Frances 2.0

By Hannah Levy and Adriana Robles | Comedy
A middle-aged mother becomes a Lyft driver, then tries to reinvent her life.

Launched by “Bridesmaids” director Paul Feig, Powderkeg: Fuse is a talent incubator program that highlights emerging female film directors. Omeleto is proud to share its diverse slate of shorts for this year — as part of its inaugural Fuse Directing Program — which are inspired by the vibrant communities of Los Angeles and united by a comedic sensibility that can range from bawdy to caustic to offbeat, but is always emotionally grounded.

This short comedy by SNL alums and writer-director duo Hannah Levy and Adriana Robles is a wry, warmhearted gently hilarious vignette of a woman reinventing her life in the trendy new environs of West Hollywood. Newly arrived from Maryland, Frances has followed her adult daughter to the West Coast, where she has decided to become a Lyft driver.

During the course of her work, she picks up various habitues of her new city, which exposes her to a cross-section of people, who allow her a glimpse into the unique landscape of upscale urban culture. She learns what a “hypebeast” is; she learns about influencers; she discovers the subtleties of dating profile pics.

The writing here has both a drily discerning eye for the nuances of modern Los Angeles and consumer culture, in all its absurdities, as well as a light but sure-handed way of building Frances’s character. Friendly, open and optimistic, in many ways, she’s set up as the wide-eyed and naive ingenue moving to the big city for the first time.

But of course, Frances is not a young woman but a middle-aged mother, likely hunkered down in suburbia raising her kids and keeping the home. Her reactions to the vagaries of waiting in line at Supreme or the mysteries of Grindr reveal both her curiosity and naivete, but while the film derives humor from her “fish out of water” status, it never pokes fun at Frances.

Instead, she has an acceptance and curiosity to the people she encounters and things that she learns, and a great spirit of optimism that can’t help but feel infection. Actor Pam Murphy’s terrific, understated performance often plays this naivete as a bemusement and communicates an eagerness to embrace her new life. When she arrives at her daughter’s place for dinner and meets an influencer who is deep in the mores of this new world, she decides to open up a dating profile — revealing how quickly she’s caught on in many ways to her new environment and gently horrifying her daughter.

“Frances 2.0” is essentially a snapshot, and manages to be continually engaging without generating a lot of artificial conflict. Instead, it’s almost like a documentary, especially with its luminous, handheld camerawork following Frances in her new occupation. While it’s quite funny in its social observation, it’s also a lovely, affecting portrait of what possible after a certain age. Starting over and reinventing yourself is often portrayed as traumatic and sad, but it can also be a great occasion to think over what you really want from life and see the world anew — and there’s nothing more genuinely fresh and youthful than that optimism.

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