Mistress America

 

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The Baumbach/Gerwig team produces another winner.

    Mistress America

Greta Gerwig and Lola Kirke

 

For this critic at least, this piece by Noah Baumbach and his partner, the actress Greta Gerwig, is far more rewarding than the film that it followed and which he made without her, While We’re Young. They wrote Mistress America together and, as in their earlier collaboration, Frances Ha (2012), it finds Gerwig bringing warmth to his work with beguiling results. But one of the greatest pleasures of Mistress America is its determination not to offer us something that seeks to build on the success of Frances Ha by being some close variation on it.

 

Although some have described Mistress America as a screwball comedy that seems to me to be quite inappropriate for a film which refuses to be labelled and which features characters real enough and complex enough to engage us dramatically as well as humorously. Central to it is what proves to be a troubled relationship between two women, Brooke (Gerwig’s role) and the considerably younger Tracy (Lola Kirke), a student.

 

Both women have writing ambitions but what brings them together is the fact that Tracy’s mother (Kathryn Erbe) is planning to remarry, in which event the 30-year-old Brooke will become Tracy’s new stepmother. At the outset Tracy’s uncertainties remind us of the heroine of Frances Ha while Gerwig’s role as Brooke is that of someone who enjoys making an impression and being admired, a role quite different from her Frances. But Brooke may prove to be a loser and Tracy may be open to criticism, so the film intriguingly challenges our initial feelings about these two. A trip to Connecticut when Brooke hopes to raise funds from a man (Michael Chemus) who had married her rival for his affections leads to a big set piece prior to an effective conclusion back in New York. With so much good literate dialogue it is a shame that Baumbach sometimes allows it to be drowned out by the music score, but this is an appealing and intelligent comedy in which Gerwig and Kirke share the acting honours between them. 

 

MANSEL STIMPSON

 

Cast: Greta Gerwig, Lola Kirke, Matthew Shear, Jasmine Cephas-Jones, Heather Lind, Michael Chemus, Cindy Cheung, Kathryn Erbe, Dean Wareham.

Dir Noah Baumbach, Pro Noah Baumbach, Scott Rudin, Lila Yacoub, Rodrigo Teixera and Greta Gerwig, Screenplay Noah Baumbach and Greta  Gerwig, Ph Sam Levy, Pro Des Sam Lisenco, Ed Jennifer Lame, Music Dean Wareham and Britta Phillips, Costumes Sarah Mae Burton.

 

Fox Searchlight Pictures/RT Features/TSG-20th Century Fox International.
84 mins. USA/Brazil. 2015. Rel: 14 August 2015. Cert. 15.