I finally began catching up with French New Wave films last year. I've seen their influence in many places, but none more so than Noah Baumbach and Greta Gerwig's beautiful and poignant Frances Ha.

The look, the joyful exuberance, the music, the ambience of Frances Ha scream of the work of Godard and Truffaut. Manhattan is also an obvious influence on the movie.

Gerwig plays Frances, a would-be dancer in twenty-teens New York. She and her best friend and roomate Sophie drink, laugh, mock spar and generally live for each other's company: FrancesandSophie.

Sophie is ready to move on and have a different life, while Frances is stuck in kind of stasis. Their bond breaks and Frances attempts to find a new identity for herself.

It's often painful to see Frances try too hard to make friends and impress people. She becomes too confessional in casual conversations, alienating people. Frances is generally liked, but is jokingly referred to as undateable and affectionately called a weirdo by her friends. There are laughs all around, but I know all too well how deeply those kind of words cut. Embracing your weirdness becomes the only way to deal with it.

Frances dreams of being dancer, but she is not as good at the art as she would wish to be. She faces failure and personal humiliation, yet Frances maintains her own brand of unique grace.

Frances Ha is stunningly shot in black and white. While Baumbach and cinematographer Sam Levy can't quite match the brilliance of Gordon Willis's work in Manhattan, the movie illuminates the beauty and charisma of New York City like very few others in cinema history.

My heart broke for Frances during the duration of the movie, but in the end she embraces her choices and emerges as a confident individual. The final shot explains the odd title of the movie in an uplifting way that will make you walk away with a smile on your face.

The music, acting, and cinematography are incredible in Frances Ha, but Greta Gerwig is the shining star of nearly every shot. I've been a fan since I first took notice of her in a brief but endearing role in Ti West's The House of the Devil. She was great in Mumblecore opuses Hannah Takes the Stairs and Baghead. Her nuanced performance in Frances Ha is the equal of any actress in any movie I've ever seen. I'm glad to see Gerwig has gotten the career she worked so hard for. I cannot imagine a better partner than her husband, Noah Baumbach.

Written by Mark Sieber

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