After a career spent on the mainstream fringes of indie, Noah Baumbach goes fully lo-fi with this mumblecore Manhattan, a monochrome glimpse at the joyless lives of 20somethings, as more brutally/amusingly explored in Girls.
Aspiring ballet dancer Frances (co-writer Greta Gerwig) lives with and likes best friend Sophie (Mickey Sumner), even refusing to go in with a boyfriend to keep their play-fighting and smoking-in-stereo vacant.
Alas well-off Sophie’s not quite so devoted, and when a room in high-priced Tribeca comes up, she’s off, leaving Frances to drift around New York, then to Paris, then to her parents’ in California and back to their alma mater, in search of inspiration (and a way to pay her credit-card bill).
If you detest Lena Dunham’s Hannah Horvath, it’s unlikely you’ll warm to Frances – Baumbach and Gerwig seem disdainful of her directionlessness, too, all told.
Some long takes are more stilted than realistic, and the cutesy score amps up the whimsy, but Gerwig (Baumbach’s girlfriend) has a gorgeousness that’s only enhanced by Sam Levy’s crisp black-and-white picture making.
What’s most refreshing is that this is an unashamed ‘womance’ where men are catalysts and obstacles, not knights in bright armour. It’s perhaps what the invigorating use of Bowie’s ‘Modern Like’ on the soundtrack alludes to – a broke best-friendship is the most shattering break-up imaginable.