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Review: Frances Ha

Score:A-

Director:Noah Baumbach

Cast:Greta Gerwig, Mickey Sumner, Michael Esper, Adam Driver, Michael Zegen, Grace Gummer

Running Time:86 Minutes

Rated:R

The last time Greta Gerwig and Noah Baumbach collaborated, I left the theater fuming. But the abysmal Greenberg was a full three years ago. In Frances Ha, there's no crotchety Ben Stiller to deal with, no queasy subject matter on display. There's just Greta Gerwig in a star-making turn as Frances, whose life falls apart when her best friend and roommate Sophie (Mickey Sumner) moves out.

Yes, there are plenty of similarities to HBO's Girls, but Frances Ha has a more sympathetic and grounded lead. It's also sharper and more honest than that show (which I do happen to enjoy quite a bit). You've got the supporting cast of guys, the fractured friendship, and utter romantic failure. One character repeatedly calls her "Undateable."

But even when things are at their lowest, the tone remains light, making everything go down a bit easier. If you're under the age of 35, you're bound to see yourself in at least one character and probably a few more. It's going to hit hard when you're watching Frances barely scrape together her rent or gets passed over for a promotion, but she's got such an indomitable spirit it's difficult not to be at least a little bit inspired. 

Frances Ha feels like a deeply personal film for Gerwig. So personal, in fact, she has her own parents playing her parents. The ensemble, including Adam Driver from Girls, is excellent across the board, but this is Gerwig's show, and she pulls it off beautifully. Frances's life may be a mess, but never once does it come off as annoyingly precious like so many films and shows about New York hipsters easily can.

This is a film about striking it out on your own in the face of disconcerting odds, some of your own making and some that have been thrust upon you. Frances faces setback after setback, yet remains an infectious positivity that will leave you feeling hopeful as you leave the theater. What a difference a few years make.

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About Kip Mooney

Kip Mooney
Like many film critics born during and after the 1980s, my hero is Roger Ebert. The man was already the best critic in the nation when he won the Pulitzer in 1975, but his indomitable spirit during and after his recent battle with cancer keeps me coming back to read not only his reviews but his insightful commentary on the everyday. But enough about a guy you know a lot about. I knew I was going to be a film critic—some would say a snob—in middle school, when I had to voraciously defend my position that The Royal Tenenbaums was only a million times better than Adam Sandler’s remake of Mr. Deeds. From then on, I would seek out Wes Anderson’s films and avoid Sandler’s like the plague. Still, I like to think of myself as a populist, and I’ll be just as likely to see the next superhero movie as the next Sundance sensation. The thing I most deplore in a movie is laziness. I’d much rather see movies with big ambitions try and fail than movies with no ambitions succeed at simply existing. I’m also a big advocate of fun-bad movies like The Room and most of Nicolas Cage’s work. In the past, I’ve written for The Dallas Morning News and the North Texas Daily, which I edited for a semester. I also contributed to Dallas-based Pegasus News, which in the circle of life, is now part of The Dallas Morning News, where I got my big break in 2007. Eventually, I’d love to write and talk about film full-time, but until that’s a viable career option, I work as an auditor for Wells Fargo. I hope to one day meet my hero, go to the Toronto International Film Festival, and compete on Jeopardy. Until then, I’m excited to share my love of film with you.

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