It’s hard to think of a better movie about the sustainability of youthful enthusiasm than Noah Baumbach’s simultaneously charming and distressing dramedy “Frances Ha.” While the post-college transition or non-transition into adulthood is a popular indie-movie theme (and one of my personal favorites), Frances Ha manages to examine it with a hand that is both hyper-realistic and graceful. Greta Gerwig gives one of my favorite performances of 2013 as Frances, a 27 year-old apprentice dancer who lives in Brooklyn with her best friend Sophie. With her dancing career not taking off as she had hoped, Frances’ friendship with Sophie acts as her mental cushion against a discouraging reality. This gets taken away from her when Sophie decides to move in with someone else, and Frances is forced to re-examine the state of her life.
How long can we sustain the act of “figuring it out” until this becomes more depressing than exciting? I would argue that the notion of settling down does not equate to figuring anything out, but Frances’ position is one that has to watch peers “moving on” in one way or the other while remaining stagnant herself, and her personal journey has several of the fixings I can see myself replicating in her position; visiting family for a spell, taking a two-day trip to Paris in a desperate attempt to do something drastic, and clinging to her best friend’s sleeve as she falls in love and becomes significantly less of a presence in her life.
But the thing is, Sophie’s romance is proved to be quite imperfect. The woman in charge at Frances’ dance company isn’t exactly happy, even with a successful career behind her. The people that we look at as having “figured it out” are always dealing with their own problems, and messiness isn’t something that we ever really remove from our lives. In the end, I would argue, Frances’ sustained hope is both what causes her anguish and what saves her. In my twenties I expect to experience much disappointment and disillusionment, and I expect to make many mistakes, but I hope to handle all of this with the same clumsy-messy gracefulness as Frances Ha.