Frances is a dancer, a dancer and a choreographer, six or seven years out of the Vassar College dance department, living in New York and trying to make it in the modern dance scene. She’s an apprentice with a modern dance company, and both she and the company are strapped for cash. But she doesn’t even want to think about giving up her dream.
Frances shares her dreams with her roommate, a brainy classmate who’s trying to make it on the literary scene. Together they are going to sweep the world off its feet, they’ll have an apartment in Paris, they’ll collect lovers and dozens of honorary degrees. But when roommate Sophie finds a rich new boyfriend, her life changes and she moves out, leaving Frances alone in an apartment she can’t afford. Frances moves in with a couple of guys, promising to raise her share of the rent once the company starts its Christmas show. But then she gets cut from the Christmas show. Thus begins her painful slide through increasing layers of desperation, toward realizing who she really is.
Who she really is is a beautiful, compassionate, deeply intelligent and funny person who really does have a talent for choreography, but who isn’t going to be famous or rich in this world. Frances coming to terms with this world is the simple plot of this complex character study.
Noah Baumbach is the director and Greta Gerwig is his co-writer, muse and star in this deceptively modest black-and-white flick. It’s a sometimes harrowing look at upper-middle-class college graduates looking for work, love, sex, home, and artistic fulfillment in New York. Most of the dance scenes are shot at a real Manhattan studio, with a narrow hallway strewn with the stretching bodies of twenty-something dance hopefuls. The company director is played by a real dancer, Charlotte D’Amboise, who has the look of someone toughened by years of showbiz, but who retains an eye and a heart for a person of real quality like Frances.
I won’t spoil the ending with a description, but let’s just say Frances is finding her little niche in New York. Frances Ha is not her full name, but it’s partway there.