By Gail Schulman
Director Noah Baumbach reveals the quirky yet ever-so-fitting relationship between two soon-to-be stepsisters in “Mistress America.” At the launch of her college career, the shy and naïve Tracy (Lola Kirke) attempts to recreate the life-changing freshman experience that every young adult anticipates upon high school graduation. As an aspiring writer, she submits her story to the elite writer society at her school. However, as depicted through all too familiar situations of prolonged awkwardness, disappointment and rejection, she quickly discovers the true freshman fantasy façade.
In an effort to form some sort of relationship before the union of their parents, or more so in an effort to escape another night of solitude, Tracy meets Brooke (Greta Gerwig), the daughter of her mother’s fiancé. The role, performed by Gerwig, who also co-wrote the film, is equally as eccentric and lively as their initial meeting ground — Times Square.
As Tracy struggles to find her place in school, Brooke artfully and effortlessly fluctuates between people, places and social scenes. The youthful 30-year-old adds charm and adventure to each scene. Tracy takes a quick liking to the confident and self-assured Brooke and ultimately stitches herself into Brooke’s many escapades.
Oblivious to obvious setbacks and unrealistic goals, it is not long before Tracy recognizes that her idol is doomed to failure. Yet Brooke’s addictive charisma and thirst for life keeps Tracy along for the ride in her most recent obsession — finding the funding for a startup restaurant/hair dresser/anything else you could imagine, under one roof. By Brooke’s side, Tracy is able to discover both herself and some raw inspiration as a developing writer.
Through comical scenarios and tasteful cinematography by Sam Levy, the audience is thrown into both old and developing relationships. Each scene obtains a level of wackiness, yet is well-written enough, that it unveils a new depth to each character as the dialogue unfolds. However, be prepared to experience an array of strong female personas — from the self-absorbed beauty, the emotional pregnant woman, the jealous girlfriend and all the way to the quiet and timid girl.
“Mistress America” is a classic coming-of-age film with all of the modern twists and turns that relate closely to a millennial generation. Gerwig masters her role, as the audience cannot help but love, hate and question the egocentric Brooke with her every motive and unsupported decision. She embodies the modern, cultured spirit — casually dancing on stage with her band friends and sipping on martinis in trendy New York City bars.
Following Tracy’s narrative, we are reminded that there are a select few who can live this lifestyle and do it so that we cannot help but wish we were living it as well. This may not be your typical “Sex and the City” female on the town tale, but instead, serves as a noteworthy commentary of a struggling breed of artists in a growing world of demand and structure. Or perhaps, it truly is just a story of two women and a newfound sisterhood.