Frances Ha is a film co-written by Greta Gerwig and Noah Baumbach released in May of 2012. I was drawn to this film as a Greta Gerwig fan. I lay in bed, sniffing the detergent from my floral duvet and wondered what Lady Bird is up to these days. Frances Ha is the closest thing to a sequel I think we are going to get. And it’s a very good one at that.
Frances Ha follows Frances, a twenty-something year old dancer navigating post college life and the inbetween of adulthood and adolescence. She resides with her best friend, Sophie, and the two make an inseparable and dynamic partnership. When Sophie moves in with her boyfriend, and her relationships shift, Frances must learn to be independent, live unabashedly, and achieve the career of her dreams. Structuring the film is a revolving door of roomates, random European getaways, financial struggles, and dance routines. The entire story is filmed in black and white. I was taken aback by this, for the black and white entertainment I had previously watched seemed ancient and distant. In the film, Frances goes to Paris on a limb, staying in the empty house of a family she just met. She spends her two day vacation calling friends who aren’t there, even though she wishes they were. My only regret is that the film did not show Paris in the lively colours I’ve read so much about. I would still like to travel to Paris- albeit longer than Frances’ stay- just to see what all the fuss is about. I must say that within the first few minutes, I forgot the restrictions of color.
The mood is whimsical yet emotional, as growing pains often are. It is often misconstrued that the journey from adolescence to adulthood is a straight path where seldom one turns, stops, or switches paths altogether. Go to college, choose a major, get a job in that major, raise kids, and do it all over again. This film is a reminder that life is not linear. Frankly, it’s more fun when it isn’t.
Greta Gerwig’s presence is acting without trying to. It’s kind of effortless as if Frances is Greta’s alter-ego or represents a previous life. And for me, Frances then could be me in the future. There’s trepidation in acknowledging who you want to be when you get older. If it’s anything like Frances, I think I will turn out okay.
It’s different. It is rare to find something as simple as this story. And why does simplicity matter? Frances is not disadvantaged. If her New York lifestyle failed, she has a family in Sacramento to return to. Her friendships, though all-consuming, are the friendships that build her. For her dance career, although she may not be center stage, is not nonexistent. I suppose simplicity is validating. It proves that all emotions- from the most intricate, to the very ordinary- are emotions nonetheless. I do not know what message the creators perhaps wanted to send, if any at all. I do know that art is birthed in the mind of the artist and is accomplished in the mind of the audience. I can assume that the most tragic of feelings are the ones felt alone. There is solace- dare I say inspiration?- in the approval of emotions. It is good to know that I can feel gray in the foggy and murky road to whatever it is we’re all chasing.
That’s it! The black and white was never just black and white. It was gray and all shades in between. Perhaps that was the intent of disregarding color. Everything is always in color. Sometimes instances in life lack shades of vibrancy and vitality. In other occasions, it may be our job to initiate these virtues and bring life where there is not.
Consider the image of Frances running through New York. Sometimes I wonder how filming in color would change the film. Would it be brighter? Happier? More beautiful and memorable? Then I remember this scene of Frances dancing through the streets of New York. A very colorful moment, indeed.