Tracy is starting her freshman year of college in New York city and finding it hard to be compatible with just about anyone, making her transition into adulthood less than exciting. Brooke is in her early thirties and is having trouble leaping from Tracy’s current level of adulthood and entering the “real world” that keeps on surrounding her. Tracy’s a quiet and observant writer, whose mother is about to marry Brooke’s dad. The two decide to try on that whole sisterhood thing and Brooke’s crazy lifestyle and personality inspire Tracy to write all about it.
Mistress America breezes along through its runtime, as we get introduced to Tracy’s world before we jump right into Brooke’s once she enters the picture. Baumbach does a fantastic job of capturing the whirlwind around Brooke’s life, never overstaying a moment, nor leaving one too early. The jokes and gags come at you at a mile a minute, and you can’t help but get caught up in the insanity along with Tracy. The film only settles in once it gets to Connecticut, only to turn up the dial again for an extended set of sequences all set in the mansion of someone from Brooke’s past. Everything going on in this sequence is a little over the top and kind of silly, but Baumbach and Gerwig have set the tone of the film to totally accommodate everything it throws at us. It’s amazing how many little scenes and stories unfold in this one extended stint, and I was sold on all of the big swings in allegiances and emotions that unfold.
The only complaint I can really levy on the film is that it doesn’t quite come together for me in the end. I am happy that Tracy and Brooke end up where they do, but with so much action propelling everything that came before it, the ending can’t help but feel like it is, sort of, going through the motions. Though, I had a rare instance of expectations with this film that might have thrown me off because I was expecting things to unfold a bit different from they did. This is why I try to avoid everything before movies folks, expectations will kill you.
Gerwig’s Brooke is a manic delight. She isn’t my favorite character she’s ever played, but you can’t help but get sucked in by her infectious personality. Gerwig does a great job of walking a fine line with Brooke as well, as we have to wonder if she really is the way Tracy writes about her or more put together. Lola Kirke stars as Tracy, who hasn’t been in much, but she is also really good here. She evolves over the course of the film from audience surrogate to a possible manipulator of Brooke’s narrative. Michael Chernus doesn’t have a ton of screen time here, but he is hilarious once he pops up late in the film. There is a lot of expectation for him to finally show up and he doesn’t disappoint when he arrives. Heather Lind is also really funny as an icy ex-friend of Brooke’s, whose name, Mamie-Claire, gets a laugh every time it’s uttered; even when it’s said as initials.
Mistress America is a fun and manic comedy from Noah Baumbach, with a great performance from Gerwig at its center. Brooke opens a crazy world for us to dive into and Baumbach does a fine job of guiding us through it. The Spirit says you should see Mistress America.