Greta Gerwig’s latest: Mistress America Reviews

Published: August 15, 2015

Greta Gerwig’s latest: Mistress America Reviews, Noah Baumbach’s “Mistress America” advertises itself as a screwball comedy. But this smart, fast-paced film is not really the zany, lighter-than-air divertissement that the term usually conjures. There are scattered sharp one-liners, but not enough to infuse the movie with a sustained bonhomie. It’s fair to say that “Mistress America” revises and subverts this most buoyant of genres with a steady undertow of anxiety, dread and anger.

As in all of Mr. Baumbach’s films, the characters are nervous, insecure and acutely self-conscious. Even in the climactic comic set piece of sustained, high-velocity banter, the rat-a-tat-tat dialogue is tense and seamed with hostility, suspicion and hidden agendas.

The characters include one authentic madcap in the classic screwball tradition of Carole Lombard and Jean Arthur. Brooke (Greta Gerwig), a peripatetic New York gal about town and dynamic human whirligig is the movie’s captivating energy source. Spectacularly embodied by Ms. Gerwig, who wrote the screenplay with Mr. Baumbach, she is a movie archetype out of time, and Ms. Gerwig’s charm is such that she makes Brooke lovable even when she’s behaving like a flake.

Brooke, when first seen, appears to lead a charmed life at the center of a traveling three-ring circus. A gleaming electropop score by Dean Wareham and Britta Phillips gives you a sense of teetering on a merry-go-round. Brooke, 30, has a million grand schemes, of which the most urgent is her plan to open a restaurant in Williamsburg, Brooklyn, with the backing of a Greek boyfriend, Stavros. This future eatery, Mom’s, is a combination bistro, hair salon, art gallery and homey retreat for the hipoisie. And while juggling to keep many balls in the air, she still has the time to lead a spin class.

What distinguishes Brooke from most New York women on a fast track is her willful naïveté. She talks a mile a minute, but is neither a shameless name-dropper nor a compulsive networker. Even when disparaging someone else, she doesn’t sound bitchy so much as mystified.

The story is sporadically narrated by the 18-year-old Tracy (Lola Kirke), Brooke’s soon-to-be-stepsister, whose mother, Stevie (Kathryn Erbe), is about to marry Brooke’s widowed father. Tracy, who wants to be a writer, has just begun her first semester in college and is deeply disappointed in higher education. Bored with her classes, she has few friends and is rejected for membership in a prestigious literary society. Brooke, whom she first meets in Times Square, pulls Tracy out of her slump, and the pair become gal pals. In Brooke, Tracy finally has an interesting subject to write about.

Brooke’s bubble begins to burst when Stavros abruptly pulls out of the restaurant deal, and Brooke, facing a very short deadline, has to scrounge for other investors. In desperation, she gathers a posse that includes Tracy, Tracy’s literary-minded classmate Tony (Matthew Shear), and Tony’s sullen, fiercely possessive girlfriend, Nicolette (Jasmine Cephas Jones). Together they drive to Greenwich, Conn., to entreat Brooke’s rich ex-boyfriend Dylan (Michael Chernus) to save the day.


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