by Tony Johnson 09.24.2015 13 days ago
at 02:21 PM | Permalink | Comments (0)

Spoonful of Cinema: Mistress America

I thought I was going to see Sicario, the border crime drama starring Emily Blunt, Josh Brolin and Benicio Del Toro on Sunday night. I originally didn’t think it was in town yet, so when I Googled the movie and a lone show time for 7:30 p.m. popped up, I immediately headed out to catch it. I had been under the impression that Sicario wasn’t expanding from select venues for at least another week, but I did not hesitate to trust Google. Turns out I should have. Sicario still had not hit Cincinnati. But I was in the mood for a movie, so I caught a showing of Mistress America instead.Mistress America is a sweet-hearted comedy with something to say about itself. The 86-minute romp is warm and witty and cozy, too. Writer/director Noah Baumbach is known for keeping it real with considerations of generational conflict and coming-of-age, and this time Baumbach is willing to push his story template into the realm of the absurd. The script is packed with dialogue that flies rapidly out of the mouths of leading ladies Lola Kirke and Greta Gerwig.The story is preposterous and the delivery is silly, but the film is kept grounded with an overarching observation of art and honesty. The story follows college freshman and loner Tracy (Kirke) as she begins to discover New York City as an accomplice to Brooke (Gerwig) on frivolous adventures after they meet due to an eventual family wedding that will make the pair sisters. Things get real when Tracy uses her experiences with Brooke as an inspiration for a short story that might gain her entrance into a campus literature group. But things get zany when Brooke begins to actively pursue her dream of opening a restaurant and the lead investors back out. When Brooke and Tracy visit Brooke’s psychic for counsel, they conclude that Brooke must face her ex-fiancé and ex-best friend, who are now married and wealthy in Greenwich, Conn., and fully capable of funding Brooke’s entrepreneurial venture. So the two girls set off to “Greenwich grossville” to get the money that Brooke desperately needs.Along the way we discover that Brooke’s former best friend, Mamie-Claire, stole Brooke’s T-shirt design and made a company and decent profit out of it. Meanwhile, Brooke’s current best friend, Tracy, is feeding off of Brooke’s life for writing material. The parallels and paradoxes begin to mount, and eventually culminate in a modest but meaningful conclusion.Mistress America never sacrifices its message for laughs and doesn’t have to sacrifice dignity for them, either. It is new but familiar territory for Noah Baumbach, whose off-the-screen partnership with Gerwig hopefully reflects the chemistry evident on set of production. Gerwig is an absolute star that can make us feel as young and optimistic as her characters often feel. And Baumbach knows exactly what to do with her on screen.Baumbach’s most recent movie is brief but bold enough to satisfy. It makes no apologies for its rat-a-tat pace and brings us along for a youthful rush that ends with a smile. Baumbach’s talent is on full display here — this comedy is a fun, clever and endearing look at what it means to grow up, what it means to be a friend and what it means to be an artist. Sometimes, as Mistress America maybe helps us understand, there’s more to art than art. There are months of maturation and countless random encounters that develop the crafter and, in turn, their craft. There are broken promises and broken dreams and fresh starts and lucky breaks. Overall, Mistress America is mostly somewhere in between fresh and lucky, with only a few pieces that could use some fixing. Grade: B

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