Mistress America

by Alan Rapp on August 28, 2015

in Movie Reviews 

  • Title: Mistress America
  • IMDb: link

Mistress AmericaWritten and directed by Noah Baumbach (and co-written by the movie’s star Greta Gerwig), Mistress America is an uneven comedy that has a tone and feel more befitting a stage play than even an independent theatrical release. That’s not to say it should be easily dismissed. Despite its issues, when the film gets it right it gets it just right (such as an extended sequence in a yuppie suburban home where the quick-hitting back-and-forth dialogue finally hits on every note). Taken as a whole, Mistress America is neither as good as its brightest moments or as bad as it valleys where the lack of laughs exposes just how thin a story Baumbach is working with.

Lola Kirke and Gerwig star as strangers in New York brought together by their parents’ impeding wedding. Tracy (Kirke) is struggling with both life in college and the big city, neither of which see fits in all that well. Brooke (Gerwig) is a force of nature whose outgoing personality masks her own litany of personal issues. Tracy, of course, immediately latches on to her first real friend in the city while Brooke is happy to share her knowledge and experience with a young would-be sibling who obviously adores her.

Although entertaining, because the Traci/Brooke relationship is rather one-note (with an unavoidable conflict waiting in the wings) the film works better when it widens the cast to include other characters. The supporting cast includes Tracy’s only other New York friend Tony (Matthew Shear), who shares her aspirations for being a writer and gets dragged into Tracy’s drama, and his paranoid girlfriend (Jasmine Cephas Jones) along with a pregnant woman (Cindy Cheung), a nosy neighbor (Seth Barrish), and couple from Brooke’s past (Heather Lind and Michael Chernus) whose home holds the key to her future plans as a restaurateur and provides the before-mentioned best sequence of the movie.

Both too predictable and quirky for its own good, Mistress America never quite succeeds in becoming the movie it wants to be, even if it comes close on more than one occasion. As a collection of moments, however, there is plenty to savor.

Previous post:

Next post: