Look, Gerwig is not my favorite actress, OK? Her quirky lines and chirpy delivery are the exact opposite of adorable in my humble opinion. That’s not to say she hasn’t been used to good effect in certain roles — she was decent as the love interest in “Greenberg” and as the object of Russell Brand’s affection in “Arthur” — but when she is given the lead in movies that purport to be every bit as quirky and spunky as she is, the resulting films are borderline insufferable.
Not that Gerwig’s latest, “Frances Ha,” would be any less irritating without the participation of Gerwig (although it’s hard to imagine the movie coming to fruition without her anyway, considering she co-wrote the screenplay). The movie embodies everything I can’t stand about independent filmmaking: the script tries really hard to convince you that it’s hip, all of the characters speak in that pseudo-realistic manner you only hear in the movies, and it was even filmed in black-and-white, something Woody Allen considered hip 34 years ago when he used it in “Manhattan.”
“Frances Ha” is the latest from Noah Baumbach, the equally quirky director who made “The Squid and the Whale” and worked with Gerwig in “Greenberg.” His style used to be similar (in deadpan tone, anyway) to the films of Wes Anderson (it probably didn’t help that Baumbach co-wrote a couple of features with Anderson before branching off on his own). Ordinarily, I enjoy me some Baumbach, but here, it seems as if he and Gerwig are trying sooo hard to satisfy their token IFC fanbase that they forgot to include the rest of us. “Frances Ha” is easily Baumbach’s most aggravatingly hipsterish feature yet.
The story this time involves a 27-year-old drifter/free spirit named Frances (Gerwig) bouncing between friends while trying to figure out what to do with her life. Early in the film, she breaks up with her boyfriend, she loses her BFF to love and is forced out of her dance company apprenticeship. The rest of the movie sends her on a quest to piecing it all together again, complete with spunky supporting characters and dialogue that does not ring true.
If you want to see this sort of thing played out much better, check out TV’s “Girls” with Lena Dunham. As for “Frances Ha,” you better get used to the idea that lines like “I love you Sophie, even though you love your phone that has e-mail more” is about as deep and amusing as it gets.
★½ out of ★★★★
Rated R for sexual references and strong language. 86 minutes, 2013.
Director: Noah Baumbach. Starring: Greta Gerwig, Mickey Sumner.
Read all of Jesse Hoheisel’s reviews at AFistfulofPopcorn.com.