Mistress America – Movie Review

Mistress AmericaMistress America – R
Release Date: Fri 14 Aug 2015

Mistress America is co-written by director Noah Baumbach and star Greta Gerwig. It’s something of a straight line from Baumbach’s last two films, Frances Ha (2013, also with Gerwig) and While We’re Young (2014) to Mistress America. The films deal with the idea of delayed adult responsibility from 18-year-old college freshman Tracy (Lola Kirke) to 30-year-old Brooke (Gerwig.)

Tracy is having trouble finding friends and fitting in at her college. Her mother is getting remarried and her stepfather-to-be is Brooke’s father. Tracy calls Brooke after a suggestion from her mother, and Brooke instantly begins a breakneck friendship with Tracy taking her out on the town and letting her stay in Brooke’s apartment in Times Square. Tracy immediately recognizes that Brooke is all talk and no follow-through. She begins to write a fictionalized short story about Brooke (renamed Meadow in the story) and it is this writing that often frames new scenes as Tracy’s narration.

This could be a tough movie to watch if Brooke was a mere narcissistic dilettante, but there are visible cracks in this facade. She knows that she’s 30 and has nothing to show for it. Much of her “big talk” is for her own benefit. Tracy is also not just an observer here, but ends up helping and hurting Brooke in different ways including a brilliant farcical sequence where Brooke attempts to pitch her idea for a restaurant to her ex-fiance and a strange gathering of acquaintances.

While Mistress America is certainly not a movie with mainstream hooks, it is the most accessible and satisfying of Baumbach’s recent work and much better crafted than Frances Ha. Tracy is something of a Nick Carraway to Brooke’s intriguing mix of Gatsby and Daisy Buchanan. There are a lot of smaller roles that feel well grounded and add a lot to the humor and expression of the movie. If you get the chance to see it in theaters, I recommend doing so.

Amber, Aaron and I saw it in the theater and had a discussion in the car:


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