People have been trying to figure out 20-somethings at least since Dustin Hoffman unzipped Anne Bancroft's dress. In 2010, The New York Times Magazine ran a late-to-the-game article about a "new" life stage called "emerging adulthood" (a phrase coined by a psychology researcher a decade before) when self-indulgence and self-discovery collide. The exuberant and disarming Frances Ha is a portrait of one such emerging adult, shot in resplendent black-and-white and scored like a French New Wave film. As played with haphazard elegance by Greta Gerwig, Frances is a 27-year-old aspiring dancer in New York City still lurching through the obstacle course of a privileged post-collegiate life. Gerwig strips her performance of affect or cutesiness; unlike those manic pixie dream girls, she's not being quirky just to snag a guy. In one of the loveliest moments, David Bowie's "Modern Love" plays as Frances spins through the streets. Backpack bouncing, floral-print dress cutting a contrast with the crosswalk striping, she's every bit the emerging adult: aimless yet hopeful, self-absorbed yet in wide-eyed awe at the big, beautiful world.

  • Playing at: Laurelhurst.
  • Best paired with: 10 Barrel Swill.
  • Also playing: The Breakfast Club (Academy), Pacific Rim (Hollywood).