Mistress America: A Lady of Comedy and Charm

Photo courtesy of The Film Stage

It took all but a few seconds to fall for Greta Gerwig in the latest Noah Baumbach film, Mistress America. Gerwig’s character Brooke is introduced as she dramatically descends the grand steps of Times Square in New York City with her arms outstretched. A poignant scene, that presents the outspoken and free spirited narcissist that is Gerwig to an absolute T.

Mistress America marks the third of Baumbach and Gerwig’s film collaborations as director/ actor and also as co-writers. They continue their track record of producing incredibly charming films that are in my opinion, very loveable. With Mistress America, Baumbach is undoubtedly attempting to be a bit Woody Allen in his cheeky film style, but it undeniably works.

In the film, Brooke is coming into her thirties, and has yet to find her place in the world. This may be why she finds nothing wrong with hanging around the likes of college freshman and writer, Tracy (Lola Kirke), her soon to be step-sister once their parents marry. Tracy is enchanted by Brooke’s fast paced talk of her hip lifestyle as a freelance interior designer and SoulCycle instructor, but hidden under it all though is a decade of failed relationships and business ventures. Tracy describes her as someone with big ideas, but never follows them through to the end. She is the quintessential person who knows how to talk the talk but can’t walk the walk.

Brooke is immature in the sense that she has a lot of millennial attributes to herself, whether is be her obsessive social media presence or her own self obsession echoing when she claims, “there’s nothing I don’t know about myself, that’s why I can’t do therapy”. There is a scene where she is confronted by an old high school classmate for being a bully she was back in the day, yet Brooke is unable to grasp anything wrong with what she did and provides no remorse. Instead of taking the blame she attributes the former classmate’s anger to jealousy of her popularity in high school.

Kirke is almost unrecognizable from her recent notable role as Rosamund Pike’s trailer trash neighbor in last year’s Gone Girl, as she takes a complete U-turn to star in Mistress America as a lonely college newcomer trying to fit in. Gerwig hits it out of the park giving this larger than life performance to Brooke. She is aloof yet obnoxiously cool all at the same time. A large part of the film’s narration by Kirke is spent trying to explain Gerwig’s character, yet there is still a sense of mystery for her multi-faceted personality. It’s impossible to understand her, but that is what Tracy finds exciting. Brooke turns into a muse that ends up fueling Tracy’s absence of creativity.

Dean Wareham and Britta Phillips, who are also credited to creating music for Baumbach’s 2005 The Squid and the Whale, produced the music for the film including the “Mistress America” titled song that scores a majority of the film. It’s cool, upbeat and almost 80’s  which appropriately feels like what it is must be like to be around Brooke.

This is a superbly funny movie that does not lack in jokes. Gerwig’s character in itself is a riot, yet her one-liners will have movie-goers quoting her with their girlfriends for weeks. Baumbach crafts scenes of comedic chaos that are almost unbelievable with his cast of crazy personas. This is the film all millennials should see to reflect on their own neurotic selves.


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