If you haven’t heard of Greta Gerwig (and the chances are you haven’t) then this is the perfect way of acquainting yourself with one of the best and brightest young actresses working today.
Frances Ha is a new film by Noah Baumbach, who made The Squid & The Whale, and Margot At The Wedding. Greta Gerwig reminds me in some ways of a slightly more gauche Kate Winslet. In this film, she plays Frances, a 27 year old woman who spends all her time with her best friend Sophie. Since the film is shot in black and white, the early parts of the film have the air of a French New Wave film from the early 60s, with a delicious charm and verve that is intoxicating. But Friends For Life is sometimes a temporary phenomenon, and when Sophie renews her relationship with the previously-despised Patch, Sophie becomes a more distant figure.
The film moves on to the next stage in her life – living with 2 guys – and then follows her subsequent slippage into an increasingly meaningless and purposeless existence, though mercifully, this is not where the film ends. Because it is, ultimately, a comedy, even if it is one that deals with finding purpose and meaning. Comparisons with Manhattan have been made by critics who are too easily confused by the fact that the film is in black and white. I’d see it more as a descendant of Agnes Varda’s sublime Cleo From 5 to 7, made 50 years ago (and showing at this year’s Bath Film Festival). Gerwig is never off screen (as well as being the scriptwriter along with Baumbach) and it is a tribute to her skill that we never find her less than absorbing, even though she is at least as annoying as she is delightful. It’s hard to say how widely the film will be seen, but do try and find a way to go if it comes within range of you.