I was stoked to finally see that Frances Ha arrived on Netflix. I read about it a bit and listened to the WTF podcast with Noah Baumbach, and it sounded intriguing. Honestly, though, I wasn’t sure if it was a good intriguing or a bad one. I’ve still never seen Girls, and I just generally consume the idea of people annoyed with overdone millennials being too self aware or needy or whatever. But of course, given that I am one, I figured I’d at least relate or see some mirroring. Well. This movie definitely made me cringe a bit, but only in seeing things that are so true to life. We are all awkward at times, but especially so in our twenties. As I’ve hit 27 in the last week, I know that I’m still developing as a person. However I also know that I’m less afraid to do and say weird stuff, even if I’m still painfully aware of what doesn’t land in a group setting. Another strong point (maybe gleaned from the movie) is that even if you know your life isn’t all together, the self awareness doesn’t help you fix it any faster than life is going to let you. Can you tell I’ve been through a lot of these feelings in my life?!
Frances is quirky and cute and whimsical in a lot of ways, and people like her and are kind, but that doesn’t make her invincible or endearing to anyone. She gets lucky and she fails, and you can tell when people are merely tolerating her out of kindness. I mean, I cringed at the whole “tell me the story of us” line to Sophie or her dashing about like a maniac to get cash at dinner, but a lot of it felt true to life without much heavy handedness. If you don’t quite feel like an adult yet you just do shit that feels adult until you reach your limit, like in the opening when she breaks up with her boyfriend by making up excuses why she can’t move in and tries to just walk out. Awkward adult and non adult times. I still feel like I’m in that phase of growing up and learning the kinds of people and behavior you’re willing to tolerate, and how to keep certain friends in your life even as you take on different roles. When things really aren’t working out, Frances just powers through and keeps telling herself that it’ll all work out. That she’ll get what she wants eventually. Or that it’s only a minor interlude that she can’t afford to live in the city or the dance company she works for is letting her go.
The question of “what do you do?” is a great way to get to know someone but also probably not as apt a question these days. You never know if someone is working to pay for their outside activities that fulfill them or are still struggling through years of underemployment or whatever. When I was unemployed and meeting new people I hated that question. It’s easy to spin it and cover for yourself (thus making me cringe at the unnecessary seeming awkwardness of Frances’ responses to many things in the film, but hey they’re trying to send a message) but it can still sting. And I did like how this is presented when the question is brought up:
“It’s kind of hard to explain,” she says.
“Because what you do is complicated?” they ask.
“Because I don’t really do it.”
It can be a hard question to answer, whether you don’t like what you do or you feel like you have to qualify it for whatever reason, or because you do more in your free time that doesn’t make you money but makes you happy. This exchange is right after a particularly messy fight with her former/best friend Sophie as Frances refuses to accept that her friend is growing while she’s stuck in place. And right after this she decides to go to Paris for two days thanks to a free apartment offer. And it sucks. She walks around, calling a friend who doesn’t get her messages until she’s back in NYC, and just mopes about Paris. When I imagine the wonder of hopping a plane to a foreign country for the hell of it, I can honestly see that this is the stark reality of that bold move. You can’t just force whimsy and adventure into your life if you’re not feeling it.
Toward the end of the movie you kind of see Frances evolve in the way she talks to people and addresses the world around her. I think it’s easy to hold on to the quirky and silly ways we talk about things or people to avoid ownership or seriousness. Instead of calling Sophie her twin or some elaborate description, she finally just admits she’s her best friend (and probably realizing they’re very much their own separate identities now).