frances-ha1[xrr rating=3.75/5]The comparisons between “Girls” and Frances Ha, Noah Baumbach’s latest film, will be inevitable. Both are about listless millennials wandering New York, ambitions set low, social skills non-existent. Hell, the two even share a cast member. But while Lena Dunham’s characters can be difficult to like, Greta Gerwig’s capricious title character is actually charming in her utter bewilderment.

In his prior film, Greenberg, Baumbach focused on a damaged, but ultimately likable loser who had just gotten out of a mental institute. This time around, Gerwig plays a fickle loser who really has no job (but aspires to be a dancer), has no permanent place to live and has no best friend (despite believing otherwise). Over the course of the film, Frances moves from apartment to apartment, even retreating back to Vassar College to be a dorm RA.

While Gerwig helped temper Ben Stiller’s neurotic Greenberg, she is the whole show this time around. Given co-screenwriting credits, Gerwig embodies Frances as she haplessly navigates her way through the scary traverses of adulthood. Similar to Woody Allen’s schlubby schmendricks and sad-sacks from his ‘70s and ‘80s films, Gerwig plays Frances as lovingly perplexed, always one step behind the curve. And while carefree and quirky, her fierce self-centeredness ruins a relationship with best friend Sophie (Mickey Summer), who begins to distance herself from Frances.

A recent Time cover story dubbed our current crop of twentysomethings the “Me Me Me Generation,” going as far as to describe them as “lazy, entitled narcissists.” That “voice of a generation” line may dangle from Dunham’s lips, but Gerwig looked poised to grab the millennial It Girl crown long before Tiny Furniture introduced us to the competition. At one point, Gerwig says, “I’m not even a real person.” Does this slogan trump Dunham’s own disaffected claim?

Yet, Baumbach isn’t really here to make a statement about the desolate nature of our country’s youth. Instead, he folds that ennui into a nouveau nouvelle vague film that dabbles in Godard territory with its crisp black and white and characters that break out into dance on city streets. The similarities to “Girls” may make Frances Ha seem like a tired retread, but its picaresque heroine is a paean to the free and easy lifestyle of the ‘60s. She even goes to Paris at one point, only to spend an entire day (the duration of her trip) in a jet-lagged coma rather than dashing mad through the Louvre.

Baumbach and Gerwig only strike out in Frances Ha’s final frames. Rather than go the European route and leave Frances stranded, staring down the middle distance of existential dread, the script cobbles together a pat, self-satisfied happy ending for its heroine. With just the right amount of luck, Frances is able to find the success that had been eluding her for the duration of the film. It’s forced, phony and betrays everything that has come before.

So Frances is the girl on “Girls” who finally gets her shit together, tells Hannah to “fuck off” and convinces Marnie that the grass is greener in the land of employment. Frances tells Hannah she can be the voice of a generation, or something. That being a real person is where it’s at. That’s the safe thing to do, but not necessarily the right one.

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