First of all, let me apologize for being so slack with my blog posts lately. I suck, I know. Things have just gotten away from me the last few months. From finishing up my first year at Tisch, to writing new plays and screenplays, to rewriting old plays, screenplays and everything else, my blog has become a somewhat poor neglected Dickens-esque child, coughing and sputtering in the corner begging for more. But now I’m on summer break (yay) and in between writing and rewriting and my upcoming trip to LA, I promise to spend more time with my blog and the few readers that it has out there in the big old internet thing.
As you can no doubt distinguish from the title of this post, I recently saw Frances Ha, Noah Baumbach’s latest offering of independent cinema joy, co-written by and starring the wonderful Greta Gerwig. At first I was skeptical for the simple reason that I just really really don’t like Noah Baubach’s work. He just makes the most frustrating movies all populated with the most detestable group of pseudo intellectuals ever assembled. I actually didn’t mind The Squid and The Whale. The characters were deplorable but maybe that was the point. Margot at the Wedding I just all out hated precisely because I wanted to gouge the eyes out of all these characters and Greenberg, well… The less said the better. So my overall feelings towards Noah Baumbach were a little… negative let’s say. But Frances Ha had been recommended to me by a friend and in the case of this particular friends she has relatively good taste in movies, plus the film itself was getting great write ups in the trades from the likes of Todd McCarthy over at the Hollywood Reporter and Pete Travers at Rolling Stone whose opinions I respect very much. So I thought, alright I’ll give it a shot. Plus if I didn’t I would be going against my own movie watching ethic of never going into a film with any preconceived notions beforehand.
Now believe it or not, I want to like every movie that I watch. I really do. I don’t want to go in and want to be annoyed by movies or actively seek to hate a movie. No. No way. I love movies. I want to love every movie I see, otherwise why am I doing this. Even the movies that I know are going to be shitty. I want there to be at least one thing in there that I can derive enjoyment from; and I really really wanted to like Frances Ha. Honestly I did…
But alas… Twas not to be… Instead what I witnessed was the most annoying and frustrating movie of the year so far. Dear God…
If you haven’t seen the film then here’s a quick breakdown and just so you’re aware, spoilers ahead from this moment out. The story revolves around Greta Gerwig’s Frances; a twenty-something aspiring dancer/choreographer living in Brooklyn trying to figure out her life while her best friend is growing up and getting married and moving on with her life, while Frances remains stuck in a twenty something bubble of quirkyness and living with self absorbed douchebag types who hang out and live in a cool Brooklyn apartment, living free life and writing Gremlins 3 specs and having fun, until Frances realizes “Oh shit, I need to get my life figured out” and then well… you know where this shit is going. This is of course all done in hipster indie cool black and white cinematography to a now obviously stereotypical cool “indie” soundtrack that is synonymous with independent movies. Yes, this is one of those films.
First, let’s start with the positives, because of course there are some, and I don’t just want this post to just be a rant about my annoyances with the film. This is not what one would necessarily call a “bad movie”. It’s perfectly well made and it looks nice and such. It’s made by people who know what they’re doing, which in our youtube, digital age, is a nice thing to see. Greta Gerwig, of course, is sublime in the lead role. She is but another example of what seems like a never ending conveyor belt of terrific young actresses who are taking this industry by storm at the moment. She encapsulates all the self deprecation and quirkyness of an annoying twentysomething Brooklyn semi-artist (in this case a dancer) with all the gusto, charm and warmth that just about makes this film tolerable enough for me to sit through its entire ninety minute runtime.
Yet even with Greta Gerwig’s great central performance, this film is still fricking annoying as you can probably tell from my lame attempts at trying to put a positive spin in that last sentence there.
From the get go we’re informed that Greta’s character, Frances, is a bit of a quirky one. She and her quirky roommate have playfights in the park, run around doing all kinds of quirky stuff, like busking by dancing and then giving the rewards to more buskers and running off hand in hand laughing like annoying little shitty children. They sit on fire escapes drinking, talking in their really cool quirky apartment, while cool music plays over what they are saying. They’re young and free and being all New Yorky and young and quirky and all that palava. All doing it to a nifty indie soundtrack and black and white cinematography. It seems that life is good for these quirky gals.
Frances is the type of girl who is just too damn quirky for her own good. The type of girl who randomly starts dancing in the street to an offbeat s”indie” soundtrack, which apparently makes her endearing. She’s so damn quirky in fact that her boyfriend breaks up with her after he asks her to move in with him. So damn quirky that she ultimately becomes distant from her best friend who decides that she just can’t be quirky anymore and needs to move on and get married and be an adult and live in Tribeca. But Frances can’t live in Tribeca because she’s poor and she’s poor because she’s quirky and she’s quirky because refuses to grow up and everyone else is just a snob or a bore or a privileged hipster type guy blah blah blah blah blah fuckig blah. Elongated Sigh…
It was at this point in the movie where I started to become annoyed. Why? Because all this quirkyness is just so god damn frustrating. Apparently this is supposed to be a reflection on my life and countless other lives o twentysomethings who are pesudo intellectual artistic types. But my God these people are fricking annoying.
Now Lena Dunham’s Girls does something similar in this realm. Althought Lena Dunham does it with skill. She knows how annoying these damn quirky girls can be and she plays on that. Now, I’m not personally a big fan of Girls but I can respect the writing and the conviction on which it bases it’s principles. But Frances Ha…
Frances is just another damn quirky girl who is just too damn quirky to fit in this world. Apparently this makes her “special” in some way or something. Because she is quirky she hasn’t got her shit together and this is a bad thing, all because she is quirky and everything. She dances in the street and makes awkward conversations during dinner at a snobby intellectual dinner party, but no-one really understands her and gets her because she’s quirky and weird and apparently this is supposed to be endearing.
So as the film progresses, we see Frances’s life slowly descend into more and more desperate circumstances etc. She can’t pay the rent on the apartment that she is living in with two, obviously privileged trust-fund boys, she ends up waitressing at her old college, all the while it seems her friend is married and is a responsible adult and whatnot. Basically Frances needs to grow up stop being so quirky and get her shit together.
Apparently, the major revelation to emerge from this film is that guess what, nobody has this shit figured out yet. All that matters is that you remain true to yourself as a person, never compromise who you are and yeah, you know, things will work themselves out no problem. Frances never changes throughout this movie. She remains exactly the same. She remains her bouncy quirky self. All that changes is she gets a job and an apartment of her own. (Slow clap). Woo hoo. Thank you for that. Thank you for putting me through 90 minutes just to show me how Frances gets a job and still remains her quirky self. Thank you for telling me that people grow up and become adults. Revel-fucking-ation.
No matter who you are, you will never have this stuff figured out. But it’s okay, because if you remain quirky enough and dance along in the street and do weird awkward stuff in stuffy, intellectual boring people homes and never compromise who you are, all along to an offbeat “indie” soundtrack and in black and white cinematography then yeah, you’re golden. Life is your fricking oyster man. Only if your remain quirky though.
You see, this is the kind of film that appeals to that new kind of audience. The “cool kids”. It’s trying to be one of those cool, hip New York indie movies about a quirky twentysomething growing up and learning that being quirky and artistic is awesome and hard at the same time.
I don’t know, maybe I’m being too harsh on the film. I don’t mind quirky people. I don’t. I said, I respect Lena Dunham and what she’s doing with Girls. I actually like New Girl and even (500) Days of Summer. But Frances Ha… It’s like an independent movie made on committee. Quirky character: check. Offbeat soundtrack: check. Offbeat cinematography: check. Characters are pseudo intellectuals/artists: check. Cool, hip young cast including Adam Driver from Girls essentially doing the exact same schtick he does in Girls: check.
It’s like somebody took all the elements that make an “indie movie” and blended it all together and out came this annoying piece of mush. Maybe it’s me. Maybe I’m just not down with Frances and her quirky ways. Maybe I’m not the right audience. Okay I’m not a gal, but I live in New York, I’m a struggling artist (writer), and I like to think of myself as a little bit quirky. I’m sort of pseudo intellectual. I’m twentysomething. I’M THE PERFECT FUCKING AUDIENCE FOR THIS MOVIE.
So why oh why did I find this movie so God damn annoying…
Maybe because it was just I’d felt like I’d seen this a million times before. There was nothing profound about this movie. Frances herself as a character doesn’t change or go through any life shattering revelations. She just gets a job. And an apartment. Maybe people find that endearing, that she doesn’t compromise who she is. I mean, it’s easy to like her I guess (if you’re not me of course). Greta Gerwig is an incredibly likable presence and like I said, if it wasn’t for her, I don’t think I would’ve made it through the film’s 90 minute runtime.
Maybe the film is too hip for me, what with the soundtrack and the black and white. Maybe it’s because that the big revelation of this film is that as long as you remain quirky, everything will be alright. Maybe all these writers and filmmakers who seems to be obsessed with pseudo intellectual artist young people types, living in New York, just think that being quirky is cool and fun and special. Maybe I’m the one who is not getting it. Maybe I should be more quirky.
I don’t know. All that I know is that I found Frances Ha to be the most annoying film of 2013. Not the worst film by any means. Just the most annoying.