Frances Halladay (Greta Gerwig), a 27-year-old, unsuccessful dancer living in Brooklyn, isn’t likeable in a typical sense.
She isn’t confident or elegant or refined. In fact, she’s pretty socially awkward and clumsy.
But Frances’s character makes Noah Baumbach’s film “Frances Ha” endearing.
The majority of the film is Frances fumbling about, as she tries to sort out her life.
After insisting on paying for her date’s dinner, only to learn her card has been declined, Frances says, “I’m so embarrassed. I’m not a real person yet.”
Or similarly, when a guy puts a hand on her shoulder and she shrugs it off along with uttering a strange alarm-like sound, Frances emerges as a likeable awkward character.
But Frances’s main issues include paying rent and advancing her unimpressive dancing career.
And throughout, Frances’s best friend Sophie (Mickey Sumner) plays a major role.
Early on in the film, Sophie finds a better apartment and moves out of Frances’s place, which in turn leads to their friendship’s gradual demise.
And in the latter half of the film, their friendship reaches a breaking point when Sophie moves to Japan with her new fiance.
But before their friendship goes south, a likeable awkwardness is also apparent in Frances’s relationship with her best friend.
While overly clingy at times, the two are adorable. And when people bring Sophie up, Frances is quick to interject, “We’re basically the same person.”
Some unnamed character aptly describes their relationship as “a lesbian couple that doesn’t sleep together.”
Luckily, with the added quirks and realistic fights between the two, Baumbach avoids crafting an overly cloying “best friends for life” story; instead, it’s delightful.
And visually, “Frances Ha” is also charming.
Baumbach obviously tries to emulate Woody Allen’s “Manhattan” aesthetic by digitally filming entirely in black-and-white.
And while there’s not much emphasis on the city’s monolithic architecture or sprawling cityscapes, I found “Frances Ha’s” cinematography to be one of its most endearing qualities.
Cinematographer Sam Levy and Baumbach’s choice of black and white made an already quaint and quirky film even more charming – they exploit the human urge to romanticize the past.
On top of the aesthetic and Frances’s personality, there are a lot of smaller, lovely characters that make “Francis Ha” a charm fest.
After Frances moves in with acquaintances Lev (Adam Driver) and Benji (Michael Zegen), the three become like siblings.
Over takeout and a movie, Benji will half-jokingly quip that Frances is “undateable,” or the two will muse about their problems over bagels.
And that’s what makes “Frances Ha” a good movie. It’s incredibly likeable and uplifting in a sort of off-kilter way.