If Noah Baumbach’s view of Millennials in Mistress America—a movie full of wannabes, uncertainty, immaturity, and learning to accept yourself—is at all close to reality, then my generation has a lot of growing up to do. His script pulsates with the excitement that we all share; the world is open to us, we can be and do whatever we want—or so we’re told. Mistress America is a film about two polar opposites—the one who apparently haves everything, and the one who wants to be that person. Its edgy script, full of that faux philosophical crap that we think we understand just because we heard it in college, accentuates the two lead character’s attempts at coming to accept who they are.
Teaming up with Greta Gerwig—who also cowrote the screenplay—once again, Baumbach introduces us to the exciting, mythical life of Brooke. She is a just-thirty, life-of-the-party, know-it-all who lives in a perpetual state of denial about her age and state of affairs. To someone like Tracy (Lola Kirke), a freshman in college who aspires to be a great writer but not only has no inspiration but also no place to fit, she is the pinnacle of success and excitement. Tracy’s mother is marrying Brooke’s father, which ultimately leads them to become friends.
Tracy is immediately drawn into the life of Brooke. She wants to be her because she thinks—on the surface—that Brooke is successful. She is to a degree, but Brooke represents a sort of unrealistic expectation. Brooke is the type of girl who is both completely unsure of herself but also knows exactly where she belongs. She teaches cycling, she tutors kids, she dances on stage at concerts. She is the ultimate Millennial, but she’s also the girl who is so outgoing and bubbly that you hardly notice the jabs she takes at you when you are caught up in her almost unbelievable life.
Gerwig, who you should be getting familiar with, dominates the screen. Boasting not only a tremendous comedic game, she also can delve into the meatier, more emotional depths of the rich script full of Baumbach’s usual witticisms and hip dialogue. Kirke brings a sophisticated, cute, naivety to the game as the lonely freshman who idolizes Brooke. Her outlook, in a movie that is so full of immaturity, is perhaps the most adult except for the fact that she might be looking in the wrong direction for a role model. Be on the look out for Kirke, she has moxie.
The supporting cast also adds significantly to the humor with Matthew Sheer (Tracy’s friend, Tony) and Jasmine Cephas Jones (Tony’s overly-paranoid girlfriend) who make for some of the biggest laughs in the movie. Aside from them are brief roles from Michael Chernus and Heather Lind who play a married couple who share a touchy past with Brooke.
Mistress America will not be everyone’s cup of tea. Baumbach’s and Gerwig’s writing might prove to be fast and dense with slang and humor for it to come off as humorous, and a few pacing issues here and there among interesting plot choices might make it difficult to get into the swing of things. Deep down, though, Mistress America is a comedic character study about finding your way, yourself, and your friends in this new age America where you can be whoever you want to be, just as long as you can grow up along the way.