X

Create an account to continue reading.

Registered readers have access to our blogs and a limited number of magazine articles
For unlimited access to The Spectator, subscribe below

Registered readers have access to our blogs and a limited number of magazine articles

Sign in to continue

Already have an account?

What's my subscriber number?

Subscribe now from £1 a week

Online

Unlimited access to The Spectator including the full archive from 1828

Print

Weekly delivery of the magazine

App

Phone & tablet edition of the magazine

Spectator Club

Subscriber-only offers, events and discounts
 
View subscription offers

Already a subscriber?

or

Subscribe now for unlimited access

ALL FROM JUST £1 A WEEK

View subscription offers

Thank you for creating your account – To update your details click here to manage your account

Thank you for creating your account – To update your details click here to manage your account

Thank you for creating an account – Your subscriber number was not recognised though. To link your subscription visit the My Account page

Thank you for creating your account – To update your details click here to manage your account

X

Login

Don't have an account? Sign up
X

Subscription expired

Your subscription has expired. Please go to My Account to renew it or view subscription offers.

X

Forgot Password

Please check your email

If the email address you entered is associated with a web account on our system, you will receive an email from us with instructions for resetting your password.

If you don't receive this email, please check your junk mail folder.

X

It's time to subscribe.

You've read all your free Spectator magazine articles for this month.

Subscribe now for unlimited access – from just £1 a week

You've read all your free Spectator magazine articles for this month.

Subscribe now for unlimited access

Online

Unlimited access to The Spectator including the full archive from 1828

Print

Weekly delivery of the magazine

App

Phone & tablet edition of the magazine

Spectator Club

Subscriber-only offers, events and discounts
X

Sign up

What's my subscriber number? Already have an account?

Thank you for creating your account – To update your details click here to manage your account

Thank you for creating your account – To update your details click here to manage your account

Thank you for creating an account – Your subscriber number was not recognised though. To link your subscription visit the My Account page

Thank you for creating your account – To update your details click here to manage your account

X

Your subscriber number is the 8 digit number printed above your name on the address sheet sent with your magazine each week.

Entering your subscriber number will enable full access to all magazine articles on the site.

If you cannot find your subscriber number then please contact us on customerhelp@subscriptions.co.uk or call 0330 333 0050.

You can create an account in the meantime and link your subscription at a later time. Simply visit the My Account page, enter your subscriber number in the relevant field and click 'submit changes'.

Please note: Previously subscribers used a 'WebID' to log into the website. Your subscriber number is not the same as the WebID. Please ensure you use the subscriber number when you link your subscription.

Cinema

At last, a film about proper women who aren’t just drippily searching for love

27 July 2013

9:00 AM

27 July 2013

9:00 AM

Frances Ha

15, Nationwide

Frances Ha will make many spit ‘Frances…Bah!’ but I won’t be among them. Yes, it is rather kooky, and highly self-conscious, with its New Wave references and its Woody Allen influences (it’s a serious, black-and-white, Manhattan comedy), but it’s also sweet, endearing, touching, and features proper women you can actually believe in, and who aren’t just drippily searching for love, which is something of a novelty. Plus, it comes in at under 90 minutes, which is totally great. I was over the moon about that.

You know, when I am appointed Professor of Film Studies somewhere, as is still only a matter of time, the first thing I will tell my students, once we’ve dealt with the New Waveyness of the New Wave — Goddard: he was a one! — is not to go on and on and on. ‘Say what you have to say then get the hell out,’ I will tell them. Then I may well add: ‘What, you think we don’t have homes to go to?’ Sometimes, I don’t even think it crosses their minds!

This is a film by Noah Baumbach (The Squid and the Whale, Greenberg, among others), who wrote it, concisely, along with his girlfriend, the actress Greta Gerwig, who stars, and is a lovely actress; gorgeous, but also fresh and real and generous, somehow. Hollywood actresses, as a rule, look as if they’ll snap and shatter into tiny sharp shards should they fall over, say, but Ms Gerwig looks as if she’d bounce right back up. Anyway, she is Frances, a 27-year-old who has been happily floating through life but has reached that point where she senses she needs to get her act together; needs something solid to hang on to: a job, her own apartment, but not a boyfriend, particularly, thank God. Frances is a little bit of a mess, and she knows it, just as others know it. ‘You look older, but less mature,’ someone comments when she tells them her age.

[Alt-Text]


She is broke. She’s an apprentice at a dance company and hopes to join the corps, although this does not seem especially plausible, as she’s probably already too old, and there is something a little heffalumpish about her. She shares an apartment with her best friend Sophie (Mickey Sumner, daughter of Sting and Trudie Styler; she is terrific), but then Sophie dumps her for a rich boyfriend, and although the two have quite a womance going — ‘We are the same person, but with different hair,’ they tell everybody — we are never quite sure if Sophie is true or not.

A string of not very eventful events happen to Frances, in that New Wave way — Truffaut: also a one! — as she visits her parents in California (played by her own parents), rooms with friends in Chinatown, gets cast off by the dance company, endures a financially ruinous and lonely weekend in Paris, and suffers the humiliation of returning to her college, Vassar, to waitress for the summer.

So we’re propelled along not by what happens, but by Frances herself, who is kind-hearted, eager to please, lovably befuddled and funny. ‘I feel like a bad mother in 1987,’ she says, on discovering she can smoke indoors in someone’s home. She just sort of charms us along. And there are some killer scenes, too, including the one where she attends a ‘grown-up’ dinner party, drinks too much, and lets loose with an inappropriate stream of consciousness.

Meanwhile, the black and white somehow adds majesty to the ordinary and intimate, in that Woody Allen way, while the streets and places are the real streets and places, in that New Wave way. (Rohmer! Don’t you want to eat him!) But mostly I love this film because it has the courage to be a character study more than a story, and the wit to make it work, and has a female lead whose happiness does not depend on finding a man. Frances knows she can only solve the problem of herself — that is, her ennui — from within herself. It is not Frances…Bah!

Subscribe to The Spectator today for a quality of argument not found in any other publication. Get more Spectator for less – just £12 for 12 issues.


Show comments
Close