MOVIE REVIEW: ‘Mistress America’ Is Not To Be Missed

Film: Mistress America
Starring: Greta Gerwig, Lola Kirke
Directed By: Noah Baumbach

Noah Baumbach and Greta Gerwig have outdone themselves yet again.

Mistress America is the pinnacle of Baumbach’s career up to this point, and it’s only suiting that time come in a work created with, not to mention starring, his equally talented spouse. It’s funny and heartfelt, with just enough dramatic weight to keep things grounded while the level of absurdity rises to heights the still young-filmmaker has never before explored, and it all relies on a career-best performance from the ever-infallible Gerwig.

Tracy (Lola Kirke) is a college freshman living in New York City who can’t seem to find her place in the world of higher education. She longs to be a writer, but lacks the confidence needed to make her words spring to life. She is also struggling to deal with her mother who, following years stuck in a loveless marriage for the sake of Tracy and her brother, is finally moving on with a new man she feels might actually be the one. In fact, her mother is planning to get married in the fall, and she suggests that Tracy seek out her new fiance’s daughter as a way of both getting to know her soon to be extended family, as well as the city around her.

Brooke, the daughter Tracy is asked to contact, is a newly-30, single woman living in an apartment zoned for commercial properties in the heart of Times Square. She lives the life we tell ourselves the models for Urban Outfitters or American Apparel must live, with nights of care-free partying and days of stress-free existence. Her dreams are her only real concerns, and though she has yet to act on any of them she wholeheartedly believes that one day they will flourish into the one-of-a-kind reality she has always known was meant for her. She’s the cool girl too cool to recognize just how envious the room is of her apparent lightheartedness, and she welcomes Tracy into her life with open arms.

When they first meet, it seems as if Tracy and Brooke were almost meant for one another. Tracy has an endless array of curiosities about a life outside the constant worry of whether or not one is good enough, and Brooke appears to have an endless amount of knowledge and experience to share. Together these two young women explore their concerns about life, the struggle to match the high expectations of one’s own ambitions, and the constant need to remind yourself that you are not the sum of everyone else’s views, but rather your own. They want different things out of life, but at the same time neither one is entirely sure they are on the right path. They’re searching for something, and for a while you get the idea they believe one another might have the answer.

Mistress America plays with Baumbach’s signature flare for conversation and his innate ability to focus on the small idiosyncrasies that make his characters feel so real, but it comes together in a way far more fulfilling than many of his recent works, and it seems that is owed entirely to what Kirke and Gerwig bring to their roles. The connection between them is real, even when tensions begin to rise, and thanks to Baumbach’s intimate style of direction you feel as if you’re a part of their adventure as well. A car ride from New York to Greenwich, with four people already seated, places you in the middle of it all as the passengers ask one another why they are traveling in the first place. Everyone wants something for themselves, be it peace of mind, money, or a real relationship with another person, and all you want is a little more time with each of them. The bonds they share are real, and you want to belong.

Nothing good ever lasts forever in the world of Baumbach, and before long our leads begin to realize there is lot more to one another than they ever realized. Tracy, despite what she tells herself, cannot help seeing the world through a lens that is decidedly negative for a myriad of reasons largely related to herself. Brooke, on the other hand, is hopeful to a fault as she cannot see her own shortcomings. She is never at fault, but rather the victim of a cruel life that finds her always being overlooked, taken advantage of, used, neglected, or in other words, let down by everyone she has chosen to love, so she has quietly decided to never love again. As she off-handedly comments while dancing in a club on the night she first meets Tracy, “Everyone I love dies.”

There is a lot more to the universe of Mistress America, including a cast of supporting actors delivering hilarious and well balanced performances that are ever-so-slightly surreal in their portrayal of seemingly regular people. The quirks are numerous, from over-zealous lover to wise, pregnant woman, and they decorate an already vivid cinematic landscape with memorable turns that you will be laughing about for days to come. It’s the kind of world you want to live in, even when things are awkward.

Mistress America is the high point of a creative collaboration between Baumbach and Gerwig that is only the latest in careers littered with collaborative highlights. This pair is on a hot streak together, and this is their best work yet. I want nothing more than to live in a world where simple, yet zany little films like this are the main source of entertainment. It’s charming in all the right ways, and it leaves you with a sense of fulfillment that is often sought, but rarely found at the cinema today.


James Shotwell
Latest posts by James Shotwell (see all)
Both comments and pings are currently closed.

One Response to “MOVIE REVIEW: ‘Mistress America’ Is Not To Be Missed”

  1. Ana Collier says:

    I will show excellent !online job opportunity… 3-5 hours of work /day… Weekly paycheck… Bonuses…Payment of $6000-$9000 /month… Merely several hours of free time, any kind of computer, elementary knowing of internet and dependable web-connection is what is required…Click on my disqus~~~~page to learn more