It is easy to become immune to the artificiality of cinema until a film like Frances Ha comes along to expose the Emperor’s new clothes.
It ignores everything that has come before, so that Frances’ adventures in The Big Apple avoids cliches because in the mind’s eye of writer/director Noah Baumbach there are none. Even the use of the word “originality” sounds wrong. Original to what?
Imagine a road movie without the cars. Frances (Greta Gerwig) comes to New York to be a dancer. She is big boned, tall and mouthy. In the company of more dedicated, supple and delicate girls, she stands out as difficult to place. What she has is character, a natural flair for life that is incapable of cynicism, or emotional game-playing, or bitch tricks. She is herself.
That should not be enough. There are such things as plot. Movies tell stories with beginnings, middles and ends. There are rules.
Not anymore. Baumbach’s film defies popcorn philosophy, with love as its happy-ever-after ... Frances’ journey is fraught with disappointment and graced with moments of unexpected joy. It feels real in the real sense, not the dramatic sense, which gives it an autobiographical hook.
Frances is so brave. If she was younger. the film would be labelled Rites Of Passage, although the concept of learning on the hook still applies.
It is not easy to forget her. When she smiles her face lights up. This is a black-and-white movie and the colour of smiles is a lighter shade of grey. Except there is no grey, only Frances.