Greta Gerwig and Noah Baumbach, 2012
#3, 2013 Skandies
So this one is quite similar to 2013's Skandie winner, Inside Llewyn Davis. That one was about the title character trying to make it as a folk singer in New York City in the early 1960s; this one is about the title character trying to make it as a modern dancer in New York City in the early 2010s. New York City is a weird place. There aren't too many other American cities that function as magnets drawing young people from all over the country (and the world!) trying to establish a career that only exists there — there's Los Angeles, Washington, maybe San Francisco, and where else? Even Chicago is more of a regional hub than a national one. And New York is still in a category of its own, to the point that the careers in question actually get named after New York locations. Like, you want to work on Broadway? You have to come to New York, because that's where Broadway is. Want to work on Wall Street? You have to come to New York, because that's where Wall Street is. Madison Avenue, maybe? You have to come to New York, because that's where Madison Avenue is. But because New York is such a magnet — and is home to all the people who have already established themselves in those lines of work — it's prohibitively expensive for the young people it attracts… unless they come from rich enough families that their parents can stake them for tens of thousands of dollars while they pay their dues. So it is that Llewyn Davis is forced to try to get by with no fixed address and spends his entire movie couch-surfing. Frances Halladay has a series of addresses, and to a great extent her movie is about the instability of her living arrangements. This took me by surprise, as initially it looked like the movie was primarily going to be about that curious artifact of life in a magnet city, the adult roommate. I might well have been interested in that movie, because while relationships between roommates are far from virgin territory for stories — cf. The Odd Couple, Friends, etc. — they're still pretty unusual compared to stories about lovers, or friends, or parents and children, or even siblings… which stands to reason, given that "move to a magnet city and share a small apartment with someone you're not dating" is a life stage reserved for relatively few. But after establishing Frances and her roommate Sophie, the movie blows up their status quo fifteen minutes in, wrapping up what turns out to be the first in a series of episodes like those that make up Davis. That may actually the best thing Frances Ha has going for it: I didn't particularly like the characters, and the actors tended to sound a bit too much like they were delivering lines from a script, but the rhythm of the movie is great. The scenes are jammed with fun little moments that mercifully avoid "quirky" territory, and the cuts come in interesting places. So I guess that's another thing this movie and Davis have in common: both impressed me with their cinematic technique, which I usually don't care about. Though in the case of Davis it was the quality of the light that impressed me, whereas Frances Ha is shot in a cloudy, grainy black and white that wasn't blurry yet somehow still made me feel like I was watching it with my glasses off. The various locations of the film felt more like states of mind than locations. (I also had a bit of a startle reaction every time a smartphone or laptop appeared.)
That probably shouldn't have been one big paragraph, but I can't figure out where the breaks should go, so one big paragraph it is.