Despite sounding like the name of an unusually gifted superhero, Mistress America is in actual fact, the title of a rather curious film that will leave you unsure about what you have just seen. Noah Baumbach takes us on a rather unspecific existential journey through the lives of two soon-to-be stepsisters.
When newbie New Yorker and College student Tracy finds her new surroundings to be less than the exciting new life she envisioned and has all but given up on the NYC dream, she meets the wildly free spirited Brooke. Tracy and Brooke are soon to be stepsisters and find comfort in each other in the hustle and bustle of the Big Apple. Inspired by Brookes flighty but witty disposition, Tracy begins to write feverishly about their spontaneous antics.
If you’re hoping for a neatly packaged explanation of what this film is about, you know, one of those cute little loglines that makes watching a film all that much easier, sorry, it’s not going to happen. Mistress America seems to be about so much and yet so little at the same time. There are obvious moral issues and a trifling life story or two but no real all-encompassing storyline.
One thing is for sure; Mistress America is supremely witty and almost mind-bogglingly fast paced. This well scripted and undoubtedly meticulously devised screenplay has brought these unusual yet fascinating characters to life in a whirlwind of clever remarks, brutally honest confessions and surreal yet all to familiar circumstances.
Put all of these elements together and you will find yourself laughing out loud one minute, shaking you head in disbelief in the next and then shifting uncomfortably in your chair before it all starts again. And just when you think you have it figured out, it ends and you start questioning not only what the heck this film is about, but questioning your life, your choices and your own path. Sounds like a blast hey? Well, it really is.
Greta Gerwig is not only the star of this production but co-writer of the project. Gerwig plays the notorious Brooke, the natural New Yorker with a passion for life and everything that can one can possibly fit in to it. The natural flow that Gerwig shows with her unusually timed and jammed packed dialogue obviously comes from a close relationship with the script and has allowed her to truly own this character.
In the other corner is Lola Kirke as the lonely college freshman, Tracy. Tracy is looking for her muse and waiting to find that infamous New York spark when she finds solace in the impetuousness of Brooke’s life. Kirke really hones in on the uncertainty of that transitional period and has a real knack for owning the vulnerability of Tracy’s character.
Paired together, Gerwig and Kirke make an exciting match. They feed off of each other and make this fast paced script seem like a walk in the park. As for the rest of the cast, top props go to Michael Chernus, Heather Lind, Matthew Shear and Cindy Cheung for adding a stack of laughable moments to the mix.
Despite the humorous attempt at a lesson on life’s bigger picture, Mistress America gets its message muddled in the deluge of content. I certainly give the deluge of content praise, because that’s what makes this film so unique, but it’s charm gets lost somewhere between the quirky offbeat verbal sparring and the pressing need to tell a story when there really wasn’t one.
Mistress America isn’t one of those films you will run out to by on DVD the moment it is released, but it is certainly a film worth watching. It was highly enjoyable and really keeps you entertained right till the end.
A quirky film with a witty yet charismatically offbeat take on life.