pless. ndfull. sn’t a clue.
Any of the above could be added to the enigmatic title of Noah Baumbach’s latest to describe its titular heroine: a scatty New York singleton beset on all sides by financial, professional and romantic disappointments as she comes to the point in a young person’s life when twenty-something rootlessness should really be giving way to something more focused and substantial.
So far, so Girls.
Yet Baumbach’s follow-up to 2010’s Greenberg – again starring Greta Gerwig, the poster girl for mumblecore cool – has loftier ambitions than that.
It’s in black and white for one thing, a stylistic choice that links the film not only to Manhattan but also to the youthful spirit of the French New Wave.
Intertitles stating each of Frances’ new addresses, meanwhile, serve as de facto chapter headings, lending a novelistic feel to a film that might have seemed slightly shapeless without them.
Not that story is in any way crucial. Would-be dancer Frances is a creature of impulse who, having been deserted by long-time roommate Sophie (Mickey Sumner, daughter of Sting), flutters from one flat-share to another in the hope that one will suit.
Lodging with a couple of artists one moment, returning to her parents the next, she’s never far from an awkward situation or a social faux pas. (Check out her fruitless attempts to find a cashpoint so she pay for a penniless beau’s dinner.)
Though Frances seems to invite more misfortune than Mr Bean , Gerwig’s relatable, unshowy performance always gives us something to root for, even when we’re slapping our foreheads.
Like her character, Gerwig seems to be at a transitional stage herself; there will surely come a time when she’ll be too big for the kind of lo-fi indies that made her name.
Yet if Frances proves to be a swansong of sorts, she could hardly go out on a Ha -ppier note.