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Mistress America - Cinemaholic Movie Reviews
one person's obsessive addiction to film
Mistress America
Directing: B+
Acting: B+
Writing: B+
Cinematography: B
Editing: B+

Greta Gerwig exists on a plane unto herself, as do the characters she plays -- at least when it comes to films on which she collaborates with Noah Baumbach; the same could be said of the equally fun-and-odd Frances Ha (2013). That was also about two young women friends. They're closer to each other's age in that one, though.

In Mistress America, Gerwig plays Brooke, a 30-year-old Manhattanite who becomes the object of adoration for the film's narrator, Tracy, played by Lola Kirke. Tracy is 18 years old, a Freshman in college living in New York for the first time, and her mom is about to marry Brooke's dad. They have yet to meet, however, and Tracy's mom suggests she call Brooke.

Tracy is socially awkward and shy, and easily falls into admiration for Brooke when they meet in Times Square. Brooke is outgoing in a way that barely falls short of being forced, injecting oddball non sequiturs into conversation like "Everybody I love dies." Her dad is a widower, you see; her mom died. She has some of her own issues to work through.

Brooke and Tracy's conversations are increasingly strange and fun. Baumbach and Gerwig, who co-wrote the script (just as they did Frances Ha), ground these characters in realistic portrayals of relatable insecurities, but then move them steadily into a heightened reality that is almost cartoonish. Somehow, it works. The actors sell it with ease, and we happily go along with them, even as Brooke drags Tracy and two other college friends to the house of a rich ex and his current wife to ask for investment money for a restaurant she's trying to open.

This is where things get slightly bonkers, with people interacting with and reacting to each other in ways that are never quite over the top but still would never happen in real life. Why would the ex wife just let Brooke and three strangers in to hang out in her kitchen while still in the middle of a book club meeting? It doesn't matter. Eventually it becomes a very Baumbach-esque sort of ensemble screwball comedy, with one of the pregnant book club members as well as a neighbor getting in on the action.

As with any Noah Bombauch movie, Mistress America won't work for everyone. It really worked for me; it has a peculiar sensibility that provides plenty of laughs that come out of left field. In the end it's a sort of platonic love story between Brooke and Tracy, two women twelve years apart who slowly come to terms with the rose colored glasses through which they view either youth or each other. But it's all very sweet, and in spite of the comically odd dialogue, the connection between the two lead characters rings true.

The "quirkiness" of this movie could run stale fairly quickly, but at a swift 84 minute run time, there's no risk of that happening. Mistress America is both surprisingly insightful about budding friendship, and oddball fun from beginning to end.

Greta Gerwig and Lola Kirke are almost-sisters in the weirdly delightful MISTRESS AMERICA.

Overall: B+
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