Frances (Greta Gerwig) is a 27-year-old dancer living in New York, struggling with her relationships, career and quirkiness.
Frances Ha was written by real-life couple Noah Baumbach and Greta Gerwig – he directs and she stars in this 2012 drama. But Gerwig is nowhere near as charming as either of them think. Her unrelenting quirkiness and self-absorption make Frances impossible to like, which is something of a problem given that she’s in every whimsical second of this movie. Just like in the previous year’s Damsels in Distress, Gerwig brings an insufferable archness to an already insufferable role. Frances does little beside talk about herself for 86 minutes, and it’s annoying after 86 seconds. As the title suggests, this film is all about her – but she’s neither written or played well enough to make us feel much beyond basic irritation. The kind you might get from head lice or fleas.
It is nice to look at, Sam Levy’s black and white photography creating a nice atmosphere, with good music from the likes of Hot Chocolate and David Bowie. But that’s not enough to distract from such a self-conscious central performance and lacklustre screenplay. It’s a film which is too in love with its main character – to the point that nothing bad can happen to her, leading to a predictably twee ending. Baumbach and Gerwig constantly ask: Isn’t she so different and adorable? Nope. With its oh-so-eccentric protagonist and pretentious indie sensibilities, Frances Ha is stiflingly irksome when it thinks it’s being impossibly charming. This is a barely-concealed vanity project for Baumbach and Gerwig, who both seem madly in love with her. They clearly think they’re making Manhattan, but this isn’t Woody, it’s just wooden.