Fresh from the New York Indie scene Greta Gerwig co-writes and stars in what can only be described as an off-beat life drama. A new-age Bridget Jones without the humour, Baumbach’s film is inexplicably filmed in black and white. An affectation which really has no effect positive or negative on the film as a whole.
Gerwig plays 27 year old Frances, a delusional woman who harbours dreams of breaking into dance at an age when most dancers are approaching retirement or at least passing their best. She has no direction in life, as is echoed by the constant moving of apartments, which makes up the film’s structure. While this character is consistently written and faithfully acted you cannot help but feel that such a person cannot ever exist. Her behaviour is at best juvenile, and at worst a demonstration of shocking immaturity. While she is evidently pitched as “charming” and “quirky” she is in fact a horribly awkward presence. Throughout the film she slowly destroys every relationship she has through a combination of bad communication and inability to interact in social situations. This is indeed a natural part of growing older but, as the characters around her remark, for a woman of 27 to still be living in the “awkward adolescent” phase is somewhat pathetic.
The script comes close to being comic and seems to aim to at least be light however, with such a mannered and self-important delivery, the elements of lightness are lost in a sea of glum self-pity. The brief scenes where our protagonist lets go are lovely, airy and joyous, complete with dancing and motivational music. But these scenes are rare and overshadowed by the more numerous scenes where Frances willingly alienates people and passes up God-given opportunities to satisfy her own capricious fancies.
Mickey Sumner as Frances’ best friend Sophie is however utterly charming. She lights up the screen with a strong and confident performance. She seems to embody the maturity Frances cannot reach, managing to leave her college friends and lead a happy and independent life. It is difficult to like this film when every single character who is kind, sensible or even just reasonable is rejected by the petulant child in a woman’s body that is Gerwig’s protagonist.