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'Frances Ha' review: To be 29 again
You've seen them on hip television shows like "Girls." You've seen them in wry, ironic movies like "Funny Ha Ha." They kill time, they kill beers and don't do much else. They're the 20-somethings, the ones with creative ambitions, sensitive dispositions and an aversion to adulthood. If you're totally sick of them -- and who could blame you? -- you need to see "Frances Ha."
Yes, the characters are the sum of their references, from Marcel Proust to "Saturday Night Live," and while they long to create art they seem mostly to consume it. But there's real magic in this funny, tender, big-hearted film, and it comes from the combination of 29-year-old star Greta Gerwig and her director and co-writer, 43-year-old Noah Baumbach. (They're real-life partners who met while filming 2010's "Greenberg.") They've perfectly captured post-adolescent angst, but without getting trapped in it as Gerwig did in Daryl Wein's self-amused "Lola Versus." Instead, they've delivered a fond look back at a turbulent time in life. The black-and-white photography by Sam Levy, clearly indebted to Woody Allen and Francois Truffaut, suggests a wisdom that movies of this ilk generally lack.
There's no plot, just a character arc: Frances, played by the charmingly gawky Gerwig, is a struggling dancer with an emotional dependence on her roommate, Sophie (a very good Mickey Sumner, daughter of Sting). They cook, clean, shop and do nearly everything together. "We're like an old lesbian couple who doesn't have sex anymore," Frances says, not unhappily. But when Sophie develops an actual life -- a boyfriend, her own apartment -- Frances begins to unravel.
The film unfolds in vignettes labeled by Frances' ever-changing addresses ("638 Vanderbilt Ave., Brooklyn, NY 11238") and defined by various weird roommates played by Adam Driver, Michael Zegen and Grace Gummer (a daughter of Meryl Streep), all delivering spot-on performances. The film's final address, which explains Frances' peculiar name, is immensely satisfying. "Frances Ha" will make you fall in love with an overexposed demographic all over again, and may even make you nostalgic for the days when you belonged to it.
PLOT A youngish dancer struggles to find her footing in New York City.
RATING R (sexual references and language)
CAST Greta Gerwig, Mickey Sumner, Adam Driver
BOTTOM LINE Late-blooming 20-somethings have never been so perfectly captured -- and Gerwig has never been more appealing -- than in this funny, tender, life-affirming movie.