Happiness is Frances Ha

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I really, really wanted to hate Frances Ha. It looked so hipster cute that I can barely bring myself to take my seat for the performance.

Yet within ten minutes the film was just so charming, warm and funny that I just had to love it instead.

The key to that lies in the universally good acting from the cast and in particular from Greta Gerwig, who also co-wrote the film with director Noah Baumbach

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She manages to be quirky without being annoying, simply by leavening her odd sense of appropriate human interaction with an understated vulnerability. It probably made every man in the audience fall in love with her by the end of the film.

Our adoration would have been all in vain however because (spoiler alert) it’s her relationship with her best friend Sophie, played by Mickey Sumner, that is the key to her happiness.

In this sense the film is wonderfully brave in that it doesn’t go for that obvious romance as ‘the solution’ to Greta’s woes.

Instead it’s the love of a friend and her own love of dance that gives her a sense of self-worth.

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I’m pretty sure any woman who’s had the experience of living in a big city, be it London, New York or Paris will identify with Gerwig’s character and yet the film is one of the most New York-y I’ve seen in a while.

Baumbach clearly knows and loves the city and the places he selects to shoot give the film the feeling of authenticity (at least to this New Yorker)

Not that the films visual style is all ‘Woody Allen’ (although there are touches of a low-rent ‘Manhattan’ about the decision to shoot in black and white) In fact if I had to describe it I would say it was ‘Girls’ meets the French New Wave, which fits the character of Frances to a tee.

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In the end though it is the character of Frances that makes this film so special. She manages to portray the archetypal artistic woman of the modern age while reminding us of the great spirited film heroines of times past from Katherine Hepburn to Jeanne Moreau.

Perhaps the greatest compliment I could pay it is that having just seen it, I would quite happily see it again tomorrow.

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