Mistress America


Reviewed by: Angus Wolfe Murray

Mistress America
"A portrait of courage and confusion at an age when options are flying wild"

Some might think that Noah Baumbach and Greta Gerwig are too clever for our own good. Others will respond to their films - remember Frances Ha? - with affection and enthusiasm. After the mucho expensivo monstrous superheroic blockbusters have rebooted your concept of realism in a magical universe it comes as a blissful relief to discover another level of intellectual interpretation within a world of ordinary madness.

Every other line is memorable. Characters leap into focus with the confidence of cave bats. "New York makes you want to find life," which is what Mistress America is about, the resurrection of hope. "You can do anything - everything!"

Copy picture

It doesn't start like this. Tracy (Lola Kirke) is a shy, understated writer manque, afraid of commitment, the girl in a crowd you don't notice, observant, vulnerable and handsome in a quiet, unobtrusive book bindish way. If untouched she will come through college with a selected group of literary friends and probably end up a librarian, or curator at a museum art gallery.

But she is touched. By Brooke (Gerwig). And so the story switches and the pace moves from steady as she goes to hold on tight. Brooke is a force of nature. She takes what's on offer and runs with it. She's into every outlet and inlet of social media, treating experience as a network of possibilities, never denying access, gatecrashing parties and believing in the wow of now.

Tracy's mother is marrying Brooke's father, which is why they hook up - future sisters, step by step. Tracy goes with the energy and is supportive of Brooke's idea of opening a restaurant/deli/community centre, called Mum's, in a deprived area of the city. Finding investors and pitching the project becomes a joint endeavour. Tracy's heart races and her self-esteem soars.

Beneath this story of grasping at life's coat tails rather than staying safe in your comfort zone is a portrait of courage and confusion at an age before The True Leveller - marriage, kids, the 'burbs - when options are flying wild like leaves in a hurricane. Which one to catch?

"I'll probably do something depressing. And young," Brooke says.

What she does is inspire those who come after.

"I need someone to love," Tracy says. "Not keep up with."

We need movies like this. Not marketing fodder at the multiplex, with bells on.

Reviewed on: 12 Aug 2015
Share this with others on...
Mistress America packshot
Two young women have unpredictable adventures in New York City and beyond.
Amazon link

Read more Mistress America reviews:

Anne-Katrin Titze *****

Director: Noah Baumbach

Writer: Noah Baumbach, Greta Gerwig

Starring: Lola Kirke, Greta Gerwig, Kathryn Erbe, Heather Lind, Michael Chernus, Matthew Shear, Jasmine Cephas-Jones, Cindy Cheung, Frank Iacuzzo, Dean Wareham

Year: 2015

Runtime: 84 minutes

BBFC: 15 - Age Restricted

Country: US


Sundance 2015

Search database: