Sunday Matinee #8 Frances Ha
Adulting 101: When even paycheck-to-paycheck doesn't cut it.
Dear Reader, I’m having fun getting creative and sharing R-Rated Movie Club with you. Will you take a moment to share it with someone else? If you know someone who’d get a kick out of this newsletter I would appreciate your recommendation, thanks. And now, a sneak peek at our next Feature Presentation!
Sneak Peek: Our Next Feature Presentation
The Feature Presentation on Ronin is almost wrapped and it will be released a little later than anticipated, but it will be soon. That’s what happens when you start a newsletter and try to figure out how it all fits in the rhythms of life. In the meantime it’s already time to talk about our next Feature. March is Minnesota Month and we’re featuring our first movie set in (with some location shooting in) Minnesota.
The next movie for the Feature Presentation is…
A SIMPLE PLAN.
This quiet thriller is a lesson in how a good story can be a simple plan: take a pile of compelling characters, a pile of money, and pile after pile of problems.
You can read an excerpt in two weeks on March 5 and the Feature Presentation is scheduled to drop on March 14. I encourage you to watch the movie between now and then. Go to JustWatch to see where to rent or purchase it for streaming. We recently got Paramount+ with Showtime, so that’s how I’m watching it this month.
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Quotes With Notes
John 3:5-7, 9-10
Full Text: John 3:1-17 (Revised Common Lectionary)
2nd Sunday in Lent (March 5, 2023)
Sign up for a free course at EnterTheBible.org to learn more.
Context: A Pharisee named Nicodemus meets Jesus under cover of night to learn from him away from his fellow Pharisees or the crowds in the city. He asks many questions, most of all about the lessons he’s learning. This is also the pericope with the famously oft-quoted “For God so loved the world…” verse, John 3:16.
5 Jesus answered, “Very truly, I tell you, no one can enter the kingdom of God without being born of water and Spirit. 6 What is born of the flesh is flesh, and what is born of the Spirit is spirit. 7 Do not be astonished that I said to you, ‘You must be born from above.’
9 Nicodemus said to him, “How can these things be?” 10 Jesus answered him, “Are you the teacher of Israel, and yet you do not understand these things?
Frances Ha (2012) | Pine District Pictures, RT Features, Scott Rudin Productions
Starring Greta Gerwig, Mickey Sumner, Adam Driver
Written by Noah Baumbach & Greta Gerwig | Directed by Noah Baumbach
Context: A young dancer living in NYC, Frances (Greta Gerwig) is struggling her way through landing a role in a dance company and troubles with both her roommate and her boyfriend. On a tough day, she get a moment of joy when a tax rebate check shows up in the mail and she decides to treat herself and her friend, Lev (Adam Driver), out for dinner. However, when it’s time to pay the bill, her credit card is declined, they don’t take debit cards, and she doesn’t have any cash. (16:40-17:20)
Frances Ha: “I’m so embarrassed. I’m not a real person yet.”
Raise your hand if you’re a fully-formed, fully-functioning, fully-infallible human yet.
Believe it or not, there are still people out there who think life is about the destination, not the journey. While I believe we all would prefer our journey to “end well,” I do think it’s the day-to-day that is the most interesting. We get daily chances to do our best, to succeed and to fail, to improve and fall short, and then try again. That may sound impossible cheery, as if I haven’t had my fair share of tough days and failure days, but it’s part of what keeps me going. If we’re not learning along the way, what kind of “way” is this, anyway?
Nicodemus comes to Jesus under cover of night because he’s afraid. It doesn’t say that motivation outright in the text, but the writer specifically mentions he came to Jesus by night, which is to say he needed more than what he witnessed in the day. There are crowds there, as well as his fellow Pharisees, many of whom disagree with Jesus publicly. But something tugs at Nicodemus; he wants more. He spares himself embarrassment by coming to Jesus at night to learn from his new teacher. He struggles to understand everything Jesus has to teach him, but he’s there.
He’s trying. And it does pay off. We don’t get to see the conclusion of his time with Jesus, but we will see Nicodemus later. He doesn’t get to his places of growth without these times of naivety, learning, and trying to do better. Really, does anyone?
At 27, Frances Ha is desperate to feel like an adult. That’s different from being an adult. In the US, we are legal adults at 18. And we keep learning what it is to be an adult for years to come. In fact, I’ve often wondered at what point will I be done “learning” what it is to be an adult, if ever. Her embarrassing moment of not having the right way to pay for dinner with a friend is relatable for anybody going through the struggles of growing up during adulthood. I remember times I went out with friends who didn’t bring an ID or look up information about a venue ahead of time and how I was frustrated with their surprise at policies, prices, and so on. Just prepare, I thought, why not just prepare? Then I get hit with my own similar moments, where I sheepishly realize oh, I didn’t know better or oh, I didn’t prepare or oh, I messed up.
I’ve been known to preach on the Nicodemus story quite often. Not just the passage featuring him in the Gospel of John chapter 3 but also his other two cameo appearances in chapters 7 and 19. He has a full character arc as a disciple in these three pivotal scenes. To put it in movie terms, he’s the Wedge Antilles of the Star Wars trilogy. Or the Neville Longbottom of the Harry Potter films. Or the Merry and Pippin of Lord of the Rings. You get the picture. He’s one way at the beginning, seemingly a side character, only to show his growth as the main story progresses and then he does something pivotal as part of the climax of the story. His story is one of my favorite in all of the gospels because it feels the most real to me.
Embarrassment stinks. I’m glad Nicodemus took in Jesus’s teachings in private to help his discipleship. I’m bummed Frances Ha had an in-public display of her financial ignorance and irresponsibility. I think I’ve had something similar on both ends. How about you? When something happens to you that would’ve been embarrassing and you get to figure it out without the potential for public shame, what do you do with that opportunity? If you have to learn a public lesson, how do you handle that? Thankfully, both Nicodemus and Frances Ha take their lessons - private and public - with grace and dignity. Can we?
Take care of yourself and watch out for each other, and blessings to you. May what you seek be found, and may what is found have an abundance of love at its center. And to today’s preachers, may the sermon you crafted and the prayers you lift reveal the everlasting presence of the Holy Spirit. See you at the movies.
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