FRANCES HA follows an aimless 20-something woman in New York City as she attempts to figure out her life. And if that sounds like a cliché, the execution certainly isn’t. Co-written by director Noah Baumbach and lead actress Greta Gerwig, the film toes a careful line between bleak and lighthearted, balancing a character who makes plenty of mistakes but has her heart in the right place. Enjoyment of the film is going to be pretty dependent on whether the viewer likes Frances or not, but for me, Gerwig has the charm and sincerity to pull it off from the start. And Baumbach’s direction keeps the black and white filming as playful as its subject. A favorite moment has to be Frances embarking on the most disappointing Paris trip in film history. But what stays with me more than anything are the explorations of themes severely lacking in cinema: the idea that creative ambition doesn’t have to end in wild success or miserable failure; and the elevation of friendship to the status usually reserved for romance. More of that, please.
If you want to see my reaction as a comic, check out my cameo on Jordan Jeffries’ blog, where he’s chronicling everything he sees in theaters.
I was pretty excited when I went to see this French coming of age film, since there are few quality lesbian films in the world, and hardly any that I would consider Criterion caliber. Unfortunately, I found BLUE IS THE WARMEST COLOR to be a disappointment. The script seemed to confuse meaningful looks and beautiful close-ups with actual character development; I felt like I sat through the entire three-hour epic without learning anything substantial about either protagonist, other than the fact of their being in love. (This is through no fault of the wonderful actors.) The motifs I found interesting—self discovery, the minefield of high school opinion, the clash of differing backgrounds and professional goals, the insufferable side of the art world—were usually dropped without deeper exploration or even resolution. And what was left felt more like a romanticized fantasy than an actual comment on relationships. Despite my flippant drawing below, one thing I actually quite enjoyed was the controversial and very explicit portrayal of sex. Regardless of its accuracy, it was nice to see lesbian sex shown as rough and passionate, not just gentle and fluffy all the time.
Hey, it’s Saturday, so I thought I’d celebrate the weekend (not to mention Pride Weekend here in NYC) with the film WEEKEND. Appropriate, no?
I was blown away when I first saw Andrew Haigh’s moving, poignant romance WEEKEND, and naturally enthusiastic when Criterion decided to release it. Taking place between a Friday night and a Sunday evening, the film follows Russell and Glen, whose one-night stand turns into a beautiful two-day affair where they discuss their aspirations, their relationships and family, and their experiences as gay men. Their conversations resonate with me deeply, in a way that few contemporary queer films do. I love how their characters straddle either side of the imagined “too out” or “not out enough” fence. And I particularly enjoy the cheekiness when Glen questions why straight people will see films about murder and rape, then claim that they can’t relate to a gay storyline. The acting from Tom Cullen and Chris New is natural and wonderful, and the filming is so intimate it feels voyeuristic. I can’t recommend it enough, even if you’re not very interested in romance (which I’m not), or not very interested in queer cinema (which I am).
Newcomer at the time Lena Dunham essentially plays herself in her film TINY FURNITURE, a failure-at-coming-of-age story about the nebulous limbo between college and Real Life. The character she plays, Aura, has just returned home and should probably start making something of herself. Instead, she neglects her menial job, chases after douchebag boys, and tries her hardest to crawl back into the womb. The movie is filled with painful and funny vignettes, and it has a dry confessional style that comes off as honest, not contrived. But although I laughed, I tend to have a difficult time with unlikable protagonists. Here I found hardly anything relatable about Aura’s particular brand of entitled self-pity. So this might not be my genre, but I’m still looking forward to watching GIRLS, Dunham’s well-hyped HBO series, to see what else she has to say.