Recently the walls on the aisles down London Underground station are fully pasted the posters featured by four young women in their prairie dresses. They’re Little Women. This time the director, Greta Gerwig, seems to receive a greater amount of recognition than two winters ago she released her solo directorial debut, Lady Bird.
What lays beneath Greta’s talent in storytelling through directing is, in fact, her former experience in acting. In her 2012 American black and white comedy-drama film, Frances Ha, Greta plays and tells her audiences, in particular young people who feel so lost as if they almost recreate a modern version of ‘Lost Generation’, that some issues in life are only solvable by they themselves.
Frances Ha, a 27-year-old dancing apprentice, doesn’t have remarkable dreams but living eternally in Brooklyn with her best friend, Sophie. And although becoming a professional dancer is a task to be ticked on her list, her living style doesn’t seem to be a sign to get it materialised. When her beloved, Sophie, chooses another dream place to live, Tribeca, over theirs, which cruelly means ‘her‘, the real facets of Frances’ problematic life sprawl ahead of her.
Between ‘Wandering’ and ‘Positioning’
Sophie leaves, Frances leaves. The apartment left behind by Sophie turns unaffordable for Frances, which starts the first chapter of the heroine’s wandering. However, the sense of ‘wandering’ in Frances Ha is paired with that of ‘positioning’. Frances Ha is paved with a series of addresses, which, seems an arbitrary arrangement at the first sight, but perhaps a sign of message on the second thought. By doing this, the director, Noah Baumbach, gives an explicit stamp of where everything truly happens. An account of a concrete existence. When she moves in with Lev and Benji at Chinatown, for example, the screen reads: 22 Catherine St Chinatown, NY 10038. When she has to return to her alma mater to earn extra money, the scene is positioned as: PO Box 59968 Poughkeepsie, NY 12601-9968.
What’s encoded in the coexistence of ‘positioning’ and ‘wandering’, I guess, is the deepness in Frances’ weirdly charming personality. You won’t hate her when none of her credit cards works in the restaurant, and that she has to say ‘I’m not a real person yet’. You can’t be mad at her innocence when she looks like an alien falsely landing on Big Apple, never lives comfortably but content with the jokes dotting over the chaotic and tiresome surface of life. Frances is far from a supposedly mature adult, but she smiles brightly as Californian sunlight that melts people’s hearts. She walks on the pavement, but jumps when crossing the road, and already dances when hitting the other corner. She has an in-built talent for something similar to what’s known as ‘street knowledge’. So there seem to be, whenever she needs, an ‘actual’ place to accommodate her.
Growing Up: a Lesson of ‘Sometimes It’s Good to Do What You’re Supposed to Do When You’re Supposed to Do It’
Greta sees Frances as a ‘clown’. As she explains in the interview with Sarah Polley, Frances’ gestures are peculiar, always committing and abruptly pulling back. Or when it’s already too late to pull back, she’d put the imperfectly unreasonable finishing touches to everything. Some of Frances’ life choices, as it turns out, are like those wrongly arranged finishing touches. While Sophie takes the way there’s on which a stable job and marriage, Frances takes the other. Frances finds some other companions when she’s, as we audiences can all see, supposed to be independent. Frances goes on the trip to Paris just because some friends do so, and all she gets are two days spent uneventful.
However, these seemingly wrong choices are simply part of her long journey unfinished. As Greta reveals, Frances has always had the access to what she eventually earns. She has long offered, for example, an office job relevant to dancing industry. She just doesn’t know how to put things together at the unexpected points of time. Frances, as everyone of us does, has her own ‘time zone‘.
At the ending where her time zone conditions to another state, where she can finally afford her own apartment, she makes herself equal to what she used to say: ‘sometimes it’s good to do what your’re supposed to do when you’re supposed to do it’. When no longer ‘what she’s supposed to do’ is postponed, she smiles the way different from the time she leans against Sophie’s shoulder, recalls and daydreams.
Some times in your life, only you yourself can be your saint.