Frances Ha is a story about friendship. Specifically, it is about female friendship, the closeness, the intimacy, and the break-up of a strong (“best”) female friendship. It is also about growing up/coming of age in your twenties, finding who you are and who you aren’t, and finding one’s way in the world.
I came to this movie on the tails of watching another “coming of age” film, this one set in the precarious teen years, which was also about friendship. Specifically, female friendship, the closeness, the intimacy, and a break-up of a strong (“best”) female friendship. Both films have come to me right as I’m wrestling with my memoir, which is also a coming-of-age story (told in three acts), and about friendship. Specifically a strong (“best friend”) female friendship.
Sometimes we happen on things for a reason. Sometimes they happen to us. Whatever the reason, I’m paying attention and I’m feeling more inspired than I did before watching today’s Monday Movies, Frances Ha, and a movie that will be a future Monday Movies, Edge Of Seventeen.
Frances Ha (2012)
Written by Greta Gerwig and Noah Baumbach
Directed by Noah Baumbach
“It’s that thing when you’re with someone, and you love them and they know it, and they love you and you know it… but it’s a party… and you’re both talking to other people, and you’re laughing and shining… and you look across the room and catch each other’s eyes… but – but not because you’re possessive, or it’s precisely sexual… but because… that is your person in this life. And it’s funny and sad, but only because this life will end, and it’s this secret world that exists right there in public, unnoticed, that no one else knows about. It’s sort of like how they say that other dimensions exist all around us, but we don’t have the ability to perceive them. That’s – That’s what I want out of a relationship. Or just life, I guess.“
The above quote is in reference to her best friend, not a lover, a partner, a spouse, but her best friend. I think society has equated the happy ever after of romantic love as the be-all/end-all. That soul mates are romantic only. That the most valuable relationship in our life is one that ends up in sex and monogamy and matrimony (of some kind). Sure, our familial relationships have merit – parent/child, child/parent, grandparents – but I still think we are brought up to strive for that fairytale love ending (or at least my generation was). But, your soul mate can be your best friend. It can be someone you don’t have sex with or marry or have babies with. Or you know what, you could have babies with your best friend – raise kids together, have a blended family. After all the loss my kids and I have had – especially in the father department – it is really my best friend who has often been there beside me, and who I know is there for them, as well as me – as I am for her, and her kids.
But, we’ve had times apart. Sometimes years. The breaks have been sometimes big in nature, sometimes small. I can’t recall the root of most of them. But, we have always found our way back to each other, just maybe not in that way we once were – much like how Frances and Sophie find their way back to each other, but not back to exactly the intimacy and shared/intertwined lives they had before. Maybe they will get back to it. We don’t see too far into the future. If Sophie is really Frances’ person, and vice versa, I choose to believe they find that closeness again.
This movie reminded me of my own friendships in life, mostly my closest, best friendship that has had its share of ebbs and flows, and of break-ups and getting back together’s. It reminded me that of all the relationships I’ve had, it is that friendship that has lasted the longest, outlasted marriages and first loves and flings and rebounds and all that falls in-between. My best friend knows more about me than anyone on the earth does. And I her. That said, we are different people, we’ve grown apart and come back together, we’ve let things come between us, and I think we’ve taken the weight and importance, and rarity, of our relationship for granted sometimes. At least I know that I have.
Frances Ha reminded me also of feeling lost. Of feeling like everyone else is miles ahead of me, that everyone else has all their shit together, and has savings and a house and takes vacations and remodels their kitchens or bathrooms, and has the big career, and big relationship, that feels aspirational – and so far out of my reach. It’s an enormous imposter syndrome I have – I feel like I’m an imposter adult. But, as I’ve been coming to realize, most, if not all people feel this way. And, there are people who think I have all my shit together, have a great career, have the home and family, and all that comes with it. In some ways they are right, and in some ways, they are very wrong…just like I am both right and wrong about other people.
But on the days I feel like the biggest imposter when I feel like I don’t have any of my shit together, when I feel like I don’t know what I’m doing, and don’t know what to do next, I feel like Frances. I have moments of victory, too. Moments like the sentiment of Frances dancing across town in New York to David Bowie’s “Modern Love” (my favorite moment in the film.
“Modern Love” by David Bowie scene in Frances Ha (2012)
On a different note, I really enjoyed Frances’s time spent living with/being adrift with Lev and Benji. Their dynamics were intoxicating at times, and I enjoyed the banter between Frances and Benji very much – especially the “undateable” bit. I thought the film was going to take us to an ending where Frances and Benji are together, with some kind of neat bow tied onto the story, giving Frances a “happy ending” and leaving her to not feel so alone/behind in what Sophie seems to have.
I am VERY glad that is not how it ended. I’m glad we got to see Frances making her way on her own – small steps, but real ones. Choreographing a show, moving into a tiny apartment that is all hers, finding her way. She isn’t flying off to Paris on a credit card to cope with pain and loss and disappointment. She isn’t coupling up to fill the void that Sophie left, or that living in New York alone can create. I liked seeing Frances Ha (as her mailbox now reads) doing it on her own.
I’ve never been that brave, especially not in my twenties – but I am sitting here applauding it, and cheering Frances on…and loving all her flaws, and her “Modern Love” dance through New York (making me want to see New York EVEN MORE).
Did I mention how good the music is in Frances Ha? SO GOOD. I immediately looked up the soundtrack on Spotify after the credits stopped rolling. I am a sucker for a good movie soundtrack. The film features songs by David Bowie, T-Rex, Paul McCartney, Britta Phillips, Harry Nilsson, Hot Chocolate, and more.
“Everyone’s A Winner” by Hot Chocolate
I’m still here rooting for Frances!