Revisiting: Noah Baumbach’s Frances Ha
Somethingyousaid.com’s Ruth Hodge reminds us of the excellence of Frances Ha:
I never go to the movies. One reason is because I could watch Garden State over and over again and never start hating it. But when I saw the film poster for this one, I felt a gravitational pull. So back in 2013, a friend of mine from Australia who was in Paris to visit came with me to a little Parisian theatre on a rainy Sunday afternoon to avoid the crowded halls of the Louvre and pass the time. And we both came across this little gem, Frances Ha. I always, ALWAYS go back to it. I refer friends to it that are living abroad and need a bit of “yes, it’s okay to not know what the hell you’re doing” in the form of a movie.
The film centres around the life of one Frances, a 27-year-old woman living in New York with not much else going for her, except for the wonderful, whimsical life that she and her friend and housemate Sophie have created for themselves. That is, until Sophie begins to move on with her life, and Frances is left behind in her uncertainty and indecisiveness. Noah Baumbach’s black-and-white, humbly perfect depiction of the mid-midlife crisis of our generation is witty, attentive and absolutely spot on. It is poignant, poetic and at times all too real – and certainly spoke to me. That awkward phase of having absolutely no idea of what you want in life anymore though the world has taught you otherwise. When everyone else is moving but you feel so still. (When you’re “undateable” like a whoooooole lot of other people, incidentally.) And that soundtrack. Man. There aren’t many occasions when I fall in love with the soundtrack of films (Into The Wild, Garden State, Le Fabuleux Destin d’Amelie Poulain, The Secret Life of Walter Mitty and Billy Elliott being just a few of the exceptions), but the complete mis-match of songs seems to spark a sense of timelessness in the film, this matched with the no-nonsense black and white cinematography. Hot Chocolate, David Bowie, Paul McCartney, The Rolling Stones – it just works. It just… works.
Her relationships with friends, family, lover(s) – they are all definitely echoed in the lives of the film’s audience. It is not an ephemeral feeling of not quite knowing what’s going on, and Frances Ha promotes that. What remains true is how we all search for this mediocre, simple happiness that she has (at least at the beginning) in not knowing what life’s doing. In dancing through uncertainty like a jointless puppet, like floating along and enjoying the tiniest, most minuscule moments that it brings. We all have this – even with riches, with success determined by universal norms, with achievements – we all balance these with the absolute necessity for the oddity and warmth of uncertainty, and of chance. Because “sometimes it’s good to do what you’re supposed to do when you’re supposed to do it.” But most of the time not doing what you’re supposed to do is better. So, whilst you’re being bludgeoned in the face with a looming deadline, you should probably plug in the laptop, climb into bed and waste away the time watching Frances Ha do her thing, by first finding out what her “thing” is.
Words by Ruth Hodge.