The phrase “follow your dreams” can quickly garner a wave of sighs and eye rolls. The four-syllable slogan has exhausted its life on inspirational posters and Pinterest wallpapers. But Frances Ha takes the phrase and puts a realistic, believable spin on it.
When you look up Frances Ha, the movie synopsis states that Frances (Greta Gerwig) is an “apprentice for a dance company, although she’s not really a dancer, and throws herself headlong into her dreams”. Though short, this perfectly sums up Frances, a 20-something plagued with the inability to find an apartment and a stable job but-has the ambition and the drive to do so. She dances and jumps around New York with ease but when she’s in the comforts of her room, she’s a bubble of contemplative anxiety, about to burst. Relatable, right?
Frances Ha was one of the most emotionally affecting movies I’ve watched in a while. I’ve been a fan of Greta Gerwig since watching Lady Bird, a film that felt real, like the events and the characters exist in our world. One of Gerwig’s many gifts is writing realistic dialogue. As much as I love the quick-witted and self-aware exchanges in films like Jennifer’s Body (2009) and The Royal Tenenbaums (2001), realistic dialogue always leaves me feeling like I experienced something.
“I feel like the kind of writing I like is the kind of writing that one might think is improv”The Off Camera Show With Sam Jones
Not only did I experience the film, but I also related to it immensely. Since I was a child, I’ve floated through different hobbies, trying to find my footing in anything. From gymnastics to dressage, aspiring fashion design major to a lawyer. The possible career choices I dipped my toes in were endless and frankly exhausting. Any time I settled into a hobby, I felt the fears of not being good enough or feeling of a fraudulent looming over me. Hobbies never lasted too long.
Seeing Frances struggle to fit in with the dancers at the studio in which she worked felt all too relatable. Her attempts to be good enough for their standards seemed to mirror how I had felt as a kid, even today.
Frances’ best friend, Sophie (Mickey Sumner) is rising in the ranks. At the beginning of the film, the two are inseparable and could easily fit the description of “two peas in a pod”. But it doesn’t take long for Sophie to move on, leaving Frances to fend for herself, find a new apartment, and ultimately new friends.
Eventually, when Sophie visits Frances in her new apartment, she’s different. The things that she and Frances had once criticized others about – the things they said or the way they spoke – had become Sophie’s reality. Their relationship slowly deteriorates when Sophie becomes engaged to a man Frances finds laughable. Sophie’s marriage ends up pulling Sophie and Frances apart even more. The decay (but eventual rebuilding) of their friendship is something most people can relate to. Losing a friend you once labled Life-Long can be extremely tough.
The problem for Frances is her lack of progression in life. She considers herself less than, saying “I’m so embarrassed I’m not a real person yet”. Her job at the dance studio doesn’t seem to go anywhere, and her roommates are advancing in their careers. Her stagnant place in the world feels overwhelmingly relatable. Seeing those you love progress is great; until it isn’t.
Eventually, Frances gets back on her feet. After returning from a short trip to Paris, she’s offered a paying job at the dance studio and coordinates a dance for performance. In a later sequence, we see Frances sitting at a desk in an empty apartment with boxes, and books stacked around her. She has her own flat, her own job, dreams that can be fulfilled, and her own sense of self. Her independence is now tangible.
This film influenced me in a lot of ways. Seeing Frances’ progression from a naive, broke New Yorker with no destination to a happy, accomplished woman made me feel that my own worries would sort themselves out. All it takes is time. This film inspired me to apply for this website. It inspired me to actually start working towards my goals. It inspired me to truly invest my time in pursuing film but most of all, it inspired me to spend way too much money on a Frances Ha criterion.