After a career spent on the mainstream fringes of indie, Noah Baumbach goes fully lo-fi with this mumblecore Manhattan, a monochrome glimpse at the joyless lives of 20somethings, as more brutally/amusingly explored in Girls.
Aspiring ballet dancer Frances (co-writer Greta Gerwig) lives with and loves best friend Sophie (Mickey Sumner), even refusing to move in with a boyfriend to keep their play-fighting and smoking-in-stereo going.
Alas well-off Sophie’s not quite so devoted, and when a room in pricey Tribeca comes up, she’s off, leaving Frances to drift around New York, then to Paris, then to her parents’ in California and back to their alma mater, in search of inspiration (and a way to pay her credit-card bill).
If you detest Lena Dunham’s Hannah Horvath, it’s unlikely you’ll warm to Frances – Baumbach and Gerwig seem disdainful of her directionlessness, too, all told.
Some long takes are more stilted than realistic, and the cutesy score amps up the whimsy, but Gerwig (Baumbach’s girlfriend) has a gorgeousness that’s only enhanced by Sam Levy’s crisp black-and-white cinematography.
What’s most refreshing is that this is an unashamed ‘womance’ where men are catalysts and obstacles, not knights in shining armour. It’s perhaps what the invigorating use of Bowie’s ‘Modern Love’ on the soundtrack alludes to – a fractured best-friendship is the most shattering break-up imaginable.
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