Baumbach Once Again Uses His Muse Gerwig in “Mistress America"

By Scott Kurland
Film: Mistress America
Starring: Lola Kirke, Greta Gerwig, Heather Lind, Matthew Shear, Jasmine Cephas Jones, and Michael Chernus
Rated R
Director: Noah Baumbach

The independent movie scene has been around for decades. Some argue that “Easy Rider” was one of the first independent films and the movie that started the golden age of cinema. Others like to say the mid to late 80s  started the independent scene with films like “My Dinner With Andre” and “Sex, Lies, & Videotape”. If you ask me for my opinion, (and clearly you are because you’re reading my review) the indie movement really flourished in the 90s. 

Think about it real hard.The 1990’s gave us Kevin Smith ("Clerks" & "Chasing Amy"), Richard Linklater ("SubUrbia" & "Before Sunrise"), and Noah Baumbach ("Kicking & Screaming" & "The Squid and the Whale"). These men took conversation to the next level. This week’s film is Noah Baumbach’s “Mistress America”, his second film of 2015. Let’s find out if it’s any good shall we?

“Mistress America” is the story of Tracy (Lola Kirke), a lonely college freshmen who wants to be a great writer. However, she can’t get into the writer’s society. Her only friend/love interest Tony (Matthew Shear) is too critical of her, and he'd rather be with someone more stable (Jasmine Cephas Jones). Tracy’s life in NYC is pretty sad until she meets her soon-to-be stepsister Brooke (Greta Gerwig). Brooke is out-going and well read. She’s also selfish in the best possible way. Her selfish ways fuel her ambition to be an entrepreneur. Brooke’s lifestyle is just the right amount of motivation and inspiration that Tracy needs to write and find herself.

It’s very ambitious of Baumbach to make two films this year and release them months apart. As much as I do like this film, Baumbach’s other film from April, “While We’re Young” is the superior film. “Mistress America” should have been made directly after Baumbach made “Frances Ha” two years ago. That movie also starred Gerwig. If I’m being perfectly frank here; by releasing “While We’re Young” first, Baumbach proves to the audience he has the ability to make a relatable age driven dramedy. “Mistress America” is very good, with that said, in comparison to his other film “Mistress America” will seem like a 90 minute episode of HBO’s “Girls”. 

“Mistress America” only works because of Gerwig and Kirke. Gerwig is the only actress who really understands the dialog written, maybe it’s because Baumbach wrote it with her. Whatever the case may be, Gerwig finds a way to make Brooke both empathetic and childish all at once. Gerwig always plays these adult Peter Pan women who are brilliant and out-going, but also very childish. The opposite can be said about Kirke’s Tracy. Tracy is very young, but she tries too hard to be a grown up and in the process proves how juvenile she really is. Krike and Gerwig balance each other and really compliment each other’s performances.

I do have a minor squabble with this film. It takes a little long to get to the heart of the film. We have some nice distractions like Gerwig’s Brooke and her party lifestyle. However, we want to see the meat of the film. We want Brooke’s journey to begin right away, and it takes 45 minutes. Yet, the playful dialog and colorful characters helps take your mind off the lack of plot detail in the first act and a half. 

“Mistress America” is an enjoyable film about stuck people trying to find their purpose in life. If you are looking for something that has the feel of an early 90s comedy, than “Mistress America” is the film for you. With a great score, cast, and clever writing “Mistress America” has more going for it then most of the films opening at the beginning of September. I recommend this light comedy to you my dear reader. Whether it is a date night, girl’s night, or you want something quirky see this movie. If none of that is appealing to you and you want cars and action, a new “Transporter” film just came out.

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