Filminism is a bi-weekly column dedicated to representations of women in cinema. It runs every other Friday.
Ugh, “Frances Ha.”
That’s not an “ugh” of derision or exasperation, but a sympathetic groan recalled from the corner of my memory where old friendships have gone to die. If there were a cutesy portmanteau for the deep platonic love between women — and thank God there isn’t — every review of “Frances Ha” would have it in the headline.
Although the plot of the movie is about Frances trying to figure out how not to be a screw-up, its backbone is the crushing break-up between Frances (co-writer Greta Gerwig) and her best friend Sophie (Mickey Sumner). One of the best scenes is their play-fighting in the park, something Frances tries to recreate later with another young woman to no avail. Their weird but awesome vibe is almost prepubescent in its intensity, or like house pets who cuddle and groom each other. But then Sophie commits the ultimate betrayal: She grows up. It’s like aliens replaced Frances’ best friend with some broad who’s dating a preppy financial dude and they start shopping at Pottery Barn or wherever it is that real adults buy plate-ware.
I don’t have to tell you that growing up can suck. Sometimes. I mean, driving is cool, and so is having whatever you want for dinner, but you’ve also got to do things like figure out why the toilet starts flushing itself in the middle of the night or how to find a stud in a wall. Frances has, in some ways, purposefully sabotaged herself from growing up. She’s sort of interested in becoming “a real person” but she can’t figure out how, and instead she keeps falling deeper and deeper into this rabbit hole of feeling like a loser. Honestly, you can’t fault Sophie for wanting things in her life like a good job and a serious boyfriend and a nice place to live. And yet, you can’t quite free yourself from the nagging desire to shake Frances by the shoulders.
I wrote this. “Frances Ha” gave me all sorts of heart-tugging, face-slapping, street-dancing emotions.