Noah Baumbach directs Greta Gerwig in a vintage comedy that is by turns acid-tongued and whimsical
Imagine Miranda Hart's TV sitcom alter ego as a gauche, gallumphing gal from Brooklyn and you have Frances Ha, a sweet, self-conscious charmer from Noah Baumbach (Greenberg) that provides a tailor-made showcase for the comic skills of Greta Gerwig, who is also credited as co-writer.
There are nostalgic echoes of vintage Woody Allen, early Jim Jarmusch and the freewheeling fizz of the French nouvelle vague in a film that is beautifully shot in black and white and celebrates the ramshackle existence of a woman with no immediate intention of growing up. Frances is twenty-seven, still living from hand to mouth and convinced that she will have a career as a dancer even though the evidence of our eyes suggests the contrary. At one point she is told: 'You seem a lot older but not as grown-up.'
She has found a soul mate in Sophie (Mickey Sumner) and they appear to be inseparable. They admit they are 'like a lesbian couple that doesn't have sex anymore.' As they grow apart and Sophie opts for marriage, career and responsibility, carefree Frances continues to drift through life with a Micawber-like optimism that something will turn up.
Filled with acid-tongued one-liners, eccentric whimsy and moments of toe-curling embarrassment, Frances Ha is executed with deadpan aplomb but is maybe just a little too calculating as it tugs at the heartstrings and tries to convince us that Frances is so utterly adorable. The goofily endearing qualities of the Annie Hall-like central character just occasionally tips towards a Chaplinesque straining for pathos. Gerwig keeps you on side and rooting for Frances to get her act together in what becomes an affectionate salute to messy lives, an endearing underachiever and a New York state of mind.
Screening at Filmhouse, Fri 21 Jun and Dominion, Sat 22 Jun as part of Edinburgh International Film Festival 2013. General release from Fri 26 Jul.