The Velvet Café

A room for thoughts about movies

The post where I confess my NYC obsession

with 20 comments

Frances ha

Too much of New York City in your movie diet is probably bad for you. I’m starting to feel the effect of it myself. It messes with my brain.

My addiction has been building up during a long time. It started back in the 80s when I watched my first Woody Allen movies and after that it has just continued, through TV series such as Seinfeld and Friends and Girls  to newer films, like the ones by Noah Baumbach.

Oh, you vaguely middle-class intellectuals in your thirties, in vaguely creative professions, with all your soul searching and dinner conversations in your perfect shabby chic home! How much time haven’t I spent with you? You’re not aware of it, but I know you so well at this point that I almost forget who I am. On some level I have this delusion that if I just made up my mind, New York City is just one flight away. And like you I would have to struggle for a while, but that would be temporary because in the end I would find my path, my creative voice, like you all do, and I would be one of you, and we would take strolls in Central Park and go to cool clubs that aren’t in the tourist guides and… Oh well. Enough of day dreams.

This is somewhat silly, isn’t it? If you’re 46 years old you’re supposed to be past the stage of childish daydreaming.

(Jessica, where is your dignity? Where is your maturity? Please pull yourself together and get real!)


Ok, so that’s my background. I’m a sucker for movies about middleclass people in their thirties in NYC. If I only was allowed to watch movies from one city for the rest of my life, that would be the city of my choice. New York movies. That would be enough to last me a lifetime.

It goes without saying that I really loved Frances Ha. I’ve watched it twice now and it was just as enjoyable the second time. It’s black and white, with a beautiful score, simple and yet stylish, reminding a little of Woody Allen (kinship, not plagiarism).

(And yes, for your record, I speak well of his movies and I’ll keep doing that and I’m not planning to talk about THAT here at any point. I leave that to the courts. I’m not a judge and that’s all I have to say about it).

I suppose you could call Frances Ha a “feel-good movie” or a “finding who you are-movie”, but that sounds terrible, like a standard concept, which it isn’t. Yes, it’s light, but that doesn’t make it mindless. It’s quite funny, but that doesn’t mean it lacks pain and emotional depth. It’s stylish, but not to the extent that the surface takes overhand.

Some movies have a “soul”, if you get what I mean. Others don’t. Frances Ha has it.

And it has New York City. And Greta Gerwig, who is wonderful.

The only thing it lacks is me. (Oh, sorry, that was my delusional side speaking again. My apologies.)

Frances Ha (Noah Baumbach, US 2012) My rating: 4/5

Written by Jessica

February 10, 2014 at 1:00 am

Posted in Frances Ha

20 Responses

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  1. Being a fan of Noah Baumbach, I feel like this film is his crowning achievement as it’s one that is full of delight as well as a unique portrait into the idea of growing pains.


    February 10, 2014 at 2:37 am

    • It’s hard to compare them. This film was really stylish, but The Squid and the Whale is more devastating emotionally, which makes it stay a little longer with me in the long run I think. Love both though!


      February 12, 2014 at 7:30 am

  2. I also really liked Frances Ha and think it captures such an interesting time in life. Even so, I’m with you in connecting with a lot of it (and NYC) despite being 38 and living well away from New York. There’s a lot to like, and Greta Gerwig is so good.

    Dan Heaton

    February 10, 2014 at 5:56 pm

    • She’s lovely! It’s funny how your perspective changes on life as you get older. When I was 15, a person in her age was as good as retired. And nowadays – oh dear. They’re so young and cute and innocent…


      February 12, 2014 at 7:27 am

  3. Great post, Jessica. I’m a sucker for NY-set movies as well, and I’m curious about Frances Ha. Also, totally agree on the Woody Allen thing. I’m the same regarding that topic.


    February 10, 2014 at 7:39 pm

    • Thanks! You really should see this one. I have yet to hear a bad word about it. It’s very likeable.


      February 12, 2014 at 7:25 am

      • I think I saw it in a “Worst” list somewhere but yeah, generally it’s been well-liked.


        February 12, 2014 at 2:25 pm

  4. Hahah, I can relate to this so much. NYC and I have actually been married in our previous lives. I looooved Frances Ha too, and all of the Woody Allen NYC films. One of my first favorite films, the Indian rom-com Kal Ho Naa Ho was actually set in the city too, which might be one explanation for my obsession with it.

    Mette M. K.

    February 10, 2014 at 8:00 pm

    • An Indian rom-com set in NYC? Hmmmm. Might be something to check out, though I’m afraid I haven’t been been overly impressed with most Indian films I’ve seen so far.


      February 12, 2014 at 7:25 am

      • You should give them a chance! Many mainstream Bollywood films are not that accessible to ‘outsiders’ but there are some great gems in Indian indie cinema for example. If you want, I can give you some recommendations.


        February 16, 2014 at 8:23 pm

        • Well the ones I’ve liked have been more western in their style. Like Monsoon Wedding and Bride and Prejudice. My worst experience was Khabi Kushni Khabi Khan, which lasted FOREVER. In any case I’m not exactly going to persue Indian movies, but they have an Indian film weekend in my city every year and if it comes back next year I’ll probably watch some more.


          February 17, 2014 at 9:30 pm

          • Okay not trying to be a freaky Bollywood snob but Monsoon Wedding was a multi-national co-production and Bride and Prejudice was a Canadian film with Indian actors and other people involved. So none of those are actually Bollywood films ;-). But there are similar films being made in India so I think you would like some of those. Kabhi Khushi is not a good movie, some love it for what it means to them but it wasn’t even that big of a success in India. It’s just a representation of a very particular style in Bollywood (and Indian film). Yes, I’ll stop rambling now.
            Just don’t loose hope! Try it!

            Mette M. K.

            February 22, 2014 at 7:18 pm

            • I will keep trying for sure! There’s a yearly event in my city where they show Indian movies for free for a few days. I missed it last year, but if it’s on again this year, I’ll definitely trya few more.


              June 10, 2014 at 9:43 pm

  5. This is pretty much a perfect review for this particular movie. Heartfelt and off the cuff. I love it. Well done.

    And boy, I hope you can still have childish daydreams at 46. I know I plan to.


    February 11, 2014 at 1:35 am

    • Thanks! I felt a little silly after publishing it but you’ve got to be honest as a blogger.


      February 12, 2014 at 7:22 am

  6. […] Several people this week have linked to Jessica’s wonderful reflections on FRANCES HA – reflections that gloriously weave in her love for New York City. Everyone who linked it was right on the money to do so. Allow me to link it once more for good measure. […]

  7. I must admit to having a dreamy penchant for all things New York too. I must go there one day.

    That aside, I really should dust down the copy of Frances Ha that I’ve had for ages and give it a watch. I really liked Baumbach’s previous outings, The Squid and The Whale and Margot at the Wedding. Greenberg was pretty good too where Gerwig stole the show.

    Mark Walker

    February 15, 2014 at 10:33 am

    • You really should go there. I’ve lucky enough to go there twice and I hope I’ll be able to get back there in the future. Just walking around in the city is pure delight. It’s like being in a movie. Really. But watching Frances Ha is definitely a good substitute. Do it!


      February 17, 2014 at 9:32 pm

  8. […] Frances Ha Some movies have a “soul”, if you get what I mean. Others don’t. Frances Ha has it. And it has New York City. And Greta Gerwig, who is wonderful. […]

  9. […] coincidentally, Jessica of The Velvet Cafe wrote about both films recently as well – her piece on Frances Ha delightfully trips along Jessica’s own love of cinematic New York City, while her review of […]

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