It’s something interesting not just to think about a film’s ideas but the perception of those ideas from what you would expect to be the film’s audience. Frances Ha is a film about Frances (Greta Gerwig), who’s a 27-year-old professional dancer living in New York City that hasn’t quite figured it all out yet. She knows what she wants and believes that she’s somewhere leading to that goal, but if a bump appears she sees it as an expected bump as opposed to the worst thing that could ever happen to her.
When a film deals with misanthropic characters it usual comes from a much more apathetic place than Frances, however I can’t help but think of her as that — misanthropic. She moves from place to place unsure of where her next rent cheque will be coming from and with very little thought of consequence, all at the same time with a feeling that it’ll all work out. There’s even a section where she decides, on a momentary whim, to go to Paris for a weekend which adds nothing to her life but debt; what is there to be elegantly brilliant about her life that we should be complicit in it?
However, the film lies heavily on the dream for it all to work. From the films Moulin Rouge — and much older films I’m not familiar with that Moulin Rouge references — and this what we latch onto isn’t love or struggle but the artist’s desire. While I don’t want to compare Christian in Moulin Rouge to Frances here, it does kind of match up. For all those moments of Frances tripping over herself socially, financially and just every -ly you can think of there’s a moment of her dancing in the street or in studio and we want her to make it. It’s as if we’re her children (or students) in the future and she stepped out of class for a moment and Sophie (Mickey Summer) came in and suddenly she begins to tell us — like she does Frances — the story of “us” and we begin to believe again that Frances is going to be this great dancer that will go all over the world.
The visual design of the film, as well as the NYC setting, brings all sorts of comparisons to Woody Allen’s Manhattan, which I’m still attempting to decide whether have any more thematic connections. In Manhattan Allen and company, as in all his films, are struggling with love and life in the city; in Frances Ha while Frances finds herself in many would be romantic settings it never is about her searching for love, though it could be said that her search and love is through her dancing which is what she strives for in almost every action she takes though those actions aren’t as aggressive as you would expect from that description. Frances Ha is really about this one woman living and what happens during that time, and it happens to be book ended with friendship, dancing, and enjoying the moment.