Noah Baumbach loves Greta Gerwig and its not funny.  Frances Ha is amusing, but the “ha” is always on its own, without an accompanying “ha” (repeat) that makes for real laughter.  The movie is and is not about Greta Gerwig.  Greta Gerwig has had a very successful acting career in independent films, several you haven’t seen and one you may even like, Damsels in Distress.  In that sense the movie is not about her; Frances is a dancer and is not a success.  But Greta Gerwig is very good at quirky and that is what Frances Ha is all about, a quirky girl, or rather a young woman of 27 who cannot get over being a quirky girl.  The real life Gerwig makes a success of that kind of cuteness in the way that the movie’s Frances wishes to, but cannot.

Frances makes bad choices and just because she loves to dance doesn’t mean that she has talent.  We are meant to feel sorry for her. You might think that by 27 years of age a woman like Frances would have learned a little about making wise choices, but she is just too off-beat.  Theoretically, the movie is about her learning to make better choices; the character actually gets to accomplish something by the end, although we no way of understanding how she found the wherewithal to pull that off.  That lesson-learning and the exploration of friendship within the female experience is what the movie is about.

Except it might really be about how director Noah Baumbach loves Greta Gerwig so much that the camera never lets us take our eyes off of her; it loves her, too.  It is possible that the self-deprecation of the character in the plot reflects what the actress is like, really, and is therefore necessary for Baumbach’s purpose, which seems to be to let us all know how wonderful Greta Gerwig is.  However, for the viewer, the movie might be about the limitations of cute.  It ought to be if it isn’t.  Quirkness has a limited range and can be wearing, which is what limits Frances in her relationships with men, work and friends.  May it be a lesson — to someone.

Articles by Kate Pitrone

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