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Originally published Thursday, May 23, 2013 at 3:04 PM

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Greta Gerwig shines in ‘Frances Ha’

“Frances Ha” paints a portrait of a woman trying to leave youth behind. It’s a relatively lighthearted film for Noah Baumbach, who also directed “The Squid and the Whale” and “Greenberg.”

Seattle Times movie critic

Movie Review 3 stars

‘Frances Ha,’ with Greta Gerwig, Mickey Sumner, Charlotte d’Amboise, Adam Driver, Grace Gummer, Hannah Dunne. Directed by Noah Baumbach, from a screenplay by Baumbach and Gerwig. 86 minutes. Rated R for sexual references and language. Meridian, Lincoln Square.

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“Sorry I’m so slow. I have trouble leaving places,” says Frances (Greta Gerwig), a 20-something New Yorker who’s having trouble leaving her giddy youth behind. She’s the lilting lead character in Noah Baumbach’s “Frances Ha,” the title of which won’t make sense until the movie’s final minute.

Nor does Frances always make sense: “You seem older,” says an acquaintance, comparing Frances to her roommate Sophie (Mickey Sumner), “but less grown up.”

But that’s kind of the point of “Frances Ha” — to examine a particular moment in life, when things don’t entirely make sense. An aspiring dancer who can’t seem to find permanent work with a company, Frances floats through a series of addresses, relationships and friendships. She runs down the sidewalks with the carefree ease of a child, then frets about whether she can afford a $3 ATM surcharge.

And she’s crushed when Sophie, her best friend (“we’re the same person, but with different hair”), announces she’s moving out to live with someone else. Sitting alone in their former apartment — we learn, without being told, that Sophie owned all the good furniture — Frances wonders what went wrong, and why getting a toehold on adulthood seems so hard. At times she seems self-consciously precious — and yet, she always seems real.

Despite Frances’s angst, this is fairly lighthearted territory for Baumbach (“The Squid and the Whale,” “Greenberg”), who makes the film a celebration of Gerwig’s coltish, goofball appeal.

Filmed in crisp black and white (you might think of Woody Allen’s “Manhattan,” particularly when Meryl Streep’s look-alike daughter Grace Gummer shows up in a small role), it’s an urban travelogue as Frances moves from apartment to apartment, including brief sojourns to California and Paris. She’s seeking a home, and making all the wrong steps along the way, but you can’t help cheering her on.

Moira Macdonald: 206-464-2725 or

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