Movie #136 2020: Mistress America (2015)

Baumbach, Baumbach, Baumach. I’m sure you’re getting bored with my constant hard-on for him, so I’ll keep this as brief as possible. I couldn’t resist, what you gonna do about it?

Mistress America is yet another real life style movie, again based in New York. When you’re from one of the most cinematic cities in the world, why on Earth would you base anything anywhere else, right? On this Baumbach adventure, we follow college freshman, Tracy (Lola Kirke), who is simply living her pathetic, average life in the city. One day, she decides to reach out to her new step-sister, Brooke, (played by Greta Gerwig, who also happened to co-write this movie), and quickly realises that she wishes her life was as big a thrill ride as her sibling’s.

As soon as Mistress America begins, you can just feel Gerwig’s writing flowing through it – a sign of a brilliant storyteller. It has a decidedly Lady Bird vibe immediately, with a sense of Marriage Story realness provided through the penmanship of her partner. 

Alongside her admirable writing style, Gerwig successfully plays her neurotic, selfish character with expertise. As much as I love her current lean into directing, I do wish she’d star in front of the camera as much as she works behind it. She’s so funny in this movie, and between this and Frances Ha, she has definitely proved herself as an actress. One of the most genius lines she delivers in this is ”How dare she talk to me like that, and be rich?!” Brilliant.

Somehow, Mistress America is very Baumbach yet kind of different for him at the same time. It’s realistic to a degree – unlike most of his films, which are life-like down to a tee – but some of the characters here are a little like caricatures. And yet it works because that was obviously the point. 

The themes in this are relatable for every current twenty-something. Sisterhood, wanting to be someone else, learning to be yourself, quarter life crises, feminism, figuring out how to be an adult… It has a lot of things that speak to me, that’s for sure. And I’m sure that anyone who remembers what it was like to be that age will relate too.

Overall, this is a solid movie. Is it Baumbach’s best? No. But it still has an important story to tell, and completely gripped my attention throughout.

Mistress America is available to stream on Netflix in the UK.

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