Friday, August 21, 2015


Mistress America

Mistress America official site Compared to San Francisco, I have never wanted to live in New York City even though it's perhaps one of the most fascinating cities in the world and it has a strange and irresistible appeal to all walks of life, especially artists. Yet, every time I see a film by the director Noah Baumbach that is set in New York City, I get this impulse of moving to New York City to experience the city's life myself. His films seductively capture the sceneries in the Big Apple and the souls of his aspiring and eccentric characters (remember "Frances Ha"?) who are often hilarious. Based on a screenplay co-written with his real-life partner and his lead actress—the talented and charming Greta Gerwig—the writer-director Noah Baumbach comically unfolds another New Yorkers' story in his latest screwball comedy "Mistress America" (USA 2015 | 84 min.).

The film begins with 18-year-old Tracy's (Lola Kirke) bumpy start of her freshman year in a college in New York City. She wants to be a writer, but she is rejected by the Mobius Literary Society at school. She has no friends to hang out with and her college life is dull and boring even though she is in the heart of the Big Apple. However, when disconsolate Tracy reaches out to her future stepsister Brooke (Greta Gerwig), everything suddenly changes from the moment of Brooke's grand entrance at Times Square.

The fast-talking Brooke is certainly in sync with the pace in New York City. She is constantly on the move and looking for new entrepreneurial opportunities. She has many big ideas although she seems unable to transfer any of them into reality. Immediately after Tracy meets Brooke, she is showered with Brooke's energy and is excited about Brooke's idea of opening a trendy restaurant—actually it's going to be a community center that people can come to eat or have their haircut and kids can have their homework done after school. Even better, Tracy gets inspiration from Brooke for her fiction writing.

When one of Brooke's investors backs off from the restaurant proposal, Brooke desperately needs some money to keep the deal alive. The only implausible solution Brooke comes up is this: Brooke and Tracy get in the car of Tracy's classmate Tony (Matthew Shear, who looks like Jesse Eisenberg's twin wearing glasses) and Tony's jealous girlfriend Nicolette (Jasmine Cephas Jones), and they drive to Connecticut to ask Brooke's rich ex-boyfriend Dylan (Michael Chernus) for rescue, but only if Dylan can override the objection from his wife Mamie Claire (Heather Lind) who stole everything from Brooke, including her man, her T-shirt idea, and her cats.

Mistress America Official Site

As always, Greta Gerwig is terrific playing the sincere Brooke who is amusing, frivolous, and vain. Her on-screen interactions with the equally superb Lola Kirke as Tracy are absolutely delightful to watch. Tracy and Brooke certainly enjoy each other's company, but they are also using each other for their own benefit. The writer-director Noah Baumbach skillfully explores the subtle relationship between the two young women, while beautifully captures the magnetic views on the streets in New York City.

But when the gang arrives at Dylan's mansion, the camera hardly goes out of the room and the entire episode looks like a stage performance in a theater. Despite the heated arguments, it looks dull and boring. Perhaps life outside of New York City is meant to be that way. It's a sharp contrast to the lively and dynamic feel when Brooke and Tracy roam around the city.

I will probably never move to New York City, but will enjoy watching more New Yorker's stories on the big screen, for better or worse. People like Brooke and Tracy are truly fascinating.

"Mistress America," a Fox Searchlight Pictures release, opens on Friday, August 21, 2015 in San Francisco Bay Area.

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