Mistress America see’s indie darlings Greta Gerwig and Noah Baumbach team up to tell the story of a young girl seeking guidance from an eccentric relative in the bustling city of New York. Part Woody Allen’s dialogue and pornographic display of the Big Apple, part John Hughes coming of age drama and part pixie girl hipster flick, Mistress America is a riotously funny film in parts that could see Baumbach shake his Allen-lite tag.
Tracy, a freshman college student in New York finds herself floundering without a social group or human interaction. In a panic she contacts her soon to be sister-in-law, Brooke, a woman full of energy for anything life throws at her as she bounces between jobs, men and partying with an open outlook on life. As Tracy continues to follow Brooke around New York like a lost puppy, she starts to realise that not everything is as it seems and as she uses Brooke as an inspiration for her creative writing course, she realises the true reality of the woman she has dubbed ‘Mistress America.’
Brooke and Tracy find themselves venturing to an old friend of Brooke’s in the country in the third act. As the action ramps up, the film takes a turn towards a screwball comedy and the laughs are escalated as many of the characters are brought to their breaking point. With a book club, neighbours, cats and disgruntled girlfriends all pulling the laughs, it’s the perfect end to a film that could have easily derailed itself in melodrama. It’s a clear indicator of Gerwig’s growing powers as her comedic and dramatic range is tested over the space of a few scenes.
Mistress America is comedically engaging, dense calculated jokes are thrown out and played off like nothing as you are forced to catch up as another comes at you. The film has its balances of drama and self empowered growth, but comedy is where Gerwig and Baumbach’s writing is most delicious.
At parts in the film I was unsure of who’s story I was watching. We start with Tracy and her feeling lost in a new world but that concept is quickly lost under Brooke’s intense chaos. Tracy is lost in the story, not just a spectator, but a minor concern. While this is no real issue as Gerwig commands the screen, it makes any emotional conclusion for Tracy hollow and abrupt. .
The Round Up:
Mistress America is John Hughes lite for a new generation of teens lost as the world yells different concepts of who they should be at them. With modern slang mixed with deeper world concepts, this is a lesson for misguided youth mixed with a large scoop of comedy. Gerwig and Lola Kirke are both engaging in their roles and Noah Baumbach has stepped up a level in his direction from his stilted last effort While We’re Young. Not a film for the mass population, but a film that will click with those who enjoyed Trainwreck, Obvious Child and Frances Ha.