Review: ‘Mistress America’ Is As Funny As It Is Authentic







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Posted November 11, 2015 by

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Much like the other film that Baumbach and Gerwig wrote together (Frances, Ha), ‘Mistress America’ takes a close look at what it really means to be a grownup and how everything seemed so much more possible when you were in college and your whole life was ahead of you. In order to show the two differing stages of life, Baumbach and Gerwig introduce two characters who will soon be sisters-in-law; the young and aspiring writer Tracy (Kirke), and the slightly older and looking for a purpose Brooke (Gerwig). When the two women meet up, it’s very much a “looking up to your older sister” vibe for Tracy and Brooke is more than happy to make her life seem like it’s much better than it actually is in order to impress her. As the film moves along, however, the facade starts to crumble and Brooke and Tracy realize that they are extremely similar in more ways than one.

So many things are at play in this film; Tracy working on her short fiction while basing it around Brooke without her knowing, Brooke being determined to open up a restaurant but finding everyone around her thinks it’s a terrible idea, and then there’s Dylan and Mamie-Claire (Chernus and Lind). Mamie-Claire and Brooke were friends for a long time and that all stopped when Mamie-Claire not only took a business idea from her and made a lot of money off of it, but also stole her clothes, cats, and Dylan – Brooke’s fiance. Throughout the beginning stages of the movie, Mamie-Claire is a constant topic of conversation for Brooke and once we finally get to the point where the two come face-to-face, we get an honest look at what it’s like for two people to drift so far apart yet still be involved in one another’s lives.


Baumbach has a way of writing dialogue and scenes that we all experience in our every day life but that are slightly elevated. Many times while watching his films, you see that he puts his characters in situations you have often found yourself in, yet the people in his story react the way we wish we had yet didn’t. One such seen in this movie was when the girls take two of Tracy’s friends, Tony and Nicolette, to track down Mamie-Claire and Dylan. While Tony (Matthew Shear) is driving, his possessive girlfriend Nicolette (Jones) runs her hands through his hair from the seat behind him. Tony yells and says how much she freaked him out, then he immediately tries to reassure her that it felt good. Not only is it a funny scene to watch unfold, it’s something we’ve all been through — those young relationships where you were terrified to tell the truth and even more scared to hurt someone’s feelings. ‘Mistress America’ is full of scenes like these that Gerwig and Baumbach are able to string together into one cohesive film.

By the end of the film, no one character has really matured past the point they started at, and that’s what I liked about it. Life just happens. There’s not always a story arc where a problem arises, it gets figured out, and everyone is better for having gone through it. Sometimes things happen, you react to them, and walk away exactly the same person but with a slightly different perspective than you might have had before. While multiple characters are introduced in this film, they all serve a purpose; not a single one felt out of place. They are all adding to the mayhem we are watching unfold on the screen and deliver an enjoyable performance that I could watch again-and-again.

‘Mistress America’ relies heavily on dialogue and subtle gestures and will make you fall in love with its characters no matter how good or bad they may be. As soon as the film ended, I began missing my new friends.





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