Mistress America
Fox Searchlight Pictures
Reviewed by: Tami Smith, Guest Reviewer, for Shockya.
Grade: B+
Director: Noah Baumbach
Screenwriter: Noah Baumbach, Greta Gerwig
Cast: Greta Gerwig, Lola Kirke, Heather Lind, Jasmine Cephas Jones, Matthew Shear. Michael Chernus
Release date: August 14, 2015

I used to know a woman who had it all. You could call her “the-life-of-the-party”. Whenever she passed a crowded room people would stare. At age sixteen she played the accordion and manipulated any social gathering. At age eighteen she went to college and had a great social life or four years, while managing to meet her future husband, get married at twenty-three, migrate to eastern Canada at twenty-four, and to California at twenty-five. She was a “jack-of-all-trades”, yet never got her degree, or had any steady employment.

Brook (Greta Gerwig) plays a similar character in Mistress America. At age thirty she lives in Times Square, New York City, never attended college, she is a fitness instructor, an interior designer and is planning to open a restaurant. In short, she never had steady employment. Not everything goes according to plan and Tracy (Lola Kirke), her future step-sister, will be a witness to it all. Tracy is an eighteen-year old student spending her first semester at a college in Manhattan, and can’t stop looking at Brook with total admiration. Throughout the breezy eighty-six minutes of Mistress America director Noah Baumbach takes Brook and Tracy from mutual adoration to a full dislike for each other. The last quarter of the film takes place in a glass house in Connecticut, and unfortunately seems theatrically artificial with actors rattling off their lines at high speed.

Greta Gerwig plays Brook to perfection. From the moment we see her in Times Square, while she show Tracy “the ropes” of living in “the big city” to her departure to the West Coast, while Lola Kirke shows us Tracy as a timid and shy wallflower who will blossom to become a writer.

Shot expertly in New York City and Connecticut by Sam Levy and costumed by Sarah Mae Burton Mistress America is an original film that does not overstay its welcome.

Rated R. 86 minutes. © Tami Smith, Guest Reviewer

Story: B+
Acting: B+
Technical: B
Overall: B+


By Harvey Karten

Harvey Karten is the founder of the The New York Film Critics Online (NYFCO) an organization composed of Internet film critics based in New York City. The group meets once a year, in December, for voting on its annual NYFCO Awards.

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