Frances Ha

There's two ways of looking at the journey of Frances Ha: on the one hand, it's a story about a woman needs to mature and stop making dumb decisions all the time. On the other hand, it could be a story about a person who is doing fine but just needs to get the hell out of New York City.

During my initial viewing I was focusing on that first story: Frances Halladay is straight out of college, trying to make a go of it in the city that never sleeps, but she's struggling to pay her rent, she struggles to maintain her friendships, she just struggles in general. She definitely makes mistakes - if she's going to fulfill her dream of being a professional dancer than she needs to work much harder. But when I was rewatching this movie I paid more attention to the way that its structured, with each chapter being identified by the address where she's living during that time period. As I was thinking about the geography of the movie, it occurred to me that a lot of her mistakes would be less problematic if she just made them in a city that was more liveable.

As a person who moved to Portland Oregon straight out of college, I'm naturally predisposed to be sympathetic to young Frances, because like her (and most of this city) I have vague aspirations to do something creative, but I'm a little hesitant and self sabotaging about going after that goal. But the difference between Frances and I is that I live in a city where that lifestyle is a lot more feasible than New York, where rents are notoriously high. Frances is such an emotional klutz that she might not be able to maintain all her friendships no matter where she is, but regardless, it would probably be less of a high wire act to keep on people's good sides if she lived in a place that was less of a pressure cooker. I doubt she'd be any more likely to become a professional dancer here than she was in the big apple, but she could probably hold onto that dream a lot longer here.

Of course, longer is not the same as forever. I know from personal experience. Lately I've come to a crossroads in terms of my professional life. My job status for the last few years has been what the locals call "Portland employed" - I have a full time job, but I'm underemployed in my position, with the tacit understanding that if they don't ask too much of me they won't have to pay me too much. My deal is basically this: I earn enough to have a bit of walking around money, I don't have a ton of stress, and when I'm not at work I have as much free time for my hobbies as it's possible to have. And that worked great for awhile, but now I'm starting to compare myself to my employed-employed friends, who are advancing in the world, and I'm re-evaluating how much stress I'm willing to have in my life if it means having more money. It has taken my ten years to grow self conscious about my level of success and push myself to maybe take on more responsibility, but still, it's happening, so maybe it's inevitable that Frances is going to have to learn those lessons one way or another...

On some level the two options I've laid out in front of her are the same thing, since deciding to get out of New York City because it's not a good fit for her desires is the mature choice to make. The Frances that begins this movie has literally no idea what she wants, so she would have to evolve her decision making skills a little to be able to make a judgment call like that, so even in my hypothetical plan to keep her from growing up longer there's an inherent amount of maturation. But there's some part of me that doesn't want to see her get pushed into growing up farther than she wants to faster than she wants to, and in my second viewing I got more of a sense of how that was possible - she could have taken a path that was closer to my path. Maybe the third time I watch this I'll somehow figure out a way that she could have been Peter Pan forever; that would be sweet, because I'm looking for that answer, too.

Winner: Me

Frances Ha on IMDB