I am at my second Sundance Film Festival.
These are my reviews.
DIRECTOR: Noah Baumbach
SCREENWRITERS: Noah Baumbach, Greta Gerwig
PRINCIPAL CAST: Greta Gerwig, Lola Kirke
U.S.A., 2014, 84 min., color
Plot (courtesy of Sundance): Tracy, a lonely college freshman in New York, is rescued from her solitude by her soon-to-be stepsister Brooke, an adventurous gal about town who entangles her in alluringly mad
schemes. Mistress America is a comedy about dream-chasing, score-settling, makeshift families, and cat-stealing.
Review: Noah Baumbach is happier. You can see it all over his face. In this case his face is Mistress America. I like to think it’s because he found his creative partner in life, Greta Gerwig. Actually, I don’t even know if he’s happier, but I am. Mistress America is my second-favorite Baumbach film. In all likelihood, no Baumbach film can ever replace the special spot reserved at the top, which is Kicking and Screaming. If you think I’m talking about a Will Ferrell movie, you can see yourself out now.
Mistress is another love affair with a make-shift dysfunctional family. This time it’s freshman, Tracy (Kirke), meeting her future stepsister Brooke (Gerwig). Though 12 years separates them, both are addicted to each other. One needs to be inspired, the other needs to feel like she’s inspiring. There are many great one-liners (too many to list, and plus my memory is terrible) and this might be the peppiest of Baumbach’s films.
Tracy wants to write, and she’s found her muse in Brooke’s messy life. Brooke is a step away from both positive and negative life directions. Just like in Frances Ha, New York is a character, but there are plenty of others like Matthew Shear being her schoolmate and possibly more.
The film hits its high point when they actually leave New York because Brooke needs a ride to convince her ex (Michael Chernus) to invest in an idea. Gerwig is such a wonderful supporting character in this film, I hope everyone falls for her. She is chaos. She is joy. She is also clearly suffering, but the young Tracy doesn’t exactly notice that, which feels like it adds a secret layer to the film.
Brooke, and all of her messiness makes Mistress America a delight. Baumbach is lucky to have her (and he’s also a really exceptional filmmaker).