Monday, September 7, 2015

[Review] Mistress America

Mistress America is indie staple Noah Baumbach's second film of 2015. The first was the intergenerational dramedy While We're Young. Even though that was released in March (it somehow feels like ages ago), it still stands as one of the better films of the year. However, it might have just been one-upped. As While We're Young is tighter thematically, Mistress America is more consistent in its laughs, and it wears its heart on its sleeve.

Tracy (Lola Kirke) is an aspiring writer trying to navigate her freshman year of college in NYC. Her mother is on the verge of getting married to a new guy, who has a daughter named Brooke (Greta Gerwig) that is 12 years older than Tracy. Tracy decides to get in touch with Brooke, because ya' know, they're about to be stepsisters. During their first meeting, Brooke is immediately bubbly and scatterbrained. She has a plethora of various dreams, goals, and methods of employment but isn't very successful in her pursuit of any of them. Brooke is totally a larger-than-life character that will walk a thin line between annoying and endearing. Anyway, the two hit-it-off swiftly.

As expected with Baumbach's style, the film isn't heavy on plot. It's more about the characters sorting out their lives, along with some screwball antics involving a sketchy potential restaurant opening, a short story, relationship jealousy, and stolen cats. At times, it might feel like it isn't going anywhere, but there are definitely significant subtleties at work. And in the spirit of the screwball comedy--it all hits the fan at the same time and results in a lot of people riotously yelling at each other.

The dialogue here is a major bright spot, bringing constant chuckles. The rapid-fire, sporadic back & forths yield both clever and contradictory lines that reflect the insightful yet messily dysfunctional characters. The film is full of failed ambitions and rejection, and it propounds the idea sometimes we're all in the same boat (on some level) when it comes to not getting what we want. But most of all, it's a testament of friendship--as simple as that. There are a couple of emotionally bittersweet moments, and they genuinely add a welcomed boost to an already solid comedy--making it even more memorable.

The Spring/Summer months haven't been packed with many stellar comedies. Spy and Trainwreck brought some hilarity but were disjointed. Then there's Dope and Me & Earl & the Dying Girl, which contain some of the funniest moments of the yearbut they function more as genre hybrids. So, Mistress America low-key comes out as the best straight-up comedy so far, bursting onto the scene in its own way.

* 9/10 *

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