Mistress America Review

“… can only be described as a hipster fever dream.”

Mistress America is yet another Noah Baumbach film about affluent twenty-somethings chasing their dreams in New York; but surprisingly I didn’t hate it. Mistress America stars Lola Kirke as a college freshman who is trying desperately to find her identity. She then meets Brooke (Greta Gerwig), her soon-to-be sister in law who she finds infinitely fascinating. The pair then go on many adventures in a short amount of time, and there really isn’t much else I can tell you about this movie.

What I loved about Mistress America is that it was really funny. Something about the writing style of Gerwig and Baumbach really pinpoint the outlandishness of their characters and they exploit it for the audiences benefit. The beginning of the movie is a fairly refined, rather pedestrian look at college life, but when the character of Brooke is introduced it can only be described as a hipster fever dream. The scenarios are so bizarre, the characters are so unique, the dialogue is so sharp; everything about Mistress America is impressive. At least in terms of comedy.

But the one thing that gets in the way of my enjoyment of this film is that I just don’t get it. I haven’t watched many of Noah Baumbach’s films, but most recently I watched Frances Ha. In my opinion, both Frances Ha and Mistress America tackle the same story from different perspectives. The character of Frances and the character of Brooke are the same person, but you only get to see the character of Brooke from the outside. What I didn’t get about Frances Ha at the time was whether or not Baumbach was critiquing the lifestyle that Frances was portraying. In Mistress America I found out that he probably was.

The character of Lola is introduced in this movie as a writer, and she proceeds to write about her experiences with Brooke. What she writes is, in my opinion at least, what Baumbach and Gerwig are trying to say. Lola pinpoints every single character flaw that Brooke exhibits, down to her own character flaw of enabling her. This was a strange path for the movie to take in my opinion as it’s not often that a satire will directly call out every problem it has with a particular subject. But even stranger still was the fact that Mistress America, even after calling out every single thing that was wrong with Brooke, did nothing to resolve it.

Brooke starts and ends in the same point. Lola, much like us, sees her for a flash and immediately gets everything about her. But maybe that’s the point. Maybe Baumbach and Gerwig are trying to say that you can’t know someone if you don’t know them. This is where the movie loses me. I don’t understand what the point was, and it’s frustrating becasue there obviously was a point. You can’t write a character like Brooke and then spell out every one of her character flaws and then just go “Oh well” and end the movie. It feels like I’ve only seen part of the story. There needs to be a resolution.

Overall Mistress America is a mystery to me. The movie introduced a problem, outlined every facet of said problem, and then did nothing to fix it. And what bothers me most is that I don’t know if I’m looking too far into it, or if the movie just neglected to have an ending. At least it was funny.

I give Mistress America a B

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