Mistress America


Having a director talk about his film immediately after it’s been shown should be mandatory in my view.
Yes, it maybe hard to be in hundreds of places at once but they can at least try.

I was pleased to see that Noah Baumbach at least had listened to my needs and had turned up to answer questions after the showing of his fine film Mistress America.
It stars Greta Gerwig, who also co-wrote the film, as a 30 year-old New York woman befriended and worshipped by her soon to be sister played by Lola Kirke.

Greta Gerwig as “Brooke” and Lola Kirke as “Tracy” in MISTRESS AMERICA. Photo courtesy of Fox Searchlight Pictures © 2015 Twentieth Century Fox Film Corporation All Rights Reserved

Naturally there is a plot and stuff happens around the financing of a restaurant but … what is really important is this relationship, which anchors the film.
This is where Noah Baumbach comes in handy. He tells us that the film owes much to the screwball comedy genre popularized by actors like Katherine Hepburn. This explains the Gerwig performance, which has that oddball madcap charm that in other hands would be annoying but in hers is just another reason to love her.
He then goes on to talk about other eighties New York films like ‘Broadway Danny Rose’, ‘Something Wild’ ‘Desperately Seeking Susan’ and ‘After Hours’ and when he does you can immediately see how these reference points help modernize the genre to create something wholly contemporary.
The first two particularly deal with a plot that involves leaving New York and then returning to it much like ‘Mistress America’ (I didn’t think of that – that was Baumbach again)
You see how much easier reviewing something is when you’ve got one of the creators on hand to help you?
Even small comments like his preference to not belaboring jokes so that you might miss them first time round are revealing. For they show an approach that although ultimately comic is more concerned with characters and the authenticity of their journey than many comedies, which are more content to play things for laughs (see ‘Trainwreck’)
Perhaps the most telling of all was his comment on one of the most integral parts of the film’s plot, Lola Kirke’s desire to get into a pretentious literary ‘zine. She does this, spoiler alert, through writing a story based on Gerwig’s character which when discovered leads to a bust up between the two.
Yet, as Baumbach says in his handy interview, the story acts as a catalyst for Gerwig’s character to change. For through this vivid depiction she sees her flawed self for the first time through the eyes of someone that loves her and cares for her.

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