If you were to take a moment and think of what movies teach us about female friendships, what would you realize? That they teach us to be jealous of each other, that women cant empathise with other women, that we fight over love interests that actually don’t matter as much as the friendship does. As women, we’re taught to be components, not friends. This is where Frances Ha steps in and decides to change the game a bit more with a promising perspective on female friendships.
Frances Ha starts with an opening shot where just two women carelessly wandering in the streets of New York and enjoying their time together. Frances is a 27 year-old with an energetic soul; she’s messy but she blames it all on being busy. Sophie, on the other hand, looks like a type-A girl who knows where her hairbrush is, but in the inside she has self-doubts as much as Frances does. They share their long afternoons, sandwiches, and even a bed, falling asleep together after watching a film. As Frances remarks at one point, they exactly look like “a lesbian couple that doesn’t have sex anymore.”
When Sophie finds a new home in a more expensive part of New York, she admits to Frances that she wants to move out. Even though she tries to comfort her by telling her that they could always share an another flat together in the future, Frances knows that she can’t afford to live in somewhere fancier so this starts the major conflict of the film – the separation of the two friends. This friendship break-up hurts her much more than the break-up she had with her boyfriend at the beginning of the film. It is visible after that exact moment that this event plays a big role in shaping Frances’ life.
“…(There’s a) moment when you’re exiting your youth and you really only know it when it’s gone. It doesn’t announce that it’s the last day of youth, it just leaves, and I think it’s really difficult when someone that you’ve been so close with grows away from you, especially since there aren’t a lot of cultural touch points to talk about it. There aren’t songs about a friend growing faster than you or movies about it or poems about it. It’s just this kind of ache that has no outlet.” -Gerwig on Frances Ha
Frances is left with no bookshelves or a kettle, and a dawning sense that she has no idea what she’s doing with her life. She doesn’t have real job and in addition to that, she has a horrible fiscal sense. Being all alone in figuring out how to do everything by herself, she realizes the realities of becoming an adult. She couch-surfs with Levi and Benji for a while but later moves on to stay with a fellow dancer who rarely lets Frances into her life. She tries to reach Sophie multiple times but gets her heart broken every time something interrupts them from bonding again.
Though she seems to be the one who has-it-all in Frances’ eyes, Sophie is feeling no better than her. She regrets following her now-fiancee to Japan, she’s bored and disappointed at how things are going for her and her relationship. When Frances realizes that she cant make her reconsider her choices in life, she goes about saving herself instead. She gets an office job, choreographs her own dance routine which all her friends come to watch and finds a place to call home. Frances embraces the mess in her life and learns from it.
Frances Ha ends with a muted happy ending -a renewed friendship. Sophie is there to witness Frances’ success. There is no tears of joy or a hug but Sophie’s presence is enough for the audience to capture the love they share. They both realize that they couldn’t stop their friendship from changing so they learn to accept those changes and understand the reasons for going into different paths. They both evolve into the new persons they are now and even though the hours spent together might lessen, the bond between them remains inerasable.
So, what does Frances Ha give us that differs from other movies? A representation of a friend that we all have or should have in our lives. A woman who has ups and downs, flaws, a weird laugh, a sense of humor and dreams that might (or not) come through. A friend that laughs at our stupid jokes, pays attention to the little details, cares about our well-being. Frances and Sophie’s friendship reminds us what we forget to be thankful for sometimes; it’s those pillow talks about anything and everything at 3am, sharing a laughter after an inside joke, sharing your deepest desires or fears and feeling the warmth of a heart-felt hug.
Life is better together—with your girlfriends.