Mistress America is a heartfelt and often uproariously hilarious character study, with the film’s director Noah Baumbach creating a vast and intricate environment. The film’s pacing and tone is consistent throughout, and despite the film’s melancholy vibe, there’s a surprising amount of optimism and heart that’s seen in the film.
Set in the midst of modern day New York City, Tracy (Lola Kirke) is an incoming freshman that struggles with finding a place in the college environment and the city in general. When she discovers that her mother is set for an engagement, Tracy meets up with her outgoing soon to be stepsister Brooke (Greta Gerwig), who’s determined to establish a business in the city. Drawn into Brooke’s world, Tracy begins to aid Brooke in her plight, and find mutual satisfaction.
Director Noah Baumbach creates an incredibly interesting environment, with New York City playing a huge role in the film. The city represents the modernization of the world, with the two central characters caught in the midst of a changing environment. Also vital to the film is the duality that’s present in many of Baumbach’s films; the dynamic between Gerwig and Kirke serves as an active metaphor between the generational gap, and it establishes a film that feels openly modern, while still addressing universal themes.
The film’s great screenplay also works very well within the film’s tone, and does a great job at creating very unique characters. The film’s characters are nuanced, and even tragic, which sets up an even more intelligent form of comedies. The side cast in particular works beyond the stereotypical supporting characters, and these other characters work well at keeping up the lightning fast pace. Though some of the film slows down in the third act, especially following a climactic and very funny second act, it still feels realistic within the world of the characters.
The amazing cast is also a strong drawing factor for the film. Lola Kirke gives a great performance as Tracy, and strikes a great balance between being a relatable character without feeling too generic. But the film’s real star is Greta Gerwig; Gerwig gives a hilarious lead performance that speaks to the film’s themes, and doesn’t feel to over-the-top that is compromises the film in general. The supporting cast works very well, and both support Gerwig and Kirkes’ characters, while still feeling like unique characters in their own.
On a technical level, Mistress America has an amazing visual quality. The cinematography delivers a beautiful look at city nightlife, and the score and soundtrack combine to create a really entertaining film. The film’s relatively brief 84 minute runtime feels like the perfect time for the film’s story.
Mistress America is a very funny film, and the film’s dissection of writers and influence is an incredibly universal theme that speaks to a very relatable quality. Baumbach’s vision of young life is filled with energy and spirit, with some great performances and one of the year’s better scripts. Energetic and hilarious, it’s a completely enthralling journey. Grade: B