Frances Ha

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Frances Ha
Theatrical release poster
Directed byNoah Baumbach
Written by
Produced by
CinematographySam Levy
Edited byJennifer Lame
  • RT Features
  • Pine District Pictures
  • Scott Rudin Productions
Distributed byIFC Films
Release dates
Running time
86 minutes[2]
CountryUnited States
Budget$3 million[3]
Box office$11.3 million[3]

Frances Ha is a 2012 American black-and-white comedy-drama film directed by Noah Baumbach. It is written by Baumbach and Greta Gerwig, who also stars as Frances Halladay, a struggling 27-year-old dancer. The film premiered at the Telluride Film Festival on September 1, 2012, and was given a limited theatrical release in the United States on May 17, 2013, by IFC Films.


Frances Halladay is a 27-year-old dancer who lives in New York City with her best friend from college, Sophie. Her life is upended when Sophie tells her she plans to relocate from Brooklyn to Tribeca, which Sophie considers her dream neighborhood, with a different friend. Frances, a struggling would-be dancer working as an apprentice at a dance company, is unable to afford the Brooklyn apartment alone and is forced to find someplace else to live.

She moves to Chinatown and shares an apartment with her friends Lev and Benji for a brief period. Sophie and Frances's relationship struggles as Sophie and her boyfriend, Patch, grow closer. Frances learns that the dance company does not need her to work their Christmas show, which means Frances can no longer afford the apartment. She visits her hometown of Sacramento for Christmas where she sees her family and reconnects with high school friends.

Rachel, a fellow dancer in the company, lets Frances stay with her for a few weeks. During dinner with Rachel's family, Frances discovers that Sophie has quit her job at Random House and is moving to Tokyo with Patch. Frances, on a whim, decides to spend an uneventful couple of days in Paris that she pays for with a credit card. She returns to Vassar, her alma mater, to work as a waitress and summer resident assistant. Overworked and not allowed to take classes, Frances reads Sophie's blog of her life in Tokyo.

One night, Sophie and Patch are at an alumni auction where Frances is waitressing. Frances learns they are engaged and sees the couple get into a fight. She lets a drunk Sophie stay with her in the dorm room she's been given, where Sophie reveals that she suffered a miscarriage while in Japan and is unhappy in her relationship. Sophie goes back to New York City the next morning, leaving a note for Frances. Some time later, Frances returns to Washington Heights in Manhattan. She laments her dire financial situation, her poor prospects as a professional dancer, and her increasingly strained relationship with Sophie.

Frances eventually reconciles with Sophie and enjoys a modest but satisfying existence as a fledgling choreographer, teaching dance to young children, and as a bookkeeper for her former dance company. She starts exploring a potential relationship with Benji and rents her own apartment. Upon moving in, Frances writes her name down onto a slip of paper in order to mark her new mailbox. Her full last name does not fit, so she folds the paper to read: "Frances Ha".



Frances Ha was directed by Noah Baumbach, and written by Baumbach and Greta Gerwig. Gerwig, who also stars in the film, announced it in April 2012, though Baumbach's involvement was not revealed until the film's listing in the Telluride Film Festival's lineup. Gerwig had starred in Baumbach's 2010 film Greenberg, and they decided to collaborate again.[4] They exchanged ideas, developed characters, and eventually co-wrote the script. Gerwig has said that she did not anticipate starring in the film as well, but Baumbach thought she suited the part. Filming locations included New York City, Sacramento, Paris, and at Vassar College in Poughkeepsie, Baumbach's alma mater.[5]

Gerwig cited Joseph Conrad's novella The Shadow Line and Woody Allen's film Annie Hall (1977) as inspirations for the film. Baumbach and Gerwig also have cited the films of the French New Wave and Woody Allen as influences as well as Something Wild (1986) and Lost in America (1985) which they watched during the production.[6][7]

In the bonus features on the home-video release, the filmmakers said that the film was shot in the style of French New Wave cinema, with the tools of a student filmmaker. Even though the production had both the budget for and access to professional-level cinema cameras and lenses, they chose to use the Canon EOS 5D Mark II, a consumer-grade photographic camera that can record high-definition video. Instead of adapting professional cinema lenses, as other cinematographers have done when working with that camera, they used Canon L-series EF prime and zoom lenses designed for still photography. They mostly used a 50mm prime lens and a 70–200mm zoom lens, rarely employing 35mm and 85mm prime lenses because they lacked the mechanics and features common among cinema lenses (when paired with the camera’s large full-frame sensor, they make it difficult to maintain focus). By using a very small camera and extremely limited lighting equipment, the production could quickly and easily move locations without attracting much attention. Without large crews, elaborate sets, and special visual effects, the production could afford to shoot around the world on a fairly limited budget.


The filmmakers included a number of pop songs in the film, including "Every 1's a Winner" by Hot Chocolate, "Blue Sway" by Paul McCartney, "Chrome Sitar" by T.Rex, and "Modern Love" by David Bowie.[4] Modern Love is featured in a scene in Frances Ha that is a remake of a sequence in Leos Carax's Mauvais Sang, where Denis Lavant runs through the streets.[8]

The soundtrack includes a song by Felix Laband and references multiple French films; it contains music by Georges Delerue, Jean Constantin and Antoine Duhamel, who originally wrote for films of the French New Wave.[9]


Frances Ha premiered at the Telluride Film Festival on September 1, 2012.[10] The Los Angeles Times said "audiences seemed pleasantly surprised by the warmth from the often-mordant Baumbach."[5] The film also screened at the Toronto International Film Festival on September 7, 2012,[11] after which IFC Films acquired North- and Latin-American rights to distribute the film in theaters.[12] Frances Ha also screened at the New York Film Festival on September 30, 2012,[4] and at the Edinburgh International Film Festival in June 2013.[13]

The film had a limited release in the United States on May 17, 2013,[1] and was released on Blu-ray and DVD on the Criterion Collection label on November 12, 2013.[14]


Critical response[edit]

The review aggregation website Rotten Tomatoes gives Frances Ha a 93% approval rating based on 186 reviews, with an average score of 7.80/10. The website's critical consensus is: "Audiences will need to tolerate a certain amount of narrative drift, but thanks to sensitive direction from Noah Baumbach and an endearing performance from Greta Gerwig, Frances Ha makes it easy to forgive."[15] Metacritic calculated an average score of 82 out of 100 based on 35 reviews, indicating "universal acclaim".[16]

Stephanie Zacharek of The Village Voice praised Gerwig's performance, writing, "It's a relief that Frances Ha isn't as assertively frank, in the 'Look, ma, no shame!' way, as Girls. And this is partly Gerwig's vision, too. No other movie has allowed her to display her colors like this. Frances is a little dizzy and frequently maddening, but Gerwig is precise in delineating the character's loopiness: Her lines always hit just behind the beat, like a jazz drummer who pretends to flub yet knows exactly what's up."[17]

Peter Debruge, reviewing for Variety, described Frances Ha, "This modest monochromatic lark doesn't present a story—or even a traditional sequence of scenes—so much as it offers spirited glimpses into the never-predictable life of Frances, a 27-year-old dancer." He said Frances was "a character whose unexceptional concerns and everyday foibles prove as compelling as any New York-set concept picture, delivering an affectionate, stylishly black-and-white portrait of a still-unfledged Gotham gal".[10] Sarah Galo of Mic also noted that Frances Ha “is really quite daring in its portrayal of female friendship. Frances and Sophie go through the motions of being BFFs to breaking up to being reunited in the end.”[18]

The Los Angeles Times highlighted Gerwig's foray as part of a trend of female actors becoming writers or co-writers; other examples include Zoe Kazan with Ruby Sparks and Rashida Jones with Celeste and Jesse Forever.[19] Baumbach filmed Frances Ha with his cinematographer Sam Levy digitally and in black-and-white, the latter to emulate, in part, collaborations by Woody Allen and his cinematographer Gordon Willis, in films like Manhattan (1979).[5] CBS News compared Frances Ha's style to the works of Woody Allen, Jim Jarmusch and François Truffaut.[20]


Year Category Nominee Result Ref.
Golden Globe Awards Best Actress – Comedy or Musical Greta Gerwig Nominated [21]
Independent Spirit Awards Best Feature Frances Ha Nominated [22]
Best Editing Jennifer Lame Nominated
Broadcast Film Critics Association Awards Best Actress in a Comedy Greta Gerwig Nominated [23]
British Independent Film Awards Best International Independent Film Frances Ha Nominated [24]
London Film Critics Circle Film Awards Film of the Year Frances Ha Nominated [25]
Actress of the Year Greta Gerwig Nominated
Technical Achievement of the Year Sam Levy Nominated
Toronto Film Critics Association Awards Best Actress Greta Gerwig 2nd Runner-up [26]
Casting Society of America Casting - Low Budget Feature Douglas Aibel
Henry Russell Bergstein
Nominated [27]
IndieWire Critics Poll Best Film Frances Ha 10th Place [21]
Best Lead Performance Greta Gerwig Nominated
Best Screenplay Noah Baumbach
Greta Gerwig
Central Ohio Film Critics Association Best Picture Frances Ha Nominated [28]
Best Actress Greta Gerwig Nominated
Bodil Awards Best American Film Frances Ha Nominated [29]
Tallinn Black Nights Film Festival Audience Award Noah Baumbach 3rd place [30]
Vancouver Film Critics Circle Best Actress Greta Gerwig Nominated [31]

See also[edit]


  1. ^ a b Jagernauth, Keith (November 30, 2012). "Noah Baumbach's 'Frances Ha' Gets Spring 2013 Release Date; 'End Of Watch' Coming Back To Theaters Next Week". The Playlist. indieWire. Archived from the original on May 11, 2013. Retrieved December 10, 2012.
  2. ^ "FRANCES HA (15)". British Board of Film Classification. June 26, 2013. Archived from the original on May 13, 2014. Retrieved June 26, 2013.
  3. ^ a b "Frances Ha". The Numbers. Retrieved June 1, 2014.
  4. ^ a b c Rosen, Christopher (October 1, 2012). "'Frances Ha' At New York Film Festival: Greta Gerwig & Noah Baumbach Bring Their 'Pop Song' To New York". The Huffington Post.
  5. ^ a b c Olsen, Mark (September 7, 2012). "'Frances Ha' bonds Noah Baumbach, Greta Gerwig". Los Angeles Times.
  6. ^ "Frances Ha's Greta Gerwig on Lena Dunham, Woody Allen, and Her Dream of Directing". Miami New Times. Retrieved August 7, 2023.
  7. ^ "Greta Gerwig and Noah Baumbach Talk "Frances Ha" and Falling In Love". The New Yorker. Retrieved August 7, 2023.
  8. ^ Brody, Richard (May 15, 2013). ""Frances Ha" and the Pursuit of Happiness". The New Yorker. ISSN 0028-792X. Retrieved November 15, 2017.
  9. ^ Eggert, Brian (April 4, 2016), Frances Ha (2013), Deep Focus Review, retrieved June 6, 2018
  10. ^ a b Debruge, Peter (September 1, 2012). "Frances Ha". Variety.
  11. ^ "Frances Ha". Toronto International Film Festival. Archived from the original on August 5, 2012. Retrieved December 10, 2012.
  12. ^ McNary, Dave (September 20, 2012). "IFC Films closes U.S. on 'Frances Ha'". Variety.
  13. ^ "Edinburgh Film Festival programme unveiled". May 29, 2013. Retrieved May 29, 2013.
  14. ^ "Frances Ha (2013) - The Criterion Collection". Retrieved June 1, 2014.
  15. ^ "Frances Ha (2013)". Rotten Tomatoes. Fandango Media. Retrieved December 1, 2021.
  16. ^ "Frances Ha Reviews". Metacritic. CBS Interactive. Retrieved September 10, 2013.
  17. ^ Zacharek, Stephanie (May 15, 2013). "Greta Gerwig Stars in Noah Baumbach's Dating Manual, Frances Ha". The Village Voice.
  18. ^ "'Frances Ha' Review: Noah Baumbach Movie Explores Female Friendship, 20-Something Woes". Mic. June 3, 2013. Retrieved May 1, 2022.
  19. ^ Olsen, Mark (September 7, 2012). "'Frances Ha' bonds Noah Baumbach, Greta Gerwig". Los Angeles Times. ISSN 0458-3035. Retrieved November 15, 2017. With this foray into screenwriting, Gerwig, 29, has become part of a current wave of actresses writing or co-writing their own material, a group that includes Zoe Kazan ("Ruby Sparks") and Rashida Jones ("Celeste and Jesse Forever").
  20. ^ Morgan, David (September 30, 2012). "N.Y. Film Festival: Noah Baumbach's whimsical 'Frances Ha'". CBS News.
  21. ^ a b "Frances Ha - IMDb". IMDb.
  22. ^ "2014 Spirit Awards: '12 Years A Slave', 'All Is Lost', 'Frances Ha', 'Inside Llewyn Davis' & 'Nebraska' Nab Best Feature Noms". Deadline Hollywood. November 26, 2013. Retrieved March 10, 2014.
  23. ^ "19th Annual Critics' Choice Movie Awards Nominations". Broadcast Film Critics Association. December 16, 2013. Retrieved March 10, 2014.
  24. ^ "Nominations 2013: BIFA". British Independent Film Awards. Retrieved March 10, 2014.
  25. ^ "London Critics' Circle Announces 2014 Film Awards Nominations". The Critics' Circle. London Film Critics Circle. December 17, 2013. Retrieved February 3, 2014.
  26. ^ "TFCA Announces 2013 Awards". Toronto Film Critics Association. December 16, 2013. Archived from the original on January 17, 2014. Retrieved March 10, 2014.
  27. ^ "Artios Awards: Casting Society Reveals 2013 Nominees". Variety. August 19, 2013. Retrieved March 10, 2014.
  28. ^ "Central Ohio Film Critics Award Nominations". Indiewire. January 3, 2012. Retrieved March 10, 2014.
  29. ^ "Denmark's Bodil Prizes: 'Nympho-maniac', 'The Hunt' Lead Nominations". Deadline Hollywood. January 7, 2014. Retrieved March 10, 2014.
  30. ^ "Black Nights Film Fest Breaks Audience Record". Estonian Public Broadcasting. December 4, 2013. Retrieved March 10, 2014.
  31. ^ "And the 2014 VFCC Nominees Are..." Vancouver Film Critics Circle. December 22, 2013. Retrieved March 10, 2014.

External links[edit]