Directed by Noah Baumbach
It's hard to separate Baumbach's funny and precisely drawn new film from his very first feature, the deservedly cult-favorited Kicking and Screaming (since apotheosized with a Criterion disc). For one thing, they're both movies in which friendships are as central and lovingly depicted as any prospect of romance. But also, in Kicking and Screaming's college grads who stick around, and in Greta Gerwig's 27-year-old "Frances undateable" (as her roommate calls her), they're also about staying too long in one spot—or growing into the realization that you've been doing so. Call them comedies of outgrowth: the Kicking and Screaming guys who realize that sticking around campus after graduation is like doing Hollywood Squares; and Frances, of whom her mother asks of a too-long bath during a home visit: "How much longer, Frances?"
Frances toils at a dance company, where it becomes apparent she will not be asked to join as a dancer (though her potential as a choreographer is recognized). Her biggest crisis though is the end of her marriage—or rather her friendship with Sophie (Mickey Sumner). This being New York, the breakup, or the warning thereof, comes with Sophie's abruptly moving in with another friend and getting engaged to her "douchey" boyfriend right after Frances has demurred moving in with her own ineffectual boyfriend to stay with Sophie. Frances falls into living with two rich hipsters and slowly comes to a painful self-understanding that she might be better off not continuing to just fall into things.
Shooting in black and white, and cowriting with Gerwig, Baumbach achieves his best sort of cultural portraiture, with quotably apt lines that capture whole characters and social habits in semisatiricial miniature. Gerwig gives Frances an apologetic physical presence as she gropes her way emotionally through the predicaments she has been loathe to abandon. Gerwig and Baumbach's collaboration, unofficially begun with Greenberg, looks set to continue, and if the same standard obtains, it's not something we'll want to outgrow.
Opens May 17