Tuesday, September 8, 2015

Movie Review #305: "Mistress America" (2015)

Movie"Mistress America"
Director: Noah Baumbach
Rating: R
Running Time: 1 hour, 24 minutes
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A young college freshman and writer named Tracy (Lola Kirke) is a little lonely as she lacks friends. On her mom's suggestion, she looks up her mom's boyfriend's daughter and her future step-sister Brooke (Gretta Gerwig), a free spirit and a hopeless dreamer who has many high ideals about life.

"Mistress America" is the latest film from Noah Baumbach, indie and hipster genre specialist extraordinaire. For die-hard fans of Baumbach's former works, including films such as "Frances Ha," "While We're Young," and "Greenberg," this film surely will not disappoint as he doesn't miss a beat from what he knows and loves as a director. He and his partner Greta Gerwig wrote the film together, with Gerwig starring as Brooke, a 30 year old too cool for school dreamer with her own philosophies on life and love. She breathes and oozes cool to all those around her. Her current passion is to open a restaurant that, in her mind, will be the cool place for the New York intellectual crowd to hang out, part restaurant, part hair salon, part bodega. Her Bohemian attitude attracts her soon-to-be step-sister Tracy, played by Lola Kirke, instantly. Tracy is an 18 year old college freshman and aspiring writer, sort of a loner and has very few friends. Upon meeting each other for the first time, Tracy becomes immediately enamored with Brooke's lifestyle and attached to her as a person. After one night of hanging out, she is inspired to write a "fictional" story based on Brooke's life with the hope of submitting it to her college's prestigious literature club so she can become a member. Between writing this story, Brooke's adventures in life and misadventures with money and her ex-best friend and ex-boyfriend, there is a lot of drama going on in such a short film. Much of it plays out how you'd imagine it would, especially if you've seen any of Baumbach's other works. A bunch of 18-35 year olds have conversations about various subjects, often speaking in a manner and dialogue that is so unnatural and pseudo-intellectual it hurts to hear. We might not be able to identify with this type of talk because we're not from New York, but we know a bullshitter when we see one, and Brooke likes to talk herself up a might bit. As we often mention on this blog and have come to expect from independent movies, this is a slice of life character sketch and has no real plot that's part coming-of-age, part finding out where you fit during a quarter-life crisis. The story itself is very formulaic wherein the ladies meet, they spark up a friendship and a soon-to-be sisterly bond, there is a conflict, and finally, a resolution. Unfortunately, the conflict here seems to be a little too forced and all too unnatural feeling. There's a huge "reveal" scene towards the end of the movie that looks and feels like it belongs in a play rather than a movie. It's very theatrical, even the dialogue is obviously out of place and a mishmash of fast-talking words simply thrown at the audience without proper time to digest if it feels real or not. Also, the resolution is a little too clean. It comes up rather quickly after the conflict and is too tied up in a nice, neat package to believe it meant something. Despite all of this, "Mistress America" has enough going for it and is short enough to keep us almost always engaged. It is a charming and quirky comedy with a good pace that makes watching it an enjoyable experience; plus, it's always nice to see new talent in their earlier films, and we think Lola Kirke might be going places!

My Rating: 6/10
BigJ's Rating: 6.5/10
IMDB's Rating: 7.4/10
Rotten Tomatoes Rating: 82%
Do we recommend this movie: Sure, why not?

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