To say that I had high hopes going into Mistress America would be an understatement. After hearing the ecstatic reviews coming out of Sundance, Mistress America quickly became my most anticipated film of the year. As soon as I saw that the BAMCinemaFest had added this to their lineup, I immediately purchased tickets. With the exception of the new Grandrieux, I cannot see anything topping Mistress America for me this year. It is the funniest film I have seen in over a decade. The script by Baumbach and Gerwig is out of this world. Along with supplying constant laughter throughout, Baumbach really gets you to care for these characters. It also helps that Gerwig and Kirke’s characters are incredibly likable and easy to relate to. Baumbach always has some of the most memorable characters in his films and this is no exception. Kirke plays Tracy, who is just starting her freshman year in college. Tracy’s mother is getting remarried and recommends to her to get in touch with Brooke, her fiancé’s daughter. Tracy gets in contact with Brooke and the two hit it off immediately.
A majority of the second half of the film takes places in a massive Connecticut mansion. With the help of incredibly snappy editing, Baumbach bounces back and forth between what is going on throughout the house. The camerawork was shockingly good here. There are so many intricate long takes throughout. They travel around the room capturing the masterfully timed entrances and exits into the room. Interruptions keeps arising throughout the visit and Baumbach just keeps building and building upon them. He has such control over everything that is going on that he makes it look easy. Besides Altman, I can’t see any other director pulling it off as well as Baumbach did here.
On top of the constant laughter, Mistress America has ideas behind it. It is really one of the most layered coming-of-age stories we have ever had. As the film progresses, Tracy begins to admire Brooke so much that she begins to shape her life around Brooke’s. Everything that she sees about Brooke’s life is what she wished her life was. As time goes on, we begin to see that Brooke is not all what she seems to be. In a hilarious sequence in bar, someone that Brooke went to high school with confronts her about how she used to bully her. Quickly cutting back and forth between the two in a hilarious fashion, we begin to find out that Brooke isn’t all the she appears to be. Baumbach does not waste a single moment throughout the scant 86-minute runtime. There is not a single scene here that could have been removed. He has a clear focus from start to finish, which is something I can’t say about all of his work.