review – mistress america


As a writer-director, Noah Baumbach is not much concerned with plot. He just brings together a small group of oddball characters, provides things for them to do and to talk about, and lets us watch what happens. On one level, nothing much does; but on another level, he creates movies that are thoughtful, intelligent, articulate, sometimes-manic impressions of life as lived by the young. A few years back, he used the same theme in “Frances Ha,” one long conversation between, about, among and around two young women, Frances (Gerwig) and Sophie (Sumner) who were, in the words of Frances herself, “…like an old married couple. We talk a lot and we don’t have sex.” In “Mistress America” the women – Brooke (Greta Gerwig) and Tracy (Lola Kirke) – are soon-to-be step-sisters who come together in Manhattan to roam the city, share dreams and confidences, and get on each other nerves — but never run out of things to say.

We like them both if only because they seem so normal, so fully energized by life, so determined to find their paths forward. They each have a sense of goofy charm, but this is not so much a comedy as it is a rumination on life. Baumbach has assembled a small cast and given each character a unique personality where sometimes they offer wise remarks, sometimes they all talk at once, but always they have something to say. Even if Brooke isn’t listening. Gerwig plays her as a force of nature, indefatigable, independent, incessantly imaginative. Kirke makes Tracy sweet, patient, helpful, supportive she’s naïve enough to be interesting, forthright enough to be real. When the third act threatens to sag, Heather Lind – as Mamie Claire – adds bitchy energy to the situation. If you’re looking for depth or a serious storyline, this is not the movie for you. But if you simply want to spend an hour and a half in “Brooke’s world,” there’s more than enough here to keep you entertained.