by Tanuj Solanki
WOMAN: Frances Ha, you know, is the kind of movie that, if you’re in your late twenties, you know, you’re going to identify with at least some part of it, and then you’re going to feel bad. Even if you’re generally doing good in life. It will needle you, this movie. However awesome you may be. Frances’ troubles are so…are so…universal.
MAN: I read what the New Yorker said about it. It said that Frances Ha is almost like the first part of a larger story. This is the reviewer I really like. Richard Brody. I guess I told you about him. Anyway. So according to Mr. Brody, the idea that Frances will ultimately be successful — or non-unhappy — is a strain that runs throughout the movie, and gives it its lightness. Its easy self-deprecatingness. The story of her success is the absent second part, the part which, if you think of it, we are only given a sort-of trailer of, with Frances’ choreography thing going all well near the end, her career inflecting upwards, et cetera. I think he is right, Mr. Brody. You feel for Frances, but you also know that after all the mayhem she’ll be fine. In the same way that you feel for yourself — talking about anyone in their late twenties here — you feel for yourself, you feel your own misery, loneliness, directionlessness, but you always think that you are going to be fine. Right?
WOMAN: I liked the part when she goes into this monologue about what she wants in a relationship.
MAN: What does she say again? I cannot recall this.
WOMAN: She says something about looking at a person, a hypothetical lover or whatever, from a distance, you know, in a party-like setting. As in a non-sexual look. As in she talks about the look being non-sexual. She looking from a distance and feeling the connection, you know. Basically the knowledge that the connection exists without the need to touch, brag about, et cetera. Frances — you don’t remember? — Frances says that’s what she looks for in a relationship.
MAN: Oh that’s after the dinner party where she has basically talked too much, right? Where she says something like, ‘What I do is complicated because I don’t really do it.’ Right?
WOMAN: Yeah and she says ‘That’s what I want in a relationship. Or life, I guess.’
MAN: Yeah I remember now.
WOMAN: You’d seen this movie earlier, right?
MAN: Yes I had.
WOMAN: You didn’t get bored this time? It’s good, I know. But still.
MAN: No I didn’t get bored. It was better than the first time.
WOMAN: Frances’ problem is that her best relationship is with her best friend Sophie. And friendship is not a household and cannot be. Frances can’t spend her life with Sophie, and that’s the tragedy. What do you think?
MAN: Oh but now I get it! You know the look that Frances and Sophie share towards the end of the movie, after Frances’ choreography thing goes well. That’s the look, right? That’s the look she was talking about in the party.
MAN: You were talking about an exchange of looks with the hypothetical lover, right? That is the look that she shared with Sophie eventually.
WOMAN: Oh yeah — I didn’t notice that. Just passed me by.
MAN: You know that’s why I like watching good movies more than once. I notice the finer points better.
WOMAN: I thought you were going to say something romantic, like ‘I watched it a second time because I wanted to watch it with you.’
MAN: Which is true. I wanted to watch it with you.
WOMAN: Why did you want to watch it with me?
MAN: Because I thought of you when I saw it the first time. And I wanted to know what you’d make of it.
WOMAN: Hmm. Frances Ha makes you think of me?
WOMAN: Frances Ha, a twenty seven year old New York girl, a twenty seven year old New York girl who actually looks like she is thirty three, who is jobless and largely aimless, a wishful thinker…she made you think of me?
MAN: You’re being too harsh on her. She is lovely. And she is not a wishful thinker. She has — and the New Yorker agrees — strength of character.
WOMAN: Fuck the New Yorker.
Frances Ha is a 2013 American comedy-drama film directed by Noah Baumbach and written by Baumbach and Greta Gerwig. Gerwig also plays the title role. The film premiered at the Telluride Film Festival on September 1, 2012. Frances Ha was given a theatrical wide release on May 17, 2013.
Frances Halladay is a 27-year-old dancer who lives with her best friend Sophie (Mickey Sumner) in Brooklyn. Sophie decides she wants to relocate to her dream neighborhood, Tribeca, which Frances cannot afford, leaving her on her own to figure out where to live. From there the film follows Frances to Chinatown (where she shares an apartment with her friends Lev and Benji for a brief period), the suburbs of Sacramento (her hometown that she visits to see her family for Christmas and reconnect with high school friends), Paris (for an uneventful two-day getaway that she pays for on a credit card), Poughkeepsie (to work at her alma mater Vassar as a waitress and RA for the summer), and finally back to Washington Heights in New York City. Along the way Frances laments her lack of money, her poor prospects as a professional dancer, and an increasingly strained relationship with Sophie. The film concludes with Frances reconciling with Sophie (she is a bridesmaid at her wedding) and enjoying a modest but satisfying existence as a fledgling choreographer, performing clerical work and teaching dance to children at her dance company to pay her bills, exploring a potential relationship with Benji, and living alone in her own apartment.
In the conversation, I am the MAN and the new woman in my life is the WOMAN. She and I are culturally concentric, or at least we are both always trying to be. Which is to say that she and I don’t outstretch each other’s world too much, which is not to say — and this is important — that what we have is not Love. When I tell her about Richard Brody, she googles Richard Brody and attempts to read some reviews that the man has written in the New Yorker. When she tells me about the ugly naked man in F.R.I.E.N.D.S, I scour the relevant episodes and get to know all about him. When I send her a Youtube video, she watches it. When she sends me a Whatsapp joke, I respond with at least a thumbs up emoticon. I remember her birthday and she remembers mine. We both take care to articulate our non-sexual fantasies in a way that makes them seem like a larger homogenous fantasy, a benign lump that can be approached together, at least theoretically. The telling the parents about us step has taken place successfully for us. But the thing is I don’t really know whether she gets Richard Brody. I don’t really know whether I can tell her that I’m not, let’s say, particularly enthused about reruns of F.R.I.E.N.D.S. I don’t really know whether she really liked the Haider song video I had forwarded to her last night. I don’t really know whether it is prudent to tell her that she was probably the third person to forward me the Chetan Bhagat meme she did this morning. I don’t really know whether I should tell her that Nandita Das-type feminist plays bore me to death and that she shouldn’t really insist that we watch them together. I don’t know how badly she really thinks of my habit to scratch behind my right earlobe, and I find this tantalizing because I, for sure, don’t like her habit of taking her right index finger between her teeth when she is making a decision. I don’t really know what will happen when her eyes are locked into mine at a party. My eyes might just say that I don’t like the gazpacho. Her eyes might just say Let’s fucking leave. I will understand her and we will leave. We will both silently marvel at this stupendous understanding. But in the car, when we are homewards, we may have a little tiff about the gazpacho.
ENDING WITH ADVICE:
- In a world where attention is in short supply, giving it to another person is a crucial signifier of love, and whether you are doing it seriously-seriously or falsely-seriously isn’t the point at all.
- Constantly googling your love interest’s interests is the perfect way to show love. Failing to google is a symptom. A symptom of what? — that’s hardly important.
- Sometimes, you will find yourselves surprisingly concordant in your views of the world. That’s a reward, yes, but don’t let that make you prone to inattentive mistakes.
Tanuj Solanki lives and writes in Bombay, India. His fiction has been published in The Caravan, Out of Print, elimae, Burrow Press Review, and others. He was a runner-up in the DNA-Out of Print short story contest.