REVIEW: Mistress America

7 09 2015

Mistress America posterThe lively creative partnership between writer/director Noah Baumbach and writer/star Greta Gerwig produced one perfectly pleasant piece of cinema in 2013’s “Frances Ha.”  That film appropriated the techniques of the French New Wave greats and applied their general vibe to an (un)happy-go-lucky New York twenty-something.

Their reteaming on “Mistress America” yields something both more ambitious and fulfilling.  Baumbach and Gerwig weave together elements from theatrical, literary, and cinematic antecedents to create one truly insightful comedic masterpiece.  The finished film is nothing short of “The Great Gatsby” for the Google generation.

New freshman Tracy Fishko (Lola Kirke) arrives to Barnard without a clue or many friends.  She aspires to write but cannot crack the top literary society nor connect with peers also in need of external validation.  The vastness of Manhattan nearly devours lonely Tracy, but before it can, she makes a last-ditch phone call to future stepsister Brooke Cardinas (Gerwig).

Brooke is like Tracy, a transplant in the city, but she seems to have found some way to fake it until she made it.  (Or, at least until she could pay some bills.)  On one wild night bopping across town, Tracy becomes fascinated with her future next of kin.  And given the way Gerwig plays Brooke, she would be be a fool not to get drawn into her larger-than-life personality.

Brooke is an odd hodgepodge of Williamsburg hipster, Silicon Valley self-help maxim spouter, and that newest breed of social media-crazed narcissism.  With her motormouth, she converses with her own train of thought first and others around her second.  Chief among her ramblings is rampant self-mythologizing to a disturbingly hilarious degree; perhaps Brooke fears that if her lips were to close, she might have to think through the words that come out of them.

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