Director Noah Baumbach has a long list of successfully quirky indie films to his name, including the likes of Frances Ha, While We’re Young, Margot at the Wedding and The Squid and the Whale. Now for his latest feature, he has teamed up with actress Greta Gerwig to write Mistress America, a simple yet no less engaging comedy about lonely college freshman Tracy (Lola Kirke) and her wildly eccentric step-sister-to-be, Brooke (Greta Gerwig). Having so far struggled to make friends and participate in the “college experience”, Tracy calls her Mum’s fiance’s thirty year-old daughter, Brooke, who takes Tracy under her wing and shows her how to really live like a New Yorker.
Tracy is immediately taken by the charismatic and self-assured Brooke, not surprising considering she is one of the most infectious and chaotic characters of recent times. Embodied so brilliantly by Greta Gerwig, Brooke is the centerpiece of the entire film. She is a caricature of a real person: cool, crazy, adventurous, messy, dysfunctional, and slightly narcissistic, she’s that girl that you love to hate in real life, but simply love to laugh at and with on screen. Gerwig and Baumbach have dreamed up these incredibly well-realised characters for Mistress America, and while they might be a little exaggerated (okay, a lot exaggerated), you will almost certainly be able to say you have a friend who is just like Brooke, or just like Tracy.
It’s so great to see two strong women in the driving seats of this film, and particularly because it is a comedy. Dialogue-heavy and fast-paced, this witty screenplay is full of hilarious one-liners and sly quips that speed by so quickly you practically have to run to catch up with them. It’s a hard film to review for the fact that it is just so chaotic – the plot and characters become so utterly ridiculous at some times that you feel like the film is going to spiral completely out of control, but in the end, it kind of pulls it off. It’s going to be up to the audience to decide how much of this crazy story they can pass off for the sake of comedy, and how much they just can’t let slide. But for me, I laughed a lot, and that’s all that really matters, isn’t it?
Fans of Baumbach’s previous films should definitely head along to check Mistress America out, if not just to see Greta Gerwig shine on screen. She somehow manages to take this wonderfully unreal character and turn her into something totally believable, and both Gerwig and Kirke are going to be ones to watch on the indie film scene.