More a character study than plot driven film, it tells of the lost, screwed up 27 year old Francis, played with lost, screwed up loveable-ness by co-writer Greta Gerwig. She has what seems an amazingly close relationship with her roommate and best friend Sophie (a terrific Mickey Summer), but it all comes crashing down when Sophie decides to move out (and maybe grow up) for a better apartment (not as crazy as that sounds in NYC), leaving Frances suddenly uprooted and alone.
We follow Frances as she pin-balls through places to live and people to connect with (or not), seeming too childlike for her own good, and unable to take control of her life. But she never sinks so low that she loses the spark that makes us want good things for her, in spite of her continually getting in her own way.
While the film has some very touching moments, and generally excellent acting and writing, something in it made me feel held a bit atarms length. For all the joy and sorrow in Frances' life, I felt more like a clinical observer and less like a participant than I wanted to. And while some of Baumbach's nods to French new wave film-making work wonderfully (the high-spirited musical romp Frances takes down New York streets is wildly infectious), some of them, like the constant use of music from those seminal 1960s films as score was, for me,
distracting and too self-conscious. Frances is a good enough character, and Baumbach a talented enough story teller that it the film didn't need such heavy handed style laid over it.
Still, a unique, if flawed film about a unique if flawed character. It's good to see Baumbach stretch, even if he - like Francis - hasn't quite figured out where he's going yet.