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Hammerle on … 'Frances Ha,' 'Fast & Furious 6'

Robert Hammerle
June 19, 2013
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Frances Ha

Noah Baumbach’s “Frances Ha” is a feminist version of David Fincher’s “Social Network” (2010). Instead of being a tale of wealthy college men getting wealthier, it’s a provocative story of female college graduates in New York pursuing careers while trying to avoid starving to death.

This is a picture about young women for young women. It deals with what it means to be in your 20s, fighting to make something meaningful out of your life. It’s like continually falling off life’s ladder day in and day out, only to awake and try again to find a way to the top without losing your dignity.

Greta Gerwig is fantastic as Frances Hallenden, a 27-year-old New York resident trying to pursue a career as a dancer. As confused as she is loveable, she is not helped by the unfortunate fact that her dancing ambition exceeds her talents.

Sharing a small apartment with her best friend Sophie (Mickey Sumner), they mutually try to balance work and boyfriends.

When Sophie moves in with her own boyfriend, Frances drifts from one available apartment to another, balancing friendship and pain along the way. Force

RatingHa.gif

d to confront the end of her dancing career, she faces new acquaintances who continually ask such painful questions as “Have you ever been to Paris?” not to mention, “You look older than 27.”

The strength of the film is found in Frances’ refusal to abandon her determination. She is repeatedly involved in conversations in various social gatherings that are both cute and absurd. She occasionally drinks and smokes to excess, but there is just no quit in this delightfully confused young woman.

I love the poster for “Frances Ha” which shows her wildly dancing alone in front of a fountain. It is clear that she is full of an energetic spirit that propels her toward some unknown place to land. She finds it by the end of the film, and you’ll find yourself leaving the theater with a curious feeling of warmth and affection for her.

Additionally, the music in “Frances Ha” is at times quite stirring, particularly David Bowie’s “Modern Love.” Bowie’s lyrics perfectly describe Frances’ uncompromising attempt to overcome life’s obstacles.

The meaning of the title of the film is made clear in the very last series of scenes, and it is an appropriate description of Frances’ joyful persistence. Ms. Gerwig co-wrote the script, and she clearly knows what a young woman needs to overcome to find significance in life.

If you want to simply marry a wealthy man, then go see what happens to Daisy Buchanan in “The Great Gatsby.” On the other hand, if you are determined to find your own way through life’s mysterious forest, then go see “Frances Ha.”

Fast & Furious 6

As foolish as this is to admit, “Fast & Furious 6” works against all conceivable odds. What appears on its face to be little more than mindless drivel connects all of its cascading artistic dots and results in a film both funny and entertaining.

Quite frankly, the secret behind the box office success of the most recent “Fast & Furious” sequel is that it exploits its weaknesses. Unless you’ve seen him in Sidney Lumet’s enthralling “Find Me Guilty” (2006), you would swear that Vin Diesel has no acting talent of any kind. However, let him dedicate both life and limRatingFF.gifb to saving an old lover from ruin, here played again by the provocative Michelle Rodriguez, and you can’t help but root for him.

While Dwayne “The Rock” Johnson looks like he has consumed every ounce of anabolic steroids that escaped Lance Armstrong’s greedy reach, who cannot embrace him when several of his colleagues continually make fun of his arrival by yelling, “I smell baby oil.” He might be big and bad, but who can’t love a nice guy?

Though this film is largely about love, laughter, luscious babes and incredibly fast cars, you are continually surprised by emotional twists that reach up and grab you. Paul Walker appears again as Ryan, a man torn from his peaceful life off the Spanish Coast with his wife and small child by the need to help an old friend make peace with his troubled past. Both Tyrese Gibson as Roman and Chris “Ludacris” Bridges as Tej are a treat to watch with their humorous exchanges in the most desperate of encounters.

In addition, there are some great fight scenes, particularly between the characters of Ms. Rodriguez and Jordana Brewster. It borders on a work of physical art. It’s like watching ballerinas in costume kicking the crap out of each other with high-flying artistic moves.

And oh yes, did I mention the special effects? Sure, there are some that are incredibly absurd, namely those with individuals flying through the air only to land successfully on moving vehicles. Yet who cannot enjoy watching a tank destroy various cars on an English highway, not to mention a large airplane carrying villains that is forced to crash during a takeoff because of the skill our heroes use while driving in cars underneath it.

“Fast & Furious 6” embraces silliness, excess and visual absurdity only to find a way to combine it into a demented yet workable cinematic stew. The cinematography by Stephen F. Windon paints a picturesque backdrop as it follows our motley crew from Spain to London after a brief stop in Russia. How could something this tormented be this pretty?•

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Robert Hammerle practices criminal law in Indianapolis. When he is not in the courtroom or working diligently in his Pennsylvania Street office, Bob can likely be found at one of his favorite movie theaters watching and preparing to review the latest films. To read more of his reviews, visit www.bigmouthbobs.com. The opinions expressed are those of the author.

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