Netflix & Chill: 420 Edition – ‘Frances Ha’

by Anya Jaremko-Greenwold

This is one of those movies that almost hurts to watch because of how true it is. It’s about millennial melancholy, not having any money and not having any career prospects because your degree is in the arts. Frances Halladay (Greta Gerwig) is a 27-year-old living in Brooklyn with a background in dance and choreography. The film’s central conflict begins when Sophie, her best friend and roommate, announces that she’s moving out.

“Frances Ha” was directed by Noah Baumbach (“The Squid and the Whale”) and jointly written by Baumbach and leading lady Gerwig (who are a couple in real life). It’s shot in classic black-and-white, mimicking the masterpiece cinematography of Woody Allen’s “Manhattan.” Truth be told, New York looks best in black-and-white, all the grime and garbage fading away into contrast leaving behind only shapely silhouettes.

The era of the ‘bromance’ arrived in full force years ago with “The Hangover,” “Superbad” and “Knocked Up,” illustrating the powerful bonds men share. But with the recent, rising popularity of shows like “Girls,” “Broad City” and “Orange is the New Black,” friendships between women have taken center stage. These feminine attachments are volatile, complex, competitive and important. “Frances Ha” captures the platonic romance between 20-something girlfriends with charming accuracy.

After Sophie moves out and gets serious with her boyfriend, the friends begin to drift apart. Gerwig is pretty and earnest but sort of clumsy and bumbling, a talented physical actress with whom it’s easy to identify. Her loneliness and struggles to sustain an expensive New York City lifestyle is relatable if you’ve ever felt unwelcomed by a bustling city, sent out hundreds of cover letters with no response or lost your best friend to changing circumstances. In one of the film’s saddest scenes, Frances goes to Paris all by herself (using a credit card she got in the mail) and has a shitty time.

This is a 420 Netflix pick because stoned, you’ll be amused rather than bothered by all those terrible New York moments (trying to catch the subway when it’s not running or looking everywhere for an ATM). You might even chuckle at the pervasive sorrow (the movie was billed as a comedy, but it’s more funny in the ‘laugh-so-you-don’t-cry’ way). Much of the dialogue is awkward and stilted, like when Frances attends an uncomfortable grown-up dinner party that rivals Michael and Jan’s dinner party on “The Office.” “I’m so embarrassed, I’m not a real person yet,” Frances apologizes to a friend at one point. Doesn’t everyone in their 20s feel like that?

— Anya Jaremko-Greenwold


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