Mistress America

Director: Noah Baumbach

Starring: Greta Gerwig, Lola Kirke, Matthew Shear, Jasmine Cephas-Jones, Heather Lind, Michael Chernus

Rated: R (language including some sexual references)

A lonely college freshman’s life is turned upside-down by her impetuous, adventurous stepsister-to-be.

 

Mistress America

By Matt Greene

Not many people have the hutzpah to release two films in one year, let alone two decent ones. Writer / director Baumbach, whose previous 2015 film While We’re Young was a nice little comedy surprise, has done it with the release of Mistress America. Still very much focused on his obsession in aging, we are given an expansion of his fixation, encouraging aging somewhat cautiously but never terrified. Even MA’s frazzled focus and hipster tendencies only help to propel the fantastically recognizable humor and assured tone that abounds.

That comedy and spirit extend from a pair of soon-to-be step-sisters navigating college, career and friendship within the frantic walls of NYC. The movie’s unique rhythm takes a minute to fall into, as the dialogue has one foot in funny naturalism and one in surreal absurdity. However, once you find its groove, the jokes are so shockingly consistent you end up holding back laughs in order to catch everything within its rapid-fire screwball discourse. Underneath its quick repartee, Baumbach manages to say so much with so little, showing a cracked phone screen or nonchalantly passing a couple holding hands to portray little character details. Those characters are wonderfully colorful, Gerwig and Kirke managing anxiety, authenticity, and charm in equal measures.

The internal angst of humans is a recurring motif for Baumbach, a clear descendant of Woody Allen. These people and their speech are so literary it could maybe annoy, but it so worked on me I could’ve spent this entire review just writing down one-liners that I loved. If you’re looking for dry yet warm character-and-dialogue-driven comedy, don’t miss Mistress America.

Rating: 4 out of 5 stars

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