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So as you know, I stopped writing lengthy reviews on this site this year, keeping the blog as more of a film diary of sorts.  Lo and behold,...

Saturday, June 11, 2016

Movie Review - Mistress America

Mistress America (2015)
Starring Greta Gerwig, Lola Kirke, Matthew Shear, Jasmine Cephas Jones, Heather Lind, Michael Chernus, Cindy Cheung, and Kathryn Erbe
Directed by Noah Baumbach
***This film is currently available on HBO Now***

I simultaneously enjoyed and hated Mistress America as director/co-writer Noah Baumbach's film unfolded.  Something about the flick's two main characters -- a young college student named Tracy (Lola Kirke) and her thirty year-old soon-to-be stepsister Brooke (Greta Gerwig, who also co-wrote the film) -- had me both intrigued and appalled by their emotions, actions, and views on life.  This dichotomy was pretty consistent for me throughout the flick, but somehow, by the time the film ended, I was pleasantly amused by the proceedings in this odd screwball comedy.

Tracy is finding college difficult -- not so much in her studies, but in trying to relate with others.  On the urging of her mother (Kathryn Erbe), she calls up Brooke in an attempt to connect with the older gal who will be her stepsister.  Upon meeting her, Tracy becomes a bit entranced with Brooke's carefree, eclectic, adventurous lifestyle and it opens up the college student's eyes on how she can live her life more freely.

While the characters of Tracy and Brooke are well thought-out and fully realized, they're not exactly people with whom I really connected which is where that simultaneous enjoyment and irksomeness came into play.  Brooke, as an example, carries an aire of undeserved superiority that while appealing to the fresh-faced Tracy screams nothing but obnoxious to anyone else.  As the film progresses, however, I began to realize that this was sort of the point.  Whereas initially lauded, once Brooke's real life begins to show itself, we see that this character is more of a heartbreaking one as opposed to a vivacious being.  The film rather cleverly keeps things lighthearted throughout, but by the time the second and third acts roll around, we realize that there are deeper characterizations under the surface.

Lola Kirke is charming as the doe-eyed college student and her centered performance carries the movie.  Greta Gerwig is essentially playing nearly every other character I've seen her play before, but she admittedly has a presence about her that's undeniably watchable despite the fact that her roles are sometimes indiscernible from one another.  Here, she takes a screenplay co-written by her and creates a character that at times is grating (once again, hence the dislike of the flick at certain moments), but harbors much sorrow underneath the buoyant surface.  I'm not quite sure the character learns her lesson in the end or that she changes all that much, but I guess that's not the way life rolls sometimes. In the end Mistress America is an immensely watchable flick that while I can't say I loved was amusing enough to warrant a look.

The RyMickey Rating:  B-

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