R | 84 min | Comedy
Review - Matt Mungle
**Now in theaters*
Synopsis: A lonely college freshman's life is turned upside down by her impetuous, adventurous soon-to-be stepsister.
Review: I have been a fan of Greta Gerwig since I first saw her in Frances Ha. Not sure why it took me that long to notice her since she had been around the indie film world for several years by then. She has an infectious spirit that is immediately likable. It is that spirit that drives MISTRESS AMERICA and makes it a must see comedy.
Tracy (Lola Kirke) is a mousy introvert heading off to college in the big apple. She doesn't know anyone and her tendency to shy away from others isn't helping. When her mother suggests that Tracy reach out to her future stepsister Brooke (Gerwig) - who lives in NY - she takes the awkward plunge and dials the phone. The soon become fast friends with Brooke's exuberant personality a perfect balance to Tracy's reserve. Together the two take on a new business adventure, battle ex-best friends, and offer up hilarious but deep rooted conversations. With Brooke doing most of the talking of course.
The film is directed by Noah Baumbach who also co-wrote the screenplay with Greta. The two have been in a relationship for several years and this chemistry and bond shines through in their film-making and ability to tell a story. Noah manages to wrangle in Gerwig as he allows her the freedom she needs to explode across each scene while still staying rooted in the narrative. The way she delivers dialogue in syncopated streams of emotion and perspective lends itself to improv. The fact that she is actually following a script is fascinating. The flow and authenticity of her speech binds her character to the words she is speaking. It feels not like an actress quoting the written word but a beautiful character randomly sharing an antidote or sudden thought.
Kirke is fairly new to the big screen and those who saw her in last years GONE GIRL will barely recognize her here. She looks like the typical NY college kid; eyes big with wonder at her new found lifestyle. Tracy is intrigued by Brooke and infected with her passion for life. This draws her out of her shell a bit and gets her to lighten up. Tracy at times watches Brooke like a science experiment, full of wonderment and awe.
The highlight of the film is when Brooke, Tracy, Tracy's school mate Tony (Matthew Shear) and Tony's Girlfriend take a road trip to confront an old friend of Brooke's. The conversation on the trip and the antics that take place once the arrive are creative and super funny. These are carefully crafted characters that fluidly support one another and the story.
Many will appreciate this type of loose knit comedy. Others could find it too thin and want something more buttoned up. It all depends on what your idea of funny is. We get to see Brooke and Tracy grow in their bond and friendship organically. It is not forced or manipulated. There is a time and place for Adam Sandler or Judd Apatow jokes. This is not it. There are no stereotypical comedic crutches. That is what makes this so fun and airy. Plus the wit and writing is rapid fire and hilarious; without the constant innuendo.
MISTRESS AMERICA is rated R for language including some sexual references. Brooke does not shy away from expletives and uses them as an expert chef might use an over powering spice. She knows when and how to use it so it doesn't ruin the dish, but just gives it a personal kick. I was delighted by this film and again by Greta Gerwig's performance. I give it 4 out of 5 book reports. Such a breath of fresh air in the world of adult comedy.
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