Top 20 Films of the 2010s–#10

18 Dec

By Tanner Smith

Continuing my countdown of my top 20 favorite films of the decade, here’s a recap: 20) Mad Max: Fury Road, 19) Fruitvale Station, 18) Hugo, 17) Parasite, 16) Spotlight, 15) Spider-Man: Into the Spider-Verse, 14) Midnight Special, 13) Take Shelter, 12) The Spectacular Now, 11) The Social Network, and we are now at THE TOP 10 FILMS OF THE 2010S!

Let’s begin with yet another film that got better and better each time I saw it (and I’m still seeing it again and again to this day):

10) FRANCES HA (2013)

In my Top-13-of-’13 list representing my favorite films of 2013, Noah Baumbach’s Frances Ha tied with Woody Allen’s Blue Jasmine for the #13 spot. My description: “Similar films aided by great dialogue and convincing acting.” How many times have I seen “Blue Jasmine” since its original release? About two or three. How many times have I seen “Frances Ha”? If I had to guess, I’d say about 30-40.

Why many critics are ashamed to admit when their feelings change towards a certain film is beyond me, but I have to share my absolute love and appreciation for “Frances Ha,” which is now one of my favorite films of the decade.

“Frances Ha” is about a New York aspiring dancer who sets out to accomplish her dreams and the ups and downs that come with it, such as moving from place to place and taking odd jobs along the way…that’s about it. Simple, yet very effective.

(Oh, and there’s a brief trip to Paris too. Not so simple.)

There was a time when writer-director Noah Baumbach’s films sort of tested me. I’m still not 100% clear as to why his 2007 dysfunctional-family dry comedy Margot at the Wedding worked so well for me and yet why I’m indifferent towards arguably his most infamous film “The Squid and the Whale” or why I’m in no hurry to revisit “Greenberg” anytime soon, for example. Sometimes I love his material, and sometimes I don’t think I hate it and maybe I liked it but I wouldn’t necessarily see myself watching it repeatedly in the future. But there was something to “Frances Ha” that I could even notice from the start, so much so that I didn’t mind that (at the time) the only way I could revisit it a year after I first saw it was by buying the Criterion Blu-Ray at Barnes & Noble (albeit at a cheaper price than usual–it was on sale, thank God).

After this, I was able to guess what to expect from his subsequent works (While We’re Young, Mistress America, The Meyerowitz Stories, “Marriage Story”) and still be flabbergasted and yet fascinated enough to revisit them every now and then.

So, what is it about “Frances Ha” that I admire so much?

Well, one thing I noticed upon first viewing is that it wasn’t as shamelessly frank as a lot of indie films were (or still are, for the most part). It was a nice change of pace to be sensitive. Oh, there are still issues present and life in this film is often a pain, but the film doesn’t go out of its way. That makes it all the more easy to care for the character of Frances Halladay (Greta Gerwig, who also co-wrote the film with Baumbach) and her ways of dealing with hardships such as loneliness, debt, lack of acceptance, and work confusion, because they’re not presented as depressing but rather seen through a careful eye. In that respect, this film reminded me of some of the best Woody Allen films–maybe that’s why I tied it with “Blue Jasmine” on my 2013 list.

Greta Gerwig is now seen as a superstar, not only as one of our most reliable character actors (in films like Mistress America and 20th Century Women) but also a wonderfully impressive writer-director (Lady Bird, “Little Women”), but back then, she was the “mumblecore queen” trying to find her footing in more film opportunities. So, like a lot of actors who struggled to find the right roles for them (Zoe Kazan, Rashida Jones, Lake Bell, Jason Segel, Seth Rogen, Kristen Wiig, among many others), she wrote one for herself–the right role and performance that would show everyone, critics and audiences, what she has to offer as an actor. And she is GREAT as Frances Halliday. She has an odd, offbeat, fun personality that doesn’t hide vulnerability or sweetness. I don’t know if that’s what she’s really like in person, but that usually comes through in her work. She gets to play that persona to further dimensions here–you see a character learning, thinking, reasoning, absorbing, etc. all throughout the film.

And in the end, I just can’t help but hope that Frances finds the happiness she’s pursuing even if it’s not the kind she expected or necessarily “wanted.” (I mean, let’s face it–life always has other plans for us when we think we have our own.) And that’s why the ending, which explains the meaning of the film’s title, affects me so deeply and even brings a little tear to my eye each time I rewatch the film (which is so often–I’m always happy to watch the film, whether on the Criterion Blu-Ray or on Netflix). Frances doesn’t get the very thing she dreamed of, but she does get her life on track by accepting change. And these changes have been ready for her all the time, and it was time she fully realized and accepted them so that she can have something fulfilling in life. And the label that simply reads “Frances Ha” represents this great development in her life, and I can’t help but cry a happy tear for Frances.

She made it.

And so did Greta Gerwig. Everything she does, I’m happy to see. I’ve seen “Frances Ha” over a hundred times now; I’m sure I’ll see it a hundred more times in the future…I’ll even watch it again after publishing this post.

“Ahoy sexy!”

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