After immensely enjoying Frances Ha, I’m convinced that the HBO show Girls is but a pallid imitation of this movingly funny indie dramatic comedy. Twenty-something Frances shows us that life is an unfinished work in progress, whether you are in your 20s or your 40s. Noah Baumbach directs a stellar cast, ironically including Adam Driver, who plays Lena Dunham’s douchebaggian on-again-off-again boyfriend in Girls. So far Driver has made a career of playing rootless, hipster males. But his character Lev in Frances is delightfully complex. As Lev, Driver never succumbs to the nihilism embodied in Girls’ self-loathing sociopath Adam. Frances is ever optimistic about her future, but she hasn’t yet found her niche. As an apprentice in a modern dance company who apartment hops every few weeks or so, on the surface Frances is barely scraping by. Through all of her trials, however, she remains kind, bubbly, and faithful.
Frances’ best friend from college is Sophie, who serves as her foil. Sophie has a secure position at Random House. Seemingly more self-possessed than her free-spirited counterpart, she is practically engaged to a waspy yuppie named Patch. When Patch gets transferred to Japan, Sophie leaves her best friend behind in New York. Frances herself embarks on an impulsive journey of self-discovery in which she makes an ass out of herself—repeatedly. Nevertheless, she does so without whining self-pity, which is more than you can say about the petulant mean children on Girls. You find yourself happily rooting for Frances’ success rather than cringing at her social mishaps and drunken confessionals.
When I was around the same age as Frances, I survived an especially rough patch from which I emerged relatively unscathed. My life was about to get a lot messier before it got better, but I made it through the worst, just like Frances. One is left with the sense that she has endured a trying time in her young life with graceful style. Not the last, for sure, but one of the many that we all gladly suffer as evolving human beings. Frances Ha will make you happy to be alive. Streaming now on Netflix.