People love shows about serial killers. They eat up movies about terrorists. Film and television is stockpiled with some of the most deplorable, reprehensible activities and mentalities you'd be lucky never to encounter beyond the confines of the screen, and the public is wholly on board. But the day-to-day lives of twentysomething New York females? That's crossing the line. The widespread aversion to this theme, as evident by the consistent backlash agasint Lena Dunham's Girls, is reason enough to believe that a good number of people won't be on board with Frances Ha. In the film, we follow writer/star Greta Gerwig's 27-year-old aspiring (with little effort and little success) dancer from couch to couch as she skirts any semblance of maturity in the wake of a "breakup" with her longtime best friend (Mickey Sumner). Some will automatically root against Frances, and as such filmmaker Gerwig, as she laments her financial difficulties but refuses desk jobs and opts for weekend trips to Paris to stifle her narcissistic pangs.
But to those who feel this way, the film and the character are both worth your sympathy. Yes, Gerwig's heroine is an adult child, dismissive of responsibility and social norms, pathologically blind to the needs and desires of those around her. She's enrapt in her own desperation to be evaluated as worthwhile. When her spiritual partner and best pal Sophie (Sumner) takes up with a new roommate in TriBeCa and a baseball cap-laden fellow named Patch (Patrick Heusinger), a destitute Frances seeks affirmation elsewhere: in her disinterested dance mentor (Charlotte d'Ambroise), a pair of new roommies (Adam Driver and Michael Zegen, balancing good nature and douchebaggery like the best of 'em), a scornful but tolerant classmate (Grace Gummer), and the city of Paris. And any logical viewer will roll their eyes at Frances' accelerated regression, cringing (though laughing) at her inability to make functional conversation during an adult dinner party. But the film is right on your side.
What is captured perfectly in Gerwig and director Noah Baumbach's lively and inventive script — one that meanders downward, frenetically, from life beat to life beat — is the ability to love and appreciate Frances without condoning her ideas and behaviors. It is easy to assume that this kind of story is a celebration of the psychological bankruptcy exhibited by the Frances character, a sort we're seeing pop up in a number of different pieces across the board, thanks in large part to the critical and Internet success of Girls. But instead, Gerwig showcases something real: a people whose greatest source of suffering is its own willingness to suffer.
And if we're ready to take the plunge into the script, one that breathes a sort of dark energy we'll find in the pictures of a 1970s Woody Allen, rejecting our own adversity to the species it both loves and demonizes, we'll find a striking, painful, funny, and eventful tale about a girl with nothing to do and no one to do it with. From beginning to end, as we meet new sides of the heroine in her journey through various phases of self-destruction, Frances Ha is engaging, upsetting, and fun.
You'll follow every hearty laugh with a cheek-biting grimace. You'll revel in the comical misfortunes of Gerwig's manic adventurer even as you shake your head at her compulsive disregard and wallow in your empathy for her incredibly human craving for self-worth. You can manage each of these at once, thinking lowly of Frances but loving her all the while. Gerwig's film understands and champions that. Yes, she needs to get her act together. Yes, the real people who emulate the antics of Frances ought to take direction from her ultimate shift in gears. And yes, all this notwithstanding, she's still got a story to tell. One with enough humor, sadness, affection, and relatability to be more than worth our time.
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This is how you know that the Obamas are a family of the people: First Lady Michelle Obama will be making a guest appearance on the Nickelodeon sitcom iCarly, which stars Miranda Cosgrove as Carly Shay, the young host of a popular web series. Mrs. Obama's presence on the series is not as out-of-nowhere as it may seem at first glance. The main character's unseen father is an Air Force colonel stationed perpetually overseas, and in the episode in question, Carly and her friends (Jennette McCurdy and Nathan Kress) will make an effort to extend their appreciation for Col. Shay via the web series. The sentiment of this episode is in concordance with the First Lady's Joining Forces movement, which is an initiative to afford gratitude, support and opportunities to military officers and their families. Joining the First Lady on the iCarly episode will be Saturday Night Live featured player Taran Killam, who will be portraying her no-nonsense Secret Service agent. The episode will air on Monday, Jan. 16, at 8 p.m. ET/PT on Nickelodeon...and word has it, Mrs. Obama will be doing some dancing. -EW
Simon Cowell has made quite a mark on America, but his heart still belongs to the United Kingdom. Cowell will be returning to his homeland and to his judging position on Britain's Got Talent. He will assume his seat on the panel this Spring, beside Amanda Holden, Alesha Dixon and David Williams. Judges David Hasselhoff and Michael McIntyre will not be returning to the show for its new series. Cowell's reasons for returning are primarily personal: "I miss Britain and I miss the British public and I miss judging them. I want to find the next generation of talent in 2012...I came back because most importantly I want to change the perception of the show. I love originality, I love great singers, I love great comedians. I love things I've never seen before. Everyone thinks I hate magicians, well I hate bad magicians, but I'd love to find a great magician. I'd like to find the next N*Sync or the next Backstreet Boys, the next Justin Bieber. I've always dreamt about finding a dog who can play guitar. And we've failed. So I want talented dogs. I really want one that can dance or can play an instrument." Live auditions for the upcoming series of Britain's Got Talent will begin Jan. 22. -THR
Hot in Cleveland is upping its class with a new, particularly vibrant guest casting move: Liza Minelli will be joining Betty White, Wendy Malick, Jane Leeves and Valerie Bertinelli on the TVLand sitcom. Minelli will be playing the agent of Malick's character Victoria, an aspiring actress. All generations should be glad to hear of this—Liza wowed the '70s with Cabaret, delighted the '80s with Arthur, and dominated the post-millenium as Arrested Development's Lucille 2. Hot in Cleveland airs Wednesdays at 10 p.m. ET/PT on TVLand. -TVLine
NBC is working on two new pilots that touch upon the elements of science-fiction. The first is titled Beautiful People, and is set in a world where humans and lifelike androids coexist in a world where the latter are abused and mistreated as functioning members of society. NBC has cast James Murray of Chaos and Patrick Heusinger of Royal Pains to star as a successful human and a "defective" Mechanical (which means he can feel certain "forbidden" emotions) respectively. The second pilot is a comedy/sci-fi project called Isabel, and will star young Sophia Mitri Schloss (Grimm, Ira Finklestein's Christmas) as the title character: a girl with magical abilities and the youngest member of a hostile middle-class family. -Deadline, Deadline