Mistress America

Over the years Noah Baumbach has become an unpredictable director (also co-writer with Wes Anderson on many film) with a generally liked hit like The Squid & The Whale but far more mixed responses to pictures like Margot at the Wedding and last years While We Were Young. Baumbach and actress Greta Gerwig have been an item since working on Greenberg together. They share co-writing credit for Mistress America. It’s the first time watching Gerwig where I found an equal amount of laughter to the annoying behavior the indie actress is known for. There is a stage quality about the dialogue or screenplay, so much is said and discussed so very quickly. The Mistress America finds it’s rhythm near the end of the film more so than the beginning.

Tracy (Kirke) is a social outcast and an incoming freshman at Barnard University in New York. Tracy’s mother is about to marry Brooke’s father, making the two step-sisters. In a moment of desperation, Tracy rings up her sister to be, which leads to a life changing night for the impressionable freshman. Bad sweaters, no style and an awkward nature, Tracy is enthralled with Brooke’s look on life, her ability to be involved in everything and nothing at the same time. When Brooke’s big plan of opening a restaurant is in danger, the two along with some of Tracy’s college piers, travel to Connecticut for the entrepreneur to forgive the woman who stole her boyfriend and t-shirt idea, then ask for the money she needs.

First time watching Gerwig where I found an equal amount of laughter to the annoying behavior the indie actress is known for.

“He’s the kind of person I hate, but I am in love with him,” Brooke says about her fiancé. It’s the kind of nonsensical dialogue Brooke spouts on a regular basis and while Tracy secretly writes down as she uses her new found friend as a source of inspiration in her writing. The audience can laugh at Brooke and what she says because it’s ridiculous, yet not very unfamiliar from the types of things we normally see and hear from Gerwig. The biggest difference in Mistress America over Lola Versus or Frances Ha is that Gerwig isn’t the main focus. Newcomer Kirke tells the story from her point of view, we watch Tracy adapt Brooke’s mannerisms, becoming more like her.

Once the film gets to the house in Connecticut, Mistress America takes on more of a stage play feel with sharp and quick banter, sometimes eight people on screen at once. Baumbach isn’t known for ensemble work as much as his collaborator Wes Anderson, but that influence seems to be present here. Typically Gerwig is a motor mouth of annoyances but here her specific acting traits seem useful although it’s clear the audience is laughing at her more than with her. Narcissism is alive and flourishing in nearly every character. Through Tracy’s eyes we see how fascinated she is with Brooke first meeting her as a successful, go-getter who is involved in so many thing, yet when her financial situation is put in jeopardy, Brooke just seems psychotic and desperate.

Final Thought

Surprisingly funny in the most unusual and narcissistic way.


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