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Movie review: ‘Frances Ha’

Posted 12:08am on Friday, May. 24, 2013

R (sexual references, strong language); 86 min.

The argument could be made that Frances Ha, the latest from cult director Noah Baumbach ( The Squid and the Whale, Greenberg), is just more hyperliterate, upper- and middle-class New York neuroticism set in a New York City with few black or Hispanic people in it. From Annie Hall and Manhattan through Metropolitan and Lena Dunham’s Tiny Furniture and now Girls, it’s almost a subgenre at this point.

But there’s just something so relentlessly likable about put-upon, impoverished Frances (Greta Gerwig, who co-wrote with boyfriend Baumbach) that it almost doesn’t matter that her New York is just one big Williamsburg.

Having just broken up with her boyfriend and with a career as a modern dancer going nowhere, Frances’ last refuge was her friendship with roommate Sophie (Mickey Sumner, Sting’s daughter). But Sophie is in a relationship with a guy named Patch (Patrick Heusinger) and is thinking about moving in with another friend.

Of course, Frances could easily just go home to her well-off family in Sacramento — “You’re not poor,” one friend chides. “It’s offensive to actual poor people” — but it’s more fun watching her flail as she tries to discover who she is and what she wants.

Shot in black and white and feeling like a cross between Woody Allen and a nod to French New Wave, Frances Ha is often wryly humorous but lacks the emotional punch of Baumbach’s best work. It’s more of a lark, a love letter to the New York of hipster struggle.

It’s not the Big Apple of reality but, as Frances herself might say, “I know that. I watch documentaries.”

Exclusive: Angelika Dallas; Angelika Plano

— Cary Darling

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