Frances Ha (2013) is a movie that felt to me as though it had come out much longer ago than it actually did. This isn't because of it's black and white aesthetic but because I feel like I've been hearing of positive reviews of this movie so frequently that it seemed to be sitting in my netflix queue for so long that it was a forgotten pirate treasure buried under a sandy beach, whose X mark on the spot reminded me that I had something to get back to.
Frances Ha is an interesting movie for its aesthetic, the things it has to say about 20-somethings finding their way in life and young New York culture. One of my favorite things about this movie was the use of time and place as the markers for the story. It doesn't necessary show everything that happens in the story of Frances, but it gives hints of the action that is missed. We learn about what parts of the story of a woman, her best friend, her work, her travels, and the men in her life are most important until each of those aspects are whittled away showing us less and less until we understand the movie is really about the places she lives. Not just about neighborhoods or cities, it is about her finding her home and her comfort in her self.
The director of Frances Ha, Noah Baumbach, is a bit of an odd director to me. I know that everything he has written or directed has ended up being of incredibly high quality (although while looking at his filmography I see that he was a co-writer on Madagascar 3 which I have zero awareness of its quality) but the films he directs have a sense of tension to them that is a little difficult to me.
Frances Ha was a movie that I started and stopped only a few minutes in maybe a year ago, joining the likes of The Squid and The Whale as another Baumbach movie I couldn't handle to make it all the way through on my first try, but really enjoyed when I gave it a second chance. Margot At the Wedding and Greenberg are two movies that I did make it through the first time I saw them, and I was blown away with the style of writing in both, but I have no desire to watch either of them again because both movies ended up being so heavy in the end.
It is interesting to think of how each of these movies, and to other extents the two movies he co-wrote with Wes Anderson, have mixtures of personal struggles of personality and broader issues in easily identifiable ways, but they are not simplistic. The Squid and the Whale is about frustrations of growing up and divorce, Greenberg is about anger problems and abortion, Margot at the wedding is about jealousy and infidelity, and Frances Ha is about 20-something crisis and feeling at home. They are all multiple themes that can be summed up easily, but they are more complex than that.
There are still a few Baumbach movies I have to catch up on, While We're Young and Mistress America, and he has two more that are coming out in the next year or so. I do know that I can expect to squirm my way into watching them, ultimately enjoy them, then probably never see them again.