‘Mistress America’ Review

'Mistress America' is a new Indie hit that is already receiving great ratings, so be sure to put it on your to-see list!

New Indie hit, Mistress America.

Two friends or sisters talking taking a conversation in a bar
© Antonio Guillem | Dreamstime Stock Photos

Companionship can, oddly enough, come in all shapes and forms. Just ask those who have already seen Mistress America, a vibrant new indie comedy that exemplifies what it truly takes to feel connected in such an isolated abyss as New York City.

Mistress America follows the first semester of Columbia freshman Tracey Kishko (played by newcomer Lola Kirke), an easygoing literature-fanatic who finds difficulty in finding her place in the noise of the city. Such forced introversion, however, comes to a halt when Tracey locates her soon-to-be stepsister, Brooke, living in the heart of Times Square. Together, they bar-hop, go see local garage bands, and even break down their future goals as writers/prospective restaurant owners. All the while, they build a bond like no other, finding out what it really takes to feel like you belong.

It’s the newest addition to the consistently acclaimed repertoire of independent filmmaker Noah Baumbach (The Squid and the Whale, Greenberg, While We’re Young), and his influence is definitely recognizable throughout the film’s 84 minutes of screen-time. If proof is needed, look to the film’s impressively witty (yet abstract) dialogue or even its unique soundtrack that resembles something out of 80’s arena pop. Nevertheless, what truly sells Mistress America is Baumbach’s “secret weapon,” actress/co-writer Greta Gerwig.

Gerwig brings a certain sense of flair to Brooke that almost makes her appear as a caricature of herself rather than a real character. She over-emphasizes the stereotypes given to the 30-something year old adventurer living in the Big Apple, and it surprisingly works. Initially, I saw it as a sign of bad acting. However, about halfway into the story arc, I began to notice that Gerwig’s actions were intentional, giving way to many of Mistress’ “laugh-out-loud” moments.

Quite honestly, there’s a strong chance that Gerwig is where you will find most, if not all, of your enjoyment from this film. The characters around Gerwig, even including Kirke’s interpretation of Tracey, have trouble finding their footing in such a strange environment as a Noah Baumbach movie. Even so, Gerwig stands tall, bringing Mistress America to the same level as his past work.

Mistress America has already received great reviews on many popular sites such as IMDB and Rotten Tomatoes, earning a current 7.2/10 rating on IMDB from over 1,600 users. One reviewer, Paul Allaer, stated that if movie-goers “are on the fence about checking out Mistress America, I would strongly encourage you to take a chance on this. I think that more likely than not, you will come away from this with a smile on your face.”

Altogether, the film has laughable one-liners, as well as a strong plotline to hold your attention throughout. Nonetheless, what will truly sell this movie for many artsy filmgoers are the two names that hold up its foundation: Noah Baumbach and Greta Gerwig. Together, they created something that represents themselves and the world that embodies them, the indescribable majesty of Manhattan. It might be through the eyes of Tracey and Brooke, but it might just be for the better.

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