Mistress America - Could This Rapid-Fire Comedy be Noah Baumbach's Best Film?

Marter | 12 Sep 2015 12:00
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Directed by Noah Baumbach. Produced by Noah Baumbach, Scott Rudin, Lila Yacoub, Rodrigo Teixeira, Greta Gerwig. Written by Noah Baumbach and Greta Gerwig. August 14, 2015.

Director Noah Baumbach has had some sort of fascination with Greta Gerwig lately. While his previous film of 2015 didn't feature the actor, three of his last four directorial outings - including this one, Mistress America - have featured her in prominent roles. If you're one of the people who believes that Baumbach is trying desperately to copy Woody Allen, this certainly helps fit that narrative. Allen wasn't - and to some extent still isn't - exactly shy about focusing on one actress over the span of several films.

Set in New York - because he's copying Woody Allen, remember - Mistress America follows a college freshman, Tracy (Lola Kirke), who decides to form a friendship with her mother's fiancé's daughter, Brooke (Greta Gerwig, who co-wrote the screenplay), who is more worldly, eccentric, adventurous, and knowledgeable about things than she is. That's about the entirety of the plot. Most of the film sees Tracy and Brooke head to a location, make witty observations about where they are, and then move on. There are a couple of subplots, and the main trajectory sees Brooke trying to start a restaurant business and Tracy trying to write a short story to get herself into an exclusive school club, but far more of the film is concerned with its commentary on various places, things, and people from the two viewpoints of its primary characters.

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It's entirely possible that Mistress America is the best film of Noah Baumbach's career. With a sharp script, interesting characters - including the supporting cast, which is filled with a ton of intriguing personalities - a tiny running time and one key decision, which was to not have Greta Gerwig be the lead, it's pretty wonderful. I laughed more during Mistress America than almost any other film this year and, as soon as it ended, I felt like I wanted to go back and re-watch it.

Part of the reason I had a desire to see it again right away is because of the style of dialogue and comedy featured within Mistress America. This is a rapid-fire comedy if there ever was one, with sharp witticisms shot back and forth between characters like armies trading bullets - but most of them are landing. Despite the quick nature of the dialogue, it remains sharp and poignant for its entirety. Granted, you'll struggle to remember a point that was made just five minutes ago since seven more have been made in the time since, but at least it's always engaging your brain, and at the moment most of these comments are funny, too.

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