FRANCES HA (Noah Baumbach, 2012)
MoMA Film, Museum of Modern Art
11 West 53rd St. between Fifth & Sixth Aves.
Monday, December 9, 8:00
Series continues through January 16
Tickets: $12, in person only, may be applied to museum admission within thirty days, same-day screenings free with museum admission, available at Film and Media Desk beginning at 9:30 am
Lena Dunham meets Woody Allen and François Truffaut in Noah Baumbach’s utterly delightful and frustratingly believable Frances Ha. Breakout mumblecore star Greta Gerwig (Hannah Takes the Stairs, Nights and Weekends) plays the title character, a twenty-seven-year-old New York dancer living with her best friend from college, Sophie (Mickey Sumner). They tell each other everything and even sleep in the same bed; “The coffee people are right — we are like a lesbian couple that doesn’t have sex anymore,” Frances playfully tells Sophie. But when Sophie suddenly announces that she’s moving in with her boyfriend, Patch (Patrick Heusinger), Frances’s life starts going off on a downward spiral, her childlike manner and carefree attitude no longer as charmingly quirky as it used to be. She first moves in with hot stud Lev (Girls’ Adam Driver) and Benji (Michael Zegen), who nicknames her “Undateable.” She suffers a serious setback in the dance company where she apprentices, she’s running out of money, and Sophie is becoming more and more distant. But as Frances grows more and more desperate, she also finally starts taking a longer look at who she is — and who she wants to be. Shot in a deep, penetrating black-and-white by Sam Levy, Frances Ha wonderfully captures the life of today’s twentysomethings, from their dependence on texting and self-involvement to their often bewildering inability to think about a real future.
Baumbach (The Squid and the Whale, Margot at the Wedding) follows Frances as she moves around New York City and goes back to her alma mater, Vassar (which is Baumbach’s also), marking each location as a new phase in her life. Gerwig, who took dance as a child and studied the discipline at Barnard (the choreography in the film is by Max Stone and Travis Waldschmidt), cowrote the script with Baumbach — they are romantic partners as well. Although she initially did not consider herself for the title role, she is terrific as Frances, sort of the illegitimate daughter of Annie Hall and Antoine Doinel. The soundtrack features music by indie duo Dean + Britta — Dean Wareham and Britta Phillips also play the hosts of a dinner party Frances attends — in addition to Georges Delerue, the French composer of hundreds of films, including many by Truffaut. And yes, Gerwig’s real parents play her mother and father in the film. Frances Ha is one of the most honest coming-of-age comedies in years, an insightful examination of a perplexing generation. Frances Ha is screening December 9 at 8:00 as part of MoMA’s annual series “The Contenders,” which consists of exemplary films that MoMA believes will stand the test of time, continuing with such works as J. C. Chandor’s All Is Lost, Andrew Bujalski’s Computer Chess, and Sofia Coppola’s The Bling Ring.