Sunday, June 23, 2013

Frances Ha (Brockway)

Tropic Sprockets by Ian Brockway

Frances Ha

If you crave some arty mumblecore after this year's explosive antipasto of summer films, you will be well satisfied in sampling Noah Baumbach's "Frances Ha" starring Indie darling Greta Gerwig in the title role, who also co-wrote the script.

Frances is a dabbling dancer who has her  performance degree but hasn't done much with it. She is quirky, gullible and spacey. She also appears to have OCD (although it is not explicitly described) and is a pathological liar. People who meet her are either endeared by her or annoyed. Most don't know quite how to take her.

Frances has an obsession with her nonchalant and dry roommate Sophie (Mickey Sumner). Sophie enjoys being in control and Frances can't seem to let go, even when pressured by Frances' longtime beau Dan (Michael Esper) who is as bland as a piece of chalk and seems more like an acquaintance. Just when Frances rebuffs Dan's offer to move in, Sophie announces she is moving to another borough with her self conscious fiancé Patch (Patrick Heusinger). Devastated but prone to twirling in the streets of Brooklyn, Frances moves in with three 21st century bohemians who also dabble: Rachel, (Grace Gummer) Lev, ( Adam Driver) and Benji (Michael Zegan). The flopping four have dinner parties, smoke and sip wine as trust fund children. Frances tries to ingratiate herself and as the conversation patters into French territory, she makes herself into an expert traveller and invites herself to share a house in Paris. Is this a manipulation or a happenstance? Such judgments like Frances' feet, are left up in the air.

The lackadaisical vignettes of the film are deceiving. Frances as a character works on you with slow but gradual carbonation that accelerates by story's end. What seems full of whimsy ala Audrey Tautou in "Amelie" has a dark gray streak of dominance, control and desperation. Frances is more than a bit unstable yet her smirk invariably appears as if to save her from the butterfly net of a schizoid metropolis.

The narrative is reverently filmed in a digital black and white as if to summon the 70s and 80s aura of Woody Allen and Jim Jarmusch in their heyday.

"Frances Ha" tilts its  Gotham city jitters into likable quirks in the same way that "Annie Hall" did in 1977. The fedora-hatted youth still share peeling apartments and talk about dating and sex ,but now the shadows of darkness and light are more starkly shown in contrast under the a blinding glare of cell phones, Facebook and the isolation of Skype, not to mention the evermore confining factor of the amount of disposable income. The concept of money  is like an albino eyed wraith that hovers  throughout the entire film. But fear not, the incarnation of Frances turns all poltergeists into friendly Caspers.

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