Frances Halliday is a 27-year-old apprentice to a contemporary dance company in New York, and by her own admission "undateable" and "not a real person yet".
On paper, she is every bit as painfully self-involved, awkwardly neurotic and emotionally dysfunctional as the characters in Noah Baumbach's previous almost-comedies, The Squid and the Whale, Margot at the Wedding, and Greenberg.
But as played by Baumbach's current partner and the film's co-writer, Greta Gerwig, she is actually a vivacious and relatively sympathetic character, whose foibles we forgive and whose romantic idealism, instead of merely naive or delusional, seems kind of sweet or even faintly heroic.
Like Lena Dunham's sitcom Girls (and the cross-over is underlined by the casting of Adam Driver as one of Frances's flatmates), Frances Ha is steeped in the specific cultural references of twenty-something neo-boho and hipster New Yorkers. It includes such carefully observed but casually delivered lines as "This apartment is very aware of itself"; "He's a nice guy. You know – for today"; or, of smoking a cigarette indoors, "This makes me feel like a bad mother in 1987."
Like Girls, it finds pathos in the mismatch between one's youthful dreams and the disappointing reality of narrowed opportunities and missed rent payments. And like Girls, it argues that platonic friendships can be as vital, as sustaining and as complicated as romantic ones.