Noah Baumbach’s Mistress America follows alienated college freshman Tracy (Lola Kirke). Tracy is a writer wanting to be part of the Mobius Literary Society, but, when she is rejected, ends up on her own.
Enter Brooke (Greta Gerwig, who also co-wrote the film). Brooke is Tracy’s sister to be, as their parents are scheduled to marry in the near future. Brooke takes Tracy under her wing, taking her around New York City and making her feel welcome.
Brooke is undergoing a major business venture: trying to open a niche restaurant. Tracy initially idolizes Brooke, but soon comes to realize that her future step-sister is high-aspiring yet misguided.
The film begins by presenting itself as a bildungsroman for young Tracy, who has to cope with the added pressure of college life. Instead, Baumbach inserts his usual spin on it.
Mistress America has Baumbach showcasing his effective ability to create a satire of metropolitan millennial life that is also heartwarming, with characters that the viewer actually grows attached to and cares about until the end.
The effect is a tightrope walk between poking fun at the lives of aging millennials and painted a portrait of those same millennials as relatable human beings. And, here, it works.
If you can’t attach yourself to the satire of the film, then at least you have Gerwig’s presence. Her awkward charisma is felt as soon as her character is introduced. She burns with a rambling intensity that is unmatched.
One minor flatline of the movie are some of the minor characters, who slide in and out until the very end, where they suddenly shift to the foreground. The relationship sub-plot between Nicolette (Jasmine Cephas Jones), Tony (Matthew Shear), and Tracy is unnecessary. Nicolette, in particular, is a rather grating character.
Baumbach has done it again. He has squirmed his way into my heart with a film that I feel I shouldn’t like, but then I like it anyway. There is an annoyance to the characters that is omni-present, but in the case of this film it is the self-awareness of this annoyance that makes the comedy work well.
As always, thanks for reading!
Have you seen Mistress America? If so, what did you think? Let me know in the comments!