Frances Ha (USA, 2013)

frances_ha_xlgDirected by: Noah Baumbach. Maybe before I write this, I’ll go back and re-read my impressions of Greenberg, that other Noah Baumbach joint that I picked as my introduction to “mumblecore”, the genre which is supposed to define my generation but whose name I can barely stand, much less any of the films I’ve seen. Although to be fair, after Greenberg, I did not voraciously seek out any other examples of the genre until this one popped up. It got good reviews, and I remembered that Greta Gerwig was the best part of Greenberg, and that I wish that she’d just had her own movie. So here it is. Aaaaand, I don’t know. Maybe I’m just missing this “mumbelcore” gene, but I seem to be the very audience they’re targeting. I went to University, I wear plaid, I ride a bike, I like the big city, I like nice coffee, I listen to bands most people don’t know—I guess I fall into that “hipster” category that they’re aiming at here. But this film makes that whole lifestyle look completely facile and childish. Again with the Robert Ray analysis, but holy cow, Robert Ray would have a field day with this. I’m sure the audience and the filmmakers don’t consider this a revolutionary film, but they would consider it outside of the Hollywood mainstream, when really, it’s a film about having your cake and eating it too, preserving culturally conservative content with a superficially progressive, “different” form. Frances is a bumbling, overgrown child who feels inadequate as the world around her, especially her best friend, all seem to be moving along, growing, maturing, entering the fast-paced professional world of adulthood. So ultimately, Frances learns to accept herself and let go of the emotional crutches of the superficially “cool” people she admires around her, she learns that her best friend’s grown-up life isn’t making her happy, that her friends still need her, etc, and she grows up while still keeping her carefree spirit. Okay, so maybe it isn’t exactly a cookie-cutter Hollywood sentiment-trap. Now that I think of it, I was actually reluctantly won over to this film as it played out. The first half was wallowing in this same milieu of upper-class Manhattanite hipster-privilege ding-dongs that Lena Dunham is occupying. I still don’t know how I feel about Lena Dunham, and I still don’t know how I feel about all of this, but at least this is a film looking at a slice of modern culture and being critical of it. This film does sort of tear down Frances and her friends, their whole insulated world, it doesn’t ignore the class dynamics, the high barrier to entry to what essentially is a bourgeois world masquerading as a bohemian world, and Frances doesn’t really get off the hook for anything. (And it does it all without making Frances anywhere near as directly irritating as Lena Dunham’s characters, just sayin.) So I don’t know. Maybe it’s the “defining film of my generation.” Maybe it’s just a dumb movie about a bunch of dumb white hipsters drowning in their privilege. All of that aside, I’m not even sure how funny it was, and just like Greenberg, I think that’s an important detail to leave out. Yes, sure, a defining, poignant look at youth culture…but does this comedy movie make me laugh? There were a few chuckles here and there, but I don’t know. I guess the film’s lampooning of “universally recognized” hipster-types is supposed to be hi-larious, but I just found it kind of amusing I guess. Chalk it up to my out-of-touch, backwards, small-town view. Derrrrr.

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One response to “Frances Ha (USA, 2013)

  1. Pingback: List of Judgements, Anno Domini 2014 | Offhand Reviews·

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