Frances Ha

Did you see this movie? I missed it somehow, and so we rented it on Saturday. The beginning scene is two twenty-something women talking in this slightly stilted, artsy way (or maybe it just seemed artsy because the movie is filmed in black and white) about their futures together. They're best friends, not lovers, but they are extremely close. That first scene is needed to set up the rest of the film, which is somewhat about the friends going in different directions (one appears to be jumping on the career/marriage track and the other is still finding her way), but it's mostly about Frances, a 27 year old dancer's apprentice trying to make it in New York.

It took me a while to warm up to the movie, and it took Dan about 30 minutes to dismiss it completely to go work on a logo in the kitchen, but I kept watching, and it never became what most movies about women turn into--this search for heterosexual love. In fact, there was pretty much no sex in the whole film, because, surprisingly, the focus was on Frances' self-actualization---her getting let go from her job, and taking up too much conversational space at a snotty dinner party, and having to go back to her undergrad as a residence adviser for the summer, and moving from a series of shared apartments in the city. All the while, she keeps making mistakes, saying the wrong things, taking foolish trips to Paris and missing every connection. But in the end, she takes the crappy secretarial job and gets to have this fairy tale moment where everyone comes to the show she choreographed, and then, the last scene is her putting her name on the mailbox of her own place.

It reminded me of living in Chicago and how I spent two years with bad roommates (and being a bad roommate) and then finally found a cheap apartment on Hazel Street, on the North-ish side of the city near the Sheridan el stop.

At 27, I thought I was old. There's a scene in the movie too where she tells someone her age and the other person goes, "Oh, you look much older than you." But when you're 27, everyone else seems both so much younger (all those college days seem far away and the kids going to the Art Institute appear clueless) or so much older and together than you (your friends who are getting married and moving to the burbs and registering at Crate and Barrel). So, you can feel stuck and end up making out with lots of bartenders.

I lived in Chicago for five years and had a semi-serious boyfriend for two of those years, but was mostly single and thinking about how my ship had sailed--how I was just going to get older and older and pile on the cats and the bad relationships. And that kind of did happen, because when I lived in State College for six years, I never had a serious boyfriend. FOR SIX YEARS.  I mean, I had six month relationships and three month relationships with lumberjacks and then one on-going fake love affair with a flaky poet, but none of it was real--none of it was the day to day stuff of living with someone, and I wanted that so much, because that's what you're supposed to want. Or maybe it's just that it's okay to be unhappy, as long as you're unhappy with someone else. Not alone. Much worse to be seen as unhappy and alone.