Sometimes if I’m editing a piece of writing, my own or someone else’s, I’ll try to drill down to the main idea of it and discover it’s not there, and it slowly unravels. I’m not sure if this analogy works entirely but often when I watch a film on a plane, even with not a bad-sized screen, it seems like without the fullness of the soundtrack and the intended clarity and quality of the imagery, the film sort of falls apart.
Is this what happened for me watching ‘Frances Ha’? I’d heard SUCH good things. In fact, it has top reviews and the lead actress has just been nominated for a Golden Globe. I love New York City. I love coming-of-age stories. The film perhaps perfectly conveys the character and ideas that the makers wanted it to.
But that was the problem for me. You can see that Frances is supposed to be a loveable loser and to feel sympathetic to her faults. She’s unfocused and hangs out with and meets people who are wealthier and more successful than her. There’s a ‘Death of a Salesman’ sort of delusionary quality about her, particularly in her decision to fly off to Paris for a weekend to… what? Prove she is of the same social class? Follow through on the lie?
Frances and her friends, chatty, ironic, self-absorbed individuals speaking in stilted language, annoyed me. The main character is desperate, clingy and dishonest. She doesn’t seem, in all of these vignettes, to really feel much, to know herself. Her weird, sad ennui seeped out of the screen and made me feel it too. I disliked her best friend too, so not much interest for me whether their friendship would survive the film.
In the end, she gets to choreograph her own work… and gets her own apartment. How does an underemployed 27 year old afford her own apartment in New York City? This film made me feel like a cranky old man. And you know, I am!