndieWire in 2013. “There was no improv. We did lots and lots of takes and most of what you see is, like, take 38.” There are little snippets of dialogue that could easily be passed over or cut but are emphasized. In one scene where Frances takes a lost trip back home for a holiday, she’s on a walk, and there are little snippets, not full conversations, in a montage that take place and keep a viewer in the film. Small talk that happens in real life that wouldn’t be important in big movies but are crucial to keeping the movie familiar to life.
The famous monologue, the “It’s that thing” monologue. The one where Frances tells what she wants out of a relationship. It’s about finding her person. I thought this moment was just another thing in the mumblecore screenwriting about trying. The first time I saw this movie, the monologue almost brought me to tears because it’s as if someone who knew exactly what I want in a relationship sucked it out of my brain and wrote it before I could even comprehend. It’s delivered by Gerwig so flawlessly as she describes ordinary acts of care.
The monologue is more than just mumblecore; it made me realize this whole film is about life, passion, struggle, and most importantly, female friendship. That thing Frances talks about could be a relationship but also is about finding people in your life who care about you. Finding people in life who you know will stick and you can look at across the room from a party and see them and at the same time, they’re seeing you, for you.
“Who, who are you making eyes at?”
“That…that’s Sophie. She’s my best friend.”
Frances Ha is a movie I hold near and dear to my heart. I love candidly observing these characters as they portray something I know. I don’t love my mess, and sometimes Frances’ can be like secondhand embarrassment, but there is something lovely about watching a film and knowing you’re not alone.
Frances Ha screens starting Friday, November 3rd.
Friday, Nov 3rd – 2:30pm, 5:30pm
Sunday, Nov 5th – 3:30pm