Thursday, July 13, 2017

Occasional Stories: The Story Of Frances Ha 

Dr. Laksiri Fernando
logoShe is not a dancer, but a dancer. Frances Halladay is her name, but it is a mystery how she became ‘Ha,’ until the end of the story. I first thought it is an old movie, because it is black and white, but it is not. It was produced in 2012 and released in 2013. Its ‘black and white’ give a classic flavour to the moving picture frames, blended with several pop songs. One of which is ‘This little light of mine.’ You may listen to it here quite safely. 
Most attractive is Frances’ tall, slender figure, moving or running all the time, never missing a chance to smile, laugh or joke. 
This is simply a new type of comedy. It is American, but it depicts a universal theme going around among young women of new times who seek independence, affection, relationship, occupation and most of all, in this case, amusement. It may be little premature for Sri Lanka in certain aspects, but not in essence. I could see little bit of ‘Frances’ in the character of Abisheka in the Harakotiyateledrama, or Paba in the Paba teledrama.
Even in real life I have seen them emerging among university undergraduates, before I left after retirement, and mostly among Sri Lankan migrants in Australia. A known young woman, recently went around Latin America, all alone, meeting friends, visiting Mexico, Cuba, Venezuela, Colombia and Peru, after saving some money from her first job. She came to our place to relate the adventure, perhaps in an exaggerated manner, talking nonstop. They don’t mean any harm to themselves or others, if they are brought up in an intelligent manner.
Frances also was brought up in such a caring family in Sacramento, California. You could meet the parents in the movie when Frances visits them for Christmas. They are very close, not physically, but emotionally. Father is also funny, like Frances. Frances is mostly in New York, when not moving. They live worlds apart, almost 2,500 miles is the distance from Sacramento to New York. Sacramento is also a city but compared to New York, it is a ‘village.’
This genuine ‘village’ trait is mostly visible in the manners and behaviour of the people that Frances acquainted with in Sacramento. That might be one reason why Frances has a more causal, carefree and openminded soul, compared to her, not so friendly friend, Sophie in New York. I also had my roommate at Peradeniya Campus from, ‘that time’ remote, Embiliyapitiya. He also was very frank and open and even witty unlike many of our urban folks or Colombians. 
The Story
The story starts in Brooklyn, New York, where Frances shares an apartment with Sophie, who was her ‘best friend.’ Perhaps they first met at Vassar College, a liberal arts college in New York, where Frances got her liking for just dancing. This is a hopeless venture, according to more professional and money minded Sophie.
Frances has already joined a dance company as an apprentice which does not give her much money. Sophie also wants to move to her dream neighbourhood, Tribeca, which Frances cannot afford. Rents are very expensive not to speak of other living costs in Tribeca. That is their breakup. Sophie wears glasses with thick lenses. Is that any indication of the character? Perhaps it is a common prejudice. Tribeca is very trendy, many celebrities living there. Sophie also now has a ‘professional’ boyfriend. 
Where does Frances move? China town of course! She lives with Leve and Benji, two boys in a shared apartment. Often there are various visitors, boys and girls, coming to sleep over. Frances didn’t mind very much given her casual life style. She is respected by others, like a Loku Akka (big sister). What is Frances’ age? Twenty something, she always says. She is in fact 27. Does she look for steady relationship. Yes, of course, she does but not with much success.
One interesting episode is when Frances goes for a ‘date’ with Benji to a restaurant. It was understood that the bill will be foot by Frances. Perhaps Benji is ‘hard up’ at that time. When it comes to paying, she apparently doesn’t have cash. This is a small restaurant where credit cards are not accepted. Then she runs to an ATM. She falls on her way, and even bruises her arm. She is a person who cannot walk slow. She always have to run. The relationship with Benji does not go much further.
It is this time that Christmas comes and Frances goes to Sacramento. She is now a big star to her old friends and relations, usually boasting about her adventures in New York. There are two significant episodes. She meets one of her old school friend, a boy – now a man, going to a dinner party with her partner, who is expecting a child. There is a kind of remorse on Frances’ part, still a spinster. But Frances is open, kind and well wishing to the couple. Second is when she meets another old friend, a girl or a woman, who is fortunately single, like Frances. What does she do? She plays with her, even trying to show her amateur Karate skills. This appears childish, but funny as it is enacted. There are of course ‘tomboy’ characteristics in Frances.
Going Broke

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