“The title character in Frances Ha, a 27-year-old woman whose life is headed in any number of directions but few of the good, calls herself ‘undatable,'” notes John Horn in the Los Angeles Times. “But anyone who saw writer-director Noah Baumbach (The Squid and the Whale) and actor and co-writer Greta Gerwig’s (Greenberg) collaboration at the Telluride Film Festival would have a very different opinion of Frances: She’s among the most winsome women at the entire festival.”
“You gotta love Greta Gerwig,” smiles Variety‘s Peter Debruge. “Even as the radiant mumblecore star’s Hollywood stock continues to rise, the actress remains true to her dramatic roots…. There’s a perfectly good explanation for the pic’s title, but to give it away would spoil the last in a series of organic surprises that constitute Frances Ha. This modest monochromatic lark doesn’t present a story—or even a traditional sequence of scenes—so much as it offers spirited glimpses into the never-predictable life of Frances, a 27-year-old dancer still navigating the topsy-turvy post-collegiate ordeal of reconciling crazy boyfriends, flaky roommates and crushing career disappointments. That same period has fueled at least two decades of self-reflexive storytelling, from Whit Stillman‘s Metropolitan to Lena Dunham’s Girls (to name two New York examples), and here brings a revitalized Baumbach back to his snappy Kicking and Screaming roots.”
IndieWIRE‘s Eric Kohn, too, finds Frances Ha “breezier than any of his previous ventures and indeed features considerably less ambition than his earlier work. However, that’s hardly an indictment for a movie so eager to please and thoroughly in tune with the themes percolating throughout Baumbach’s career.”
Todd McCarthy in the Hollywood Reporter: “Rooming in Brooklyn with her best friend Sophie (Mickey Sumner) ‘like a lesbian couple that doesn’t have sex anymore,’ the gawkily attractive Frances is an apprentice dancer with a small company who spends far more time riffing with Sophie and whomever else turns up than focusing on how she might get ahead in life or even get a grip…. Baumbach shoots and cuts in a fleet, exhilarating manner that reminds of nothing less than the Godard of Band of Outsiders or the Truffaut of Shoot the Piano Player, a connection explicitly and sometimes movingly underscored by his extensive use of excerpts from 1960s French film scores composed by the great Georges Delerue.”
“I can scarcely say enough about Greta Gerwig’s perfectly enchanting lead performance,” enthuses Eric D. Snider at Movies.com. “I was worried at first that Frances was going to be the most manic of pixie dream girls, flitting from one frivolous endeavor to another without consequence. But those fears faded in about five minutes: the movie’s point is actually the exact opposite. Frances is lovable and effervescent, but she needs to get her act together. The movie is about her painful process of figuring out how to become a functioning adult without losing her Francesness.”
Kristopher Tapley “was once again charmed right out of my seat by Adam Driver. You’ll probably recall him for his work in Lena Dunham’s aforementioned HBO series, and yes, he’s treading similar waters here. But there’s something so charismatic and easy, assured and magnetic about the actor…. I think there’s a versatility lurking underneath there. He’s been tapped for similar stuff lately, but this is an actor who just worked with Clint Eastwood (J. Edgar) and has collaborations with Steven Spielberg (Lincoln) and the Coen brothers (Inside Llewyn Davis) on the horizon. That’s a pretty stellar start, and I’m hoping we see more and more of him in the coming years.”
Also at HitFix, Gregory Ellwood, like Rodrigo Perez at the Playlist, gives Frances Ha a B+. But for Meredith Brody, writing for Thompson on Hollywood, it “felt determinedly quirky and a trifle twee to me.”
“Frances Ha is so steeped in the intrinsic logic of its characters’ irony,” notes Jay Kuehner here in Keyframe, “that it’s difficult to see that this pop record of a film is richly composed (and yeah, that’s Delerue on the soundtrack) by Baumbach. There’s a good possibility that Gerwig’s Frances is too young to know Carax’s Mauvais Sang, though she’s participant to a city dash inspired by the film’s David Bowie-scored tracking shot. It’s an ecstatic moment that, because of and not in spite of its levity, might be described as magical.”
Frances Ha will be a Special Presentation in Toronto this weekend before heading home to the New York Film Festival at the end of this month.
Updates, 9/9: “There’s nothing new about Frances Ha,” writes the AV Club‘s Noel Murray: “the plot’s been done, the main character is a familiar type, and even Baumbach’s use of black-and-white just makes Gerwig’s New York look like a vintage Woody Allen film. But the movie is so, so funny, full of Baumbach’s usual crackling dialogue between people who on some level realize that they’re just playing parts in each other’s lives. And Gerwig is terrific.”
Scott Tobias agrees: “With Gerwig on board as co-writer and star, Baumbach dials back the abrasiveness of previous films like The Squid and the Whale, Margot at the Wedding, and Greenberg—not to say that abrasiveness was a problem, mind—and tailors the film entirely to Gerwig’s daffy, self-deprecating charms, which recall Diane Keaton in Annie Hall if she were more ungainly and even less sure of herself.”
“Credit Gerwig or not, but there’s little arguing that the film is a renewal of Baumbach’s spark and sharp wit,” writes Jordan Cronk at the House Next Door.
“If you don’t look carefully at Frances, you might think she’s just cutesy, when in fact, she’s terrified,” writes NPR’s Linda Holmes. “And terrified, of course, is much more interesting.”
For the Los Angeles Times, Mark Olsen chats with Baumbach: “I feel like the final product is closer to whatever abstract idea I had in my head when I set out to do it than anything I’ve done.” And calls up Gerwig: “I did feel like I had to write this script. The writing of it was such a huge thing, but the acting of it was scary. I really was worried I wouldn’t be right for it…. It didn’t feel like, ‘I wrote this great part, and I’m perfect for it.'”
Update, 9/10: “Frances Ha marks a shift for Baumbach who, instead of tracking the impossibility of redemption, delivers generosity and possibility for his heroine,” writes Tom Hall at Hammer to Nail. “I couldn’t say where Gerwig’s work ends and Baumbach’s begins, but it is clear that by collaborating, they have expanded one another’s palettes and ideas; both do some of their finest work in this movie.”
Updates, 9/16: Gerwig “has a kind of galumphing radiance that reminded me of Joan Cusack in the 80s,” finds Fernando F. Croce, dispatching to MUBI’s Notebook. Frances Ha is “buttery-light and with one or two too many little bows of optimism tied insistently toward the end. But when Gerwig faces the camera, merriment and anxiety perpetually mingling, the enchantment is sustained.”
The LA Weekly‘s Karina Longworth sets the film next to Nick Cassavetes’s Yellow and finds it to be “the more successful film on the whole, and certainly the more honest one, but it’s also more contained and less ambitious…. Yellow and Frances Ha seem touched by the spirit of Love Streams, the final personal film directed by Nick Cassavetes’s dad, John, and starring his wife/Nick Cassavetes’s mom, Gena Rowlands.” And in all three films, “these women cannot seem to play the roles, and by the rules, that govern everyone else around them. And the directors—to paraphrase Manhattan, a film which seems a clear influence on Frances—romanticize their damaged characters all out of proportion.”
More from Ryland Aldrich (Twitch) and Charles Schmidlin (Playlist).
Update, 9/23: Blake Williams: “I’m not entirely sure if my preference for Girls is attributable to there being more of it—which allowed for more fully fleshed-out scenarios and characters—or if Dunham is just more in tune with how people that age feel than Baumbach is (makes sense, given her age). Which is all to say I wasn’t as blown away by Frances Ha as I wanted to be, or should have been; still a great film, though, not least thanks to Greta Gerwig’s singular and alive portrayal of Frances, probably my favorite character of the year so far.”
Telluride and Toronto 2012: a guide to the coverage of the coverage. For news and tips throughout the day every day, follow @KeyframeDaily on Twitter and/or the RSS feed. Get Keyframe Daily in your inbox by signing in at fandor.com/daily.