Thursday, December 5, 2013

Why Frances Ha Bothers Me

I loved Frances Ha, saw it twice and enjoyed it immensely both times. It's delightful and an excellent portrait of contemporary New York City.It gets so much right about the rhythm of the city and its people. Greta Gerwig proves herself a wining screen personality, it's a star making performance that gets me excited to see her in more movies.

But here's the big "but". How come there are hardly any people of color at all in this movie. I think one of Frances' friends in San Francisco  - whose face we don't see and who doesn't utter a word - and the woman she rents the theater space from at the end are of color. Both very insignificant in the film's story and characters. This rings extremely false for me for a movie set in contemporary New York City. Particularly in the milieu this movie depicts of young cultured artists and hanger-ons. Has Gerwig and Baumbach walked around the city lately? Have they been anywhere in the city ? Offices, theaters, parks, subway? Where is this lily white vision coming from ?

And I know that because I'm a person of color I'm of course predisposed to notice this and be bothered by it. And because of who I am, there is more probability for me to mix with people of color. However in my decade of living in this city; everywhere I've been - work, buildings I lived in, circle of friends, acquaintances, gym, just walking down the street it's never been monolithic.Greta, aren't we not speaking of the same city?

You might say other filmmakers present similar versions of NYC. Yes Scorsese And Woody Allen do it all the time - to name just two quintessentially New York directors. But their version of the city is very specific to certain neighborhoods and cultural milieu.

Maybe it bothers me more with this movie because I loved the world it depicts and found it so familiar. But I felt I was being told I do not exist, we do not see you in this world that you claim is yours. You are a visitor and an invisible one at that. I'm hurting, Greta. Why oh why?

Greta and Noah were telling me - yeah you might live in this city too but we don't see you. You don't matter. I couldn't get lost in the charms of the movies. This kept nagging at me.

Ultimately I'm very disappointed. Disappointed that such vital vibrant artists see the world with this very limited lens. And disappointed to have to write this rant about a movie I love.


Candice Frederick said...

hmmm i wasn't so passionate about this movie, but I do note your concern. unfortunately, I've come to almost expect this monochromatic view of any place (new york city isn't the only diverse city in the nation). it's unfortunate.

Chrissy said...

I do not think that was the intention, I am also a person of color, bi-racial and this never crossed my mind which yes, is a problem. Frances had a certain group of friends from college and through mutual friends and so many personalities beamed through it was perfect. There were only so few characters anyway, I think race will always be a subject. People questioning why someone on screen doesn't look like them, but someone with the same complexion as us doesn't represent a person, it has to come to personality. Can I relate to this character because she's a dreamer or a complainer, etc. not oh she's nothing like me but we're the race! Look for a character that has the same spirit as you not complexion and that's what Frances was for me.