Film Review: Lola Kirke and Greta Gerwig soar in ‘Mistress America’

★ ★ ★ ★ ☆

Noah Baumbach’s film “Mistress America” is a lively coming-of-age comedy for two very different women. The script, which was co-written with Greta Gerwig, is sharp, funny, and heartwarming. Both Lola Kirke and Greta Gerwig perform their roles beautifully as two women finding themselves within the chaotic beauty of New York City.

The film’s narrator and main protagonist, Tracy (Lola Kirke), was perfectly cast. The easily-relatable film begins as she settles into a new stage of life: college. The soft, electronic beat of the soundtrack sets the scene: a young, impressionable woman in New York tries to immerse herself into the college experience by making new friends, attempting to join the literary society and dealing with the awful college advisors we must deal with all too often.

She is lonely, and her college expectations aren’t met. Tracy soon finds her pace as she forms a tight bond with her soon-to-be step-sister Brooke (Greta Gerwig). When they meet in the busy streets of Times Square, Tracy immediately finds Brooke lively, intelligent, creative and blunt. Brooke talks fast and doesn’t seem to listen to Tracy when she speaks. But Tracy doesn’t challenge her. Instead, she agrees with the opinions and thoughts of Brooke—her “Mistress America.” Because “it was too much fun to agree with her.”

Tracy and Brooke need each other. With Brooke, Tracy’s social life blossoms. They attend concerts, drink until late in the evening and often find themselves in awkward situations, the oddest being a drunken exchange at a bar as an old high school peer recognizes Brooke. It takes a while for Brooke to remember, but she soon recognizes Anna (Rebecca Henderson)—the girl Brooke and her old friend Abe emotionally bullied through high school. Instead of recognizing her fault, Brooke defends her actions by exclaiming, “everyone is an asshole in high school!” Anna bursts into tears. Despite this, you can’t help but fall in love with Brooke; the girl who is rude but still heartwarming.

Through Brooke’s schemes and experiences, our narrator Tracy finds herself. She transforms into a different, more confident person. Tracy finally receives the inspiration she needs to become the successful writer she always dreamed of being.

But Tracy isn’t the only one changing. With Tracy, Brooke transforms as she attempts to mend ties with her old friend Mamie (Heather Lind), a definite turning point within Baumbach’s film. Mamie is the woman responsible for stealing several of Brooke’s ideas (which were flipped into a profit), and, more importantly, stealing her boyfriend Dylan (Michael Chernus) and her two gray cats. As Brooke mends ties with her past, Tracy gives Brooke the confidence to follow her aspirations instead of writing them off as ideas that aren’t good enough.

The end result is a beautiful, comedic tale of two women finding themselves through each other. Kirke’s narration over Gerwig’s energetic performance is so natural and honest, leaving audiences with a feel-good attitude. Though “Mistress America”is a simple story told a thousand times, it is executed perfectly over Baumbach’s direction and script.