Director: Noah Baumbach
Writer: Noah Baumbach, Greta Gerwig
Cast: Lola Kirke, Greta Gerwig, Matthew Shear, Heather Lind, Michael Chernus, Cindy Cheung
Part of: Viennale
Seen on: 1.11.2015
[Review by cornholio.]
Tracy (Lola Kirke) ist about to start college in New York. She doesn’t know anybody there though and has trouble connecting, especially when she doesn’t make it into the prestigious writer’s club on campus. Her mother suggests that Tracy should call the daughter of the mother’s fiancé, her soon-to-be-stepsister Brooke (Greta Gerwig). Brooke enthusiastically lets Tracy into her life that is quite wild and unusual. Tracy is enraptured by Brooke, Brooke’s life and her myriad plans that never seem to come to any fruition.
If I hadn’t already been in love with Greta Gerwig before Mistress America, I would be now. The film is very good, but she is awesome personified.
Just as with Frances Ha, Baumbach is strongest when he has Gerwig writing with him. Together they produce some of the most unusual female characters who on the surface may seem annoying or stereotypical, but when you watch the film, they simply aren’t. Since it is extraordinary enough to get a film about two women in the first place, that Tracy and Brooke are unusal and that their relationship is not at all defined by men (quite to the contrary, the homosexual subtext is very little sub and very much text).
Plus, the two women get a story that is not built on catty competition between women. In fact, their gender and accompanying gender stereotypes are pretty much entirely irrelevant to it, which is even rarer.
The film is always funny and sometimes a little but it is built around an emotional core that takes its characters seriously, meaning that you can go along with the characters every step of the way. And even as you laugh, you can also feel the pain inflicted on them. It even touches on serious topics – Brooke describes herself so that she’d perfectly fit the textbook definition of bipolar disorder, but she’d never think to go to a doctor, for example. Since she’s coping very well, I’m not saying she should or has to, but it’s interesting to see.
So with Mistress America you get a well-paced, excellently acted film with a complex relationship between two women who I both liked and didn’t like at its center that is entertaining and more than it seems at first glance. What more could you possibly ask for?