Tracy (Lola Kirke) is a lonely college freshman in New York, having neither the exciting university experience nor the glamorous metropolitan lifestyle she envisioned. But when she is taken in by her soon-to-be stepsister, Brooke (Greta Gerwig) - a resident of Times Square and adventurous gal about town - she is rescued from her disappointment and seduced by Brooke's alluringly mad schemes.
Review by Louise Keller:
The energy levels soar and the snappy dialogue flows like a river in a hurry to reach the sea in this blend of buddy movie and screwball comedy from Noah Baumbach. As for Greta Gerwig, in a zany, life-embracing role she has created with director Baumbach, she dazzles from the outset as the ebullient, unflappable Brooke who treads on life's stepping stones with no fear of failure. There's great chemistry between Gerwig and Lola Kirke (as Brooke's soon-to-be step-sister Tracy) and they feed off each other beautifully, although much of the exposition plays out as a construct with lines that feel rather smug. Some might call it lightweight - especially if compared to the pathos of Baumbach's 2005 drama The Squid and The Whale.
Nonetheless, it's highly entertaining with some delicious scenarios, like the one in which Brooke and Lola end up at a luxury Connecticut mansion, where a bevy of characters with complicated relationships cross paths in true screwball fashion. It's a wonderful scene in which jealousy, resentment, curiosity, opportunism and payback all play a part.
The film begins by inviting us into Tracy's reality: the aspiring writer is a newcomer at college in New York, where she feels isolated. 'It's like being at a party where you don't know anyone,' she observes. Even Tony (Matthew Shear), fellow-student, who might have been her boyfriend sidesteps her, citing 'I want someone to love; not keep up with'. (Jasmine Cephas-Jones as his ultra jealous girlfriend is very funny.)
But everything changes when Tracy meets Brooke and is swept into her whirlwind life, being energized by her 'nothing is impossible' attitude as she pursues wild dreams to open an eatery-cum-hairsalon-cum art space. Every characters has a reason to be there and the anticipation of meeting Brooke's former best friend (Heather Lind) who stole her ideas as well as fiancˇ (Michael Chernus), is almost as good as the meeting itself.
Baumbach allows the characters to drive the action as Brooke and Tracy's emotional journeys play out. There might be 10 or 12 years between them, but there is a learning curve for each of them. It's a great role for Kirke, who played Rosamund Pike's two-faced trailer-park friend in Gone Girl, and she has a calm composure. The film however, belongs to Gerwig, whose screen bravado and instinctive flair for comedy is a delight.
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MISTRESS AMERICA (MA15+)
CAST: Greta Gerwig, Lola Kirke, Seth Barrish, Michael Chernus, Cindy Cheung, Kathryn Erbe, Charlie Gillette, Rebecca Henderson
PRODUCER: Noah Baumbach, Rodrigo Teixeira, Lila Ycoub
DIRECTOR: Noah Baumbach
SCRIPT: Noah Baumbach, Greta Gerwig
CINEMATOGRAPHER: Sam Levy
EDITOR: Jennifer Lame
MUSIC: Britta Phillips, Dean Wareham
PRODUCTION DESIGN: Sam Lisenco
RUNNING TIME: 84 minutes
AUSTRALIAN DISTRIBUTOR: 20the Century Fox
AUSTRALIAN RELEASE: October 29, 2015