Calling this latest collaboration, by director Noah Baumbach and star and co-writer Greta Gerwig a whirlwind of witty observations about the entitled middle class, is an understatement; it's a tornado.
Filled with quotable, clever lines, it's a film you'll want to see again to take them all in. A real-life couple, Baumbach and Gerwig are fast becoming the Woody Allen and Diane Keaton of urbane comedies. Baumbach is known for writing scathing, insecure characters (The Squid And The Whale and Margot At The Wedding) but lightened up somewhat with the delightful Frances Ha, the second film Baumbach did with Gerwig, and the first they wrote together.
In Mistress America the characters once again have a pretentious, arrogant edge, but though they're less endearing than those in Frances Ha they're fascinating to follow. The story centres on 18-year-old Tracy (Lola Kirke), an ambitious, awkward and lonely literature student struggling to fit into New York City.
When her mother suggests she gets in touch with 30-year-old Brooke (Gerwig) - the daughter of the man her mother is about to marry - they quickly become inseparable. Brooke comes across as everything Tracey isn't; a charismatic, smart, independent New York "it girl" who knows everyone, and everyone knows her, with her latest venture a restaurant that's more of a lifestyle hangout, called "Moms".
AdvertisementAdvertise with NZME.
Brooke gives the impression of doing a lot with her incredible talents, when the reality is she has little of either. Almost a Facebook version of a person, she desperately tries to live up to the image of herself she's created to impress other people.
During the opening and middle acts the story rocks along breezily around the streets of New York City. Tracey is transfixed by her future stepsister and mines their relationship, furthering her ambitions by basing a character in her new short story, Mistress America, on Brooke; while relationship subplots allow for bitingly funny observations.
The final act sees a dramatic step-change, and feels like a theatre production or old school Hollywood farce.
Based in a modern suburban house, Brooke and Tracey hit up Brooke's ex boyfriend and his wife to invest in the restaurant. The dialogue becomes crueller too, especially between the women, which makes this collection of scenes a hit and miss.
Gerwig is committed and convincing as the extroverted Brooke, but it's Lola Kirke (Gone Girl) who grounds this energetic talkfest.
Proving she's an up-and-coming talent, Kirke is well-matched with Gerwig and delivers a convincing character that's interesting throughout.
Cast: Greta Gerwig, Juliet Brett, Lola Kirke
Director: Noah Baumbach
Running Time: 84 mins
Rating: M (Offensive language, sexual references and drug use)
Verdict: A witty, observational talkfest.