Mistress America movie full length review - Noah Baumbach's latest flick is a much needed improvement from his last disappointment
Noah Baumbach's latest flick is a much needed improvement from his last disappointment, While We're Young. With Mistress America, Baumbach gets two things really right.
First, the film is funny in the way that even straightest faces in the audience will crack by the end. Second, the film tells a story with painful accuracy. The greatest part, however, is that the quick 126 minute film runs like a play. The dialogue is quick, tight, and read with impeccable timing from the cast.
Mistress America is the story of Tracy's (Lola Kirke) unconventional first semester at Barnard College. Tracy's first few weeks at college are every freshman's nightmare. She struggles to make friends, good grades, and most importantly, into a prestigious literary writing group. Just as Tracy becomes into the loneliest sob story ever seen, she gets a call from Brooke (Greta Gerwig), the thirty-something daughter of the man Tracy's mom is about to marry. Tracy leaves her table for one and immediately finds herself enthralled in Brooke's world, soaking in every bit like she's never had friends or been to a party before. Brooke is the exact person one would expect to enter a boring protagonist's life. She is more than life itself, catching everyone's attention as she walks by. Brooke didn't need college apparently. She's an autodidact trying to start a restaurant in honor of her dead mother. Before the water works start, keep in mind that Brooke is ruthlessly selfish. Her dreams are as big as New York City, but she shows no sign of being scared of failing. The best scene is when a girl from Brooke's high school appears at the bar and stands up to Brooke after her years of torment. Brooke shows no remorse and hurls insults like she came out of her mother's womb criticizing saying the f-bomb. What a character, right? Tracy sure thinks so because she uses Brooke as her new subject to write on for her reapplication to the literary club. Tracy doesn't feel good about writing slanderous thoughts in her short story about Brooke, but she needs to prove herself as a college student who is just not doing "enough." Tracy earns the envy of the passively competitive and fellow literary reject, Tony. And while Tony may be all those things, he is the most accurate portrayal of a college student every seen in modern cinema. The story get heated when Brooke, Tracy, Tony, and Tony's girlfriend take a road trip to Connecticut to visit Brooke's old lover and best friend (now married) in order to ask them for money to invest into her restaurant. There could not be a more obvious set-up for drama. However, writers (and real-life couple) Gerwig and Baumbach keep the dialogue so accurate for a 2015 audience that the theater was practically shaking from laughter.
The film has heart at its core, but satire is its skin and bones. Brooke is a generational character. She floats from dream to dream without ever following through with one of her brilliant ideas. Not convinced of the satire yet? Brooke claims she is inflicted with an "unnamed illness" that causes her to lay in bed and watch television all day. The only real debate in this statement is whether or not the dig is directed towards the recent trend in categorizing everything that is not 100 percent happiness as an "illness" or that no one leaves their bed on the weekends anymore because, Netflix. However, Gerwig brings the other half of a satirical character besides the truth? humor. She is simply hilarious. She delivers her lines like the expert she is, and when the camera is just on her face, she commands it. Her presence is absolute dynamite. However, she does make room for newcomer Lola Kirke. Kirke's character is the other half of millennials?lonely, entitled, and unapologetic for her actions.
While Baumbach's direction is masterful, the editing felt awkward and choppy at times. However, the editing was really the only flaw in the near-perfect movie. Mistress America is the film that America needs.