My friend Dean asked his daughters to comment on Frances Ha and the questions I raised. Here’s what they say:
Jill: It’s fairly accurate (the movie not the post). Our generation (particularly in my experience) is somewhat adrift and pretty unapologetic about it for a few reasons, such as lack of opportunities in areas of interest (http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=M4IjTUxZORE) which only gets worse when consciousness is involved. Particularly being educated in a liberal arts environment (such as Vassar) it’s not unusual to not want to be a part of the world that you know is making life more difficult for everyone; this can look like apathy but is really more like hopelessness, which isn’t happy or anything but just is a symptom of the world. Francis Ha is not a movie about being happy, it is about trying to get unstuck, as a part of the society that is stuck trying not to be stuck. If a million buzzfeed articles about “20 somethings” and how many shares they get are to be believed, this problem is widespread. This makes everything seem grim, but it isn’t really. We are a generation that has very little reason to have faith in society but we have nothing else to base our lives on (except ourselves, which we do). This is intensified in a place like New York, where money is always tight particularly if you are not working for a large firm (which for the aforementioned lack of faith in society/government/business/etc. you don’t want to). It’s really nothing new it’s just our turn to try and fail not to mess it up and sometimes that looks like Francis Ha. As I said when we saw it, I know those parties (though the ones I’ve attended are a little wilder, because college) and I know those apartments. It is accurate to New York and Brooklyn at this time. Francis is supposed to be extra immature because she hadn’t given up on her dream yet. She is a caricature, but a fairly accurate one, of someone trying to figure her life out and though she is in the form of a millennial, her story isn’t new and isn’t anything startling. No offense to Mr. Stafford, but I might mark his objections as, at least in part, based in his age (not the film).
That sounds like a fair response, and I confess to my age.
Here’s Paige: I’m a 20-something (21 if we want to get specific) and I liked Francis Ha. For those who haven’t watched it, I’ll try to avoid spoilers, but make no promises. I’m still in college so I haven’t had to figure out post college life yet, and I’d like to think I have my plans figured out a little more than the film’s characters, but I don’t think it can be dismissed so easily. Although you’re right that most of the character’s relationships are shallow, they’re not left there. Francis and her friends are attempting to find some sort of depth, and after multiple romantic relationships don’t work out or almost work out (or even are left maybe working out), Francis finally finds a friendship that fulfills the kind of connection she has been looking for. She finds out that she has to give up one dream that she isn’t as good at as she would like to be, but instead finds something that she actually might be gifted at. Although no one would really argue the film has a linear plot, Francis’s problems and awkward attempts to figure herself out build to da point where she is able to start grow up. I wouldn’t argue that most of the relationships in the film aren’t awkward or immature, but that makes it even more important when Francis is able to grow out of it and start to find the beginnings of an adult life, to learn how to see herself a little more seriously, to look at her past mistakes as the past. So, yeah, it’s about shallow relationships, but I don’t think it’s fair to say it ends there.
Paige is right that “Frances Ha” ends with some hints of Frances’ redemption. The message seems to be: you might get lucky and see it all work out okay. Which is not the worst message in film today.
So what bothered me about “Frances Ha?” I think it was the absence of anybody who has a clue or genuinely cares about anybody else. I hope no society is quite that bleak.
Nevertheless, Paige and Jill’s answers made me ponder what kind of movies summed up my generation’s youth. “The Graduate” and “Easy Rider” were the shocking emblems of my time, which I (and a lot of other people) viscerally identified with. So…. aimless sex, apathy, spontaneous relationships, drugs, violence and paranoia… maybe it’s just tough being young.
I recommend Frances Ha as a great conversation starter. I’d say, watch it with your young adults.