Thursday, November 06, 2014

Why I Should Never Have Watched ‘Frances Ha’ (or How All the Eccentric Veterans Called Forrest Who Liked Running Probably Felt In 1994)

Warning- I tried not to cross too far over from self-indulgent towards self-pitying, but probably failed. Forgive me.




 A tall blonde woman, awkward, yet beautiful. Running in the street with her best friend Sophie, laughing and shouting. She has found what she’s looking for yet has everything to gain. In the opening moments of the film, every moment is full of joy. 

Living without much money, sharing things, leaving her clothes on the floor. Sophie is tidier, yet it’s no big thing. In the big city where she’s going to make it as an artist, a dancer. Late at night they curl up together in one bed. There’s no reason for her to go and sleep in her own bed. 


Beautiful black-and-white shots of faces, caught in mirrors, laughing, in bars, in shared flats in Brooklyn. A few happy dance steps off-the-cuff in the park. The boyfriend, for there is a boyfriend, wants them to get cats together. In fact he wants them to move in together, together with their cats. ‘I promised Sophie I’d stay through the lease, and she probably wants to renew it.’ I know only too well that feeling that it doesn’t really matter if another man moves on without you. You are never alone and never will be. 

After the break-up she says she is tired and going home. Of course she goes to the party to meet Sophie. Peeing off the platform of the subway. ‘Do I look older than I am? Older than twenty-seven?’ ‘No, but twenty-seven is old though.’ Dinner and the mild irritation of the dinner date can’t touch her. The dance studio cuts down her hours. 

Sophie has something to tell her. Sophie has found a better flat in TriBeCa, one beyond her price range. She’s going to cover her share of the rent until the end of the lease. Sophie is leaving her. She’s getting serious with her boyfriend too. 
‘Have you been dating anyone?’ 
‘No.’ 
‘Oh Frances.’ 
‘It’s fine!’ 

I’m not sure why I watched this film. I downloaded it ages ago, when it first came out, but I knew the effect it would have on me and put it off. She’s a dancer, not a writer. She’s got longer hair, and a smaller nose, and is three years younger than me, and is a fictional character played by an actor in a fictional film. In New York, not London. 

After a terrible fight with Sophie, drunk, in a bar, Frances takes her credit card and runs away from New York to Europe, to a flat in Paris. There she eats things, watches people, stays in bed. She calls the people she knows – friends- but they don’t reply until she’s on her way home. 

This is a film about growing up and not growing up. It’s a film about the eternal conflict between your love for your best friend and your love for your sexual partner, and the way those conflicting bonds are sometimes elastic and sometimes terribly, terribly rigid, even brittle. It’s about the meaning of success, and what an individualised concept that has become. 

Frances is totally alone at moments. She moves in with artists, but they’re artists from money- loving, caring, funny, and she can smoke in the house, yet… 
‘Lev and I were talking about getting a maid to come once a week. It’s not that expensive, it’s like four hundred bucks a month.’ 
‘Do you know that I’m actually poor?’ 
‘You aren’t poor. There are poor people- you aren’t one of them. It’s offensive to actual poor people.’ The dance studio offers her admin work instead of a place in the permanent company. 

Frances is constantly trying to find alternatives to the shitty deals life makes her. She’s an optimist and she looks for happiness where she can find it. And she doesn’t complain. But she’s mean when she’s drunk, and she’s socially awkward and doesn’t stop talking when people’s jaws begin dropping in horror. Frances isn’t going to win in the big game of hipster artistic success moving from studio flats to lifestyle magazine new-build flats with good schools and coffee table magazine and healthy Saturday brunch, but she’s always moving and generally in the right direction and she’s mostly a nice person… Frances is OK. Anyway, what was I talking about? Oh yeah, the film. It’s a good film. Watch it, especially if you have nothing in common with me. 

If you do have something in common with me, don’t despair. Get in touch if it helps. And even if ‘Frances Ha’ makes you sad, remember that it’s a good thing that we are not alone.

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