How I Learned to Stop Worrying and Love the Millennials
Frances Ha is the first LOL movie of the year. No, srsly – LOLs, for reals. Isn’t that how the Millennials talk these days? Frances and her best-friend Sophie speak in a hypertext short-hand promulgated by those under thirty reared under the narcissistic auspices of the internet. They’re wired 24/7 with their iPhones as virtual umbilical cords to their friends/support groups. This is the first generation to grow up under the watchful eyes (Gatsby’s Doctor T. J. Eckleburg glasses = Facebook profiles) of social media. One wonders what this is doing to their ego-creation. Does all of this “attention” make them feel like they are the stars of their own private movie? Is that what these darn kids, Millennials, are all about? Fame? Attention? Well, if that HBO Show-That-Will-Not-Be-Named turned you off the Touch-Screen generation, Frances Ha will now make you hate them a little less, less than even the Baby Boomers. You might even like them.
Frances Ha is essentially a platonic love-story between affably clueless Frances (Great Gerwig in a fantastic performance) and her college BFF Sophie (Mickey Sumner), the practical one. The movie is essentially a compendium of vignettes of misfortunes that befall Frances beginning when Sophie moves in with her square, cap-wearing boyfriend. This forces Frances out of her comfort-zone and into a series of crashing with people, known as ‘couch surfing’ in the 90′s. Frances may be clueless yet refreshingly she is not talentless or dumb. She wants to be a dancer yet isn’t quite good enough to make it on the varsity team. She can choreograph though as her dance company leader tells her several times in the movie trying to encourage her. She wants to be all grown up like the couples she meets at a highly awkward dinner party where her inappropriate behavior and party chatter reveals her dilemma – she’s still hovering between adolescence and the “real world.”
As she moves from place to place, Frances tries to get a toehold in her life before it spins away. She starts to see enough of her peers moving on into the adult world while she’s still spinning her wheels. She ends up back at her college working a summer job and crashing back in the dorms. Her life needs to come full circle before she can move to the next level on the video game of life. When she finds out second-hand that Sophie is moving to Japan she nearly has a meltdown. Instead of collapsing in self-pity, Frances picks herself up, says goodbye to a few of her out-of-reach dreams and works hard at her life. She follows her muse, a common complaint of older generations towards coddled Millennials, hits rock bottom, then works her way back towards a career path that is not completely soul-deadening. The film broaches class commentary without much judgment – think of the two young fellas Frances lives with for a little while, they used to be called Trust Fund Babies or Trustafarians if seen with dreads.
Director Noah Baumbach’s (Greenberg, Margot at the Wedding) sixth feature film was co-written with Gerwig, the director’s real-life girlfriend. Her input clearly mellowed Baumbach whose recent lead characters were the irritable-yet-fascinating Margot (Nicole Kidman) and maddening Greenberg (Ben Stiller). Frances Ha was wonderfully shot by Sam Levy (Wendy and Lucy) as a black and white homage to the French New Wave. The film more than holds it’s own too. The soundtrack is top-notch with plenty of Nouvelle Vague music by Georges Delerue sprinkled around the movie’s theme song – “Modern Love” by David Bowie, an ear-worm that never gets old. The movie crackles with a joyful energy that was missing from a recent Gerwig movie, Lola Versus, which was awful. Another of the film’s strengths is in it’s editing (Jennifer Lame – great job) which created a perfect rhythm balancing Frances’s many ups and down without a single false note. If Frances Ha is an indication, let’s hope that the Gerwig/Baumbach pairing is the new Karina/Godard.