By Michael Kalafatis (Stoke on Trent)
Mistress America opens with Tracy (Lola Fishko) who talks about Brook (Greta Gerwig) “She would say things like,” isn’t every story a story of betrayal?” “No, that’s not true”, I thought. But I could never say that. I could only agree with her. It was too much fun to agree with her”. So from the beginning of the film will realise that the plot of the film will unfold through Tracy’s perspective and the way she interacts with other characters which manages to give us a glimpse of her personality. Tracy is a college freshman at Columbia who wants desperately to be part of the literature society by writing short stories. Brook enters Tracy’s life as a potential stepsister when her mother encourages her to call her as she is planning to marry Brook’s father. From the moment we are introduced to Brook she manages to overwhelm Tracy and us at the same time with her energy and talkative persona. Brook likes to get involve in various things like being an interior designer, spin-cycle instructor, has ideas about a superhero TV show and social media expert all this she achieved by herself because as she confesses she is an autodidact which means a self-taught person. But her main aspiration is to open a restaurant/store/community centre with her Greek boyfriend Stavros.
Just like in Noah Baumbach previous feature film Frances Ha, Mistress America is about individuals who tries to find their place in the world but unlike Frances Ha which is influenced by The French New Wave Mistress America is a screwball comedy reminiscent of Howard Hawks films like His Girl Friday especially in the long sequence that take place in Connecticut were Brook, Tracy and two other students from Columbia go to find Brook’s nemesis and her husband. The sequence occurs in a suburban house and they are so many characters in this sequence (including a pregnant woman and a nosey neighbour) that the whole situation becomes farcical but in a very entertaining way but also with poignant moments showing that Mistress America is a film about its characters and their problems that they try to overcome.
Just like Frances Ha Mistress America is written by Noah Baumbach and Greta Gerwig who manage to create well rounded characters who could easily be caricatures but they manage to be very relatable and carry many autobiographical elements from both Baumbach and Gerwig. Greta Gerwig portrayal of Brook is the most memorable performance of the film because she manages to create a self-absorbed narcissist who thinks everything revolves around her but the curious thing is that we kind of understand her behaviour, she is a person who wants to do so many things but she never follows through on anything, that is the reason she wants to launch her own restaurant to prove that she has found her position in the hectic world that she resides.
The ambience of the film is very reminiscent of a film made in the 1980s especially because its soundtrack has so many songs that are instrumental that echoes songs of that decade except the inclusion of Souvenir a song by Orchestra maneuver in the dark which was released in 1981.
Verdict: Funny, witty and very poignant, Noah Baubach manages to create another film that revolves around likeable characters who want to find their place in the world and Mistress America works as a pseudo-documentary that conveys what is to be twenty-something and try to figure out your own self in a very sincere and charming way.