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Friday, 24 May 2013 00:00

‘Francis Ha’ offers little ha-ha, more oh! my

‘Francis Ha’ offers little ha-ha, more oh! my http://cinedork.com
Written by Martha K. Baker
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  • Director: Noah Baumbach
  • Dates: May 24, 2013

Except for a few scenes, painfully funny, most of “Frances Ha” is not a comedy, no matter how the producers try to sell it. Perhaps feminism is to blame: after all, for years, we ranted that women deserve as much of a chance to get away with being idiots and slaggards as men do.

And, today, we have proof that someone thinks women behaving badly has entertainment value. Look at Lena Dunham’s “Tiny Furniture” and “Girls.”

Greta Gerwig stars as Frances Halladay, her surname nicked in a symbolic gesture at the end. Frances is a dancer-lite, that is, she’s interning with a company with unreasonable hope of being added to the corps when there’s an opening. She’s living with her sisterwife, Sophie, in New York City -- the film is broken, not into chapters, but into addresses as Frances moves about the boroughs, borrowing money from parents and space on sofas from marginal friends, negotiating rent, cadging and free-loading, anything not to leave New York.

Frances and Sophie declare that they look exactly alike except for the different hair -- one flaccid, the other unkempt. They laugh at the same jokes, pretend to fight, even sleep together, leading to the joke that they’re like old lesbians without the sex. They are one, there for each other always -- even to the dismay of their boyfriends. Then, Sophie finds a better deal in Tribeca and moves in with another girlfriend. Then, she has the affrontry to go off with a man Frances doesn’t like. Frances has to find another place to live and another life to live, and this film is about her finding herself.

Before she does that, she embarrasses herself, over and over. The dinner scene with her new roommate is especially brilliant, as dinner scenes go, and Gerwig carries this off well. What she does not do so well with co-writer Noah Baumbach (he also wrote “The Squid and the Whale”), is to be clear about what actually changes the protagonist. The film’s sharp editing allows the audience to make quick changes with the characters, but the change could have been better marked since it’s an important part of Frances’ development.

Mickey Sumner is good as Sophie in Frances’ shadow. Her metal glasses reflect the light and hide her expressions. Adam Driver, known for his role in “Girls,” works well here as a rich boy with revolving bedroom door. Charlotte d’Amboise is believable as the dance company director, and Grace Gummer smolders disapproval as a dancer stuck with Frances.

“Frances Ha” appears to be a comedy on the surface, but it’s hard not to shout at this hapless woman, “Get real!” 

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