Discover This: Frances Ha

Copyright: MFA+

Dear Greta Gerwig,

It’s hardly an original thing to say at the moment, but I have huge crush on you. I know, everyone does, and I kind of wish I hated your film Frances Ha even a little bit so that I could be controversial, go against the general hype, but you simply make it impossible not to love you. Yeah, I know – it’s not only YOUR film, it’s directed by Noah Baumbach (here you both are, in Berlin!), but come on – you are its star and you co-wrote it and I was laughing and crying and smiling and saying “I know, right?!” throughout the entire screening. Honestly, it was never easier to recommend a film to my friends or to our readers, and it was never truer to call a film a feelgood movie, although Frances Ha is much more insightful and playful and fun and honest and sweeping than most of the other films bearing that label.

Anyways, I felt very inspired – especially by Frances’ speech about not being able to explain what exactly she’s doing, because she’s not really doing it. So instead of writing a review, I decided not to do what I’m supposed to be doing and write you a letter instead.

Your dialogue is sooo smart and funny and unpretentious and close-to-life and I kind of want to quote it all here, but I don’t want to give away too much. Lines like, “Don’t treat me like a three-hour brunch friend,” or “I’m not messy, I’m busy,” or “Fuck, I sound like a gay grandma” are downright hilarious, plus the performances of everyone in the film are so to-the-point (is that a word?) that I had the feeling no one was really acting, but just being themselves. That’s a pretty major achievement, considering what an artificial construction a film is.

So you play this young woman in New York and you’re wasting a lot of time and you skip plans and you lose your best friend who has a ‘proper job’ and all that is very relatable. Maybe not to everyone in the world and maybe some critics will say that your film is ‘too white’ (shut up, James Franco) and that no one in it has any real problems, but I think you are pretty aware of that. At one point you say you’re poor and then your roommate says that saying that is “actually offensive to poor people” and that pretty much sums up the problem that many privileged white urban people, artists, “artists”, freelancers, writers, and dancers have. I mean, you seem pretty carefree and your rent is 950 dollars and even though you live from cheque to cheque, you’re not really struggling. Just struggling with life in general – and that’s a problem many of us have. To make a film about this, a film that is so, well, light and quick-paced, and surprising and just adorable – that’s pretty rare and actually pretty fantastic.

Then again, you are pretty great in general, not only as a writer and a not-so-typical woman, but especially as a not-so-typical actress who is tall and a little lanky and often comes across as a bit clumsy – or “undateable” as you call it in the film. Your film has this great flow and it’s super entertaining and I wish it would never end. Also, you didn’t give me the self-serious impression that you wanted to tackle ‘serious issues’, portray the ‘malady of a generation’, blah blah blah, but really you kind of do and you do it so wonderfully and so funnily that it seems so effortless.

Most of us ask ourselves the same questions as Frances. We are confronted with the same challenges. Like, “Do I even want a day job?” (No.) “Am I drinking to much?” (Yes.) “Am I not responsible enough?” (Maybe.) And so on. And then there is this general growing-up bullshit. At one point, in your late 20s or early 30s, everyone is getting married and having babies or having jobs and thinking that that’s exactly what you have to do. It’s fine if they’re happy, but it creates a big pressure for everyone else and I sincerely hope that [Spoiler alert] Frances is happy at the end of the film, although she’s kind of grown-up and we have loved her so much for not being that.

Copyright: MFA+
Copyright: MFA+

Anyways, “It’s after three, I can drink,” to quote another great and painfully relatable line from your film – and I’m off. Like everyone else, I would really like to hang out with Frances. And also like many others, I’m mistaking you, Greta Gerwig, with Frances Ha (I just realized). So maybe I should have written that letter to Frances instead, but I am too lazy to change that now. Also, I have to clean my room, because I’m ‘busy’, and also there are a few plans I will probably skip to go drink beer in the park instead. Well, what can I say?

Thanks for the film, thanks for that dialogue, thanks for being you. Frances Ha is already among my all-time favourites and will always be – even when I’ll be grown up and boring and looking back at now, today – a time so wonderful and so complicated at the same time.

Best wishes and lots of love,

Toby

PS: The soundtrack is so great! Listening to Bowie’s “Modern Love” 24/7. And what’s also cool is that your real parents play your parents in the film. Also: OMG, Adam Driver is so HOTT! Okay, bye.

Frances Ha, USA 2012, 82 min.

Director: Noah Baumbach. Cinematography: Sam Levy. Actors: Greta Gerwig, Mickey Sumner (Sting’s daughter!), Adam Driver, Michael Zegen, Michael Esper. Language: English. Distributor: MFA+

Berlin screenings (original with subtitles – sorry there’s no alternative once you watch the German trailer): Babylon Kreuzberg, Central, Hackesche Höfe, Odeon

Let’s keep it personal: We give away 3×2 for a screening of Frances Ha at Babylon Kreuzberg where the author of this letter has worked for 5 years and with which he is still very much in love (and the people working there). Send me a funny one-liner about you, the generation Frances Ha, or how you’re not really doing what you’re doing. Deadline: Friday 6 pm. Email: toby@stilinberlin.de

Discover This! is a weekly Berlin–based film comment.

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