Movie Reviews

Review: “Mistress America” is Not Quite The Mistress of America

Genre: Comedy Directed by: Noah Baumbach Starring: Greta Gerwig, Lola Kirke. Written by: Noah Baumbach, Greta Gerwig (screenplay)

Genre: Comedy
Directed by: Noah Baumbach
Starring: Greta Gerwig, Lola Kirke.
Written by: Noah Baumbach, Greta Gerwig (screenplay)


Synopsis: In MISTRESS AMERICA, Tracy (Lola Kirke) is a lonely college freshman in New York, having neither the exciting university experience nor the glamorous metropolitan lifestyle she envisioned. But when she is taken in by her soon-to-be stepsister, Brooke (Greta Gerwig) – a resident of Times Square and adventurous gal about town – she is rescued from her disappointment and seduced by Brooke’s alluringly mad schemes. (FOX)


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Mistress America is a story of two young adults navigating their way through the crossroads of life. It has a heavy New York City theme to it. Written and directed by New Yorker Noah Baumbach, it focuses on two women that have nothing in common besides the fact they both reside in NYC, and the fact that their parents are about to get married. Lola Kirk plays Tracy, a loner college freshman that finds herself away from home and in a city that never stops. Tracy’s goal is to be admitted to her school’s writing club/society. This is either a good portrayal of a naive college freshman, or a foolish attempt to try to convince the audience that it should care about the films lead character getting into some silly writing club? Thankfully the movie doesn’t completely center around that. Tracy befriends a fellow college student and aspiring writer played by Matthew Shear. There is a brief romance teased between the two throughout the movie, not much develops besides a bizarre friendship.


Dealing with loneliness, boredom, and being home sick Tracy decides to contact her soon-to-be step fathers daughter Brooke, played by Greta Gerwig. Brooke is a free-spirit. Wild, difficult, exciting, and the definition of a dreamer. The girls form a bond quickly. They both have different reasons as to why they bond with each other. Tracy due to apparent loneliness, and Brooke due to her desire to have a sibling. That is touched on later in the movie when she has a phone conversation with her father (it’s at a turning point in the movie). These two are very different from each other, personality and look wise. Tracy is like a sponge, taking in everything that Brooke says and does. She lives vicariously through the older and more worldly Brooke. On the other hand Brooke is a dreamer with seemingly no limit, being around Tracy grounds her a bit.


After a flurry of misadventures around New York City, the two women connect through each others visions and dreams (Brooke’s being the hope to open up her own restaurant). The charming parts of the movie is when these women try to inspire each other. Tracy is pushing for Brooke to be brave and bold and hangs on her every word, while Brooke makes Tracy want to be this cultured, popular, and accomplished woman. It’s a relationship and friendship that is driven by inspiration and hope. Tracy has a legitimate girl on girl infatuation “Girlmance”(I think I just made this term up) with Brooke. It does get a little creepy when Tracy starts acting borderline obsessed with Brooke, going through a neighbors apartment window just to get a glimpse of Brooke. Their friendship does hit a breaking point later in the movie where apparent deception by one of the women leads to an unofficial battle of the minds and hearts.


Brooke is Miss NYC

Brooke is Miss NYC

I wasn’t really familiar with Lola Kirk’s filmography prior to this movie. She’s a talented actress. Reminiscent of Kat Dennings, in looks and personality. She’s a name to look out for in the future. Greta Gerwig plays a borderline psychotic damsel in distress in this movie. She’s always talking about something, half the time you don’t even know about what? She’s good playing this wacky, egotistical, and naive persona that is Brooke. There is something really attractive about Gerwig, but also really plain and simple. At times she looks like a knockout without even trying, at other times she just doesn’t stand out. That might be what’s so intriguing about her.


Baumbach is a talented writer and director. He has some interesting credits to his name, among them a screenplay for Fantastic Mr. Fox, Greenberg, and most recently wrote and directed While We Were Young. In this film he focuses on heavy dialogue. The movie lost my attention a few times with the multiple banters taking place at the same time. One scene when they are at the house of Brooke’s former lover where everyone just begins to shout and complain at the same time, it’s something out of the play Noises Off. Dialogue like that would be forgivable on-stage, but on-camera it just all comes across as mumbled and ineffective.

Friendship troubles

Friendship troubles    (The actor on the left is Heather Lind who looks a LOT like Katy Perry!)

Ultimately, Mistress America is a movie about a bond shared by two women. It accomplishes that premise. The relationship is complex, but understandable. It’s about people at different stages in their lives coming together to sympathize over each other’s issues. It’s relatable in the sense that it does a solid job depicting the issues young adults might have in today’s society, where many try to aim high and achieve their personal happiness though professional idealized success. These two characters are as annoying as they are charming. Frustrating as they are endearing. Brooke is like that friend you occasionally hang out with when you are alone, but would fear to bring her around others. Tracy is that quiet soul that doesn’t open up to everyone, but when she does you earn her trust, however, due to her mundane demeanor you wouldn’t want to bring her around friends either. Whenever I wanted to root for those two, they did something to make them unlikeable, in turn losing my interest. Mistress America is not a mistress of anything, most certainly not America. What it is though is a witty, clever, and simple kinda movie. You might be wondering if you liked it more than you should, or didn’t like it as much as you should, it’s that kind of a movie. Mistress America won’t cheat you out of your money, but it also won’t feel like any sort of reward.


Rating: R

Runtime: 84 minutes

Release Date: August 14, 2015 (limited) & August 21, 2015 (Chicago)



Follow me on Twitter @JimRko



  • TMB rates Mistress America - 6/10
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