Frances Ha and the Bechdel Movie Test

This movie review is cross-posted on my other blog about growing up (and/or not growing up)

one 3rd life crisis blog

Guys, I think I have a new favourite movie. Last night I watched Frances Ha and it totally charmed my pants off.

Maybe it’s because I’m close to the same age as the main character, or maybe it’s just the fact that I’d also have preferred to extend my early twenties and delay the obligations of growing up.

Frances Ha

It was more than that though. She is me as I want to be, and as I don’t. She’s the me that lives inside my head. There’s a scene where she run-dances through the street and, while it’s not something that I’m likely to physically do myself, it’s often how my spirit moves when I’m making my way though the streets, listening to music on my headphones. I’m dancing in my imagination although, outwardly, I’m just another stranger on the sidewalk.

Not only did I see myself in Frances, but I also saw my friends in her too. She is an amalgam of the girls I went to university with, past roommates, and drinking buddies; she is somehow every person I knew in my entire twenties.

Because of this, the movie made me this strange combination of wistful and nostalgic and inspired and hopeful all at once.

At the same time, Frances Ha managed to avoid the oft relied upon cliche of girl-needs-boy as a central storyline and instead provided the (more realistic, IMO) romance between a young woman and her best friend. Likewise, the conflict wasn’t determined by Frances and a male counterpart, but rather existed between Frances and herself. In fact, I’d say with confidence that Frances Ha passes the Bechdel test with flying colours.

In case you aren’t familiar, the Bechdel test requires every film to have three simple criteria:

  1. It has to have at least two women in it,
  2. who talk to each other,
  3. about something besides a man.

Super reasonable, eh? Surprisingly (or perhaps unsurprisingly), SO MANY movies fail this test spectacularly. I’ll spare you the rant but suffice it to say that the Bechdel test is super revealing of prevalent sexism in modern cinema. Fortunately, Frances Ha is a wonderful exception. And the best part? It’s not even noticeable. The movie is so genuine it manages to flawlessly tell the story of a girl who (*gasp*) has her own, non-male-centered issues to deal with without going out of it’s way to point out that it’s doing so.

Oh and bonus: this one has a killer soundtrack too.

7 thoughts on “Frances Ha and the Bechdel Movie Test

  1. Agreed. I was pleased to watch an indie film that kept me entertained for a full 90 minutes without resorting to the usual formula of linear storytelling, unrealistic characters, boobs, violence, and explosions. It was so delightful to watch.

    • It’s so revealing to think about movies in terms of the Bechdel test. It’s made me realize that some stand-by classics don’t demonstrate unique thoughts from women at all! I can’t believe I was so oblivious before. It’s a neat tool to have now though.

      And I totally, totally recommend Frances Ha. Makes a good date night movie!

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