Film review – Mistress America (Noah Baumbach, 2015)

Mistress America tells the story of two sisters-to-be: college freshman Tracy Fishco (Lola Kirke) and aspiring entrepreneur Brooke (Greta Gerwig). Their respective mother and father are soon to be wed so Tracy contacts Brooke to get to know her and is immediately taken into the whirlwind of her seemingly colourful lifestyle.

The characters portrayed in Mistress America are the self-indulged types with delusions of grandeur that inspired me when I was a late teenager going into my early 20s. Watching the story play out and seeing remnants of me in a earlier life was a cringeworthy experience. 

On the rare occasion that they respond directly to someone talking to them, it is usually to spin the conversation back to focus on themselves. There is little or no consideration for anyone around them, flaws that are a result of not really having any likeable personality traits nor tangible skill to offer the world.


It makes for some snappy and quirky exchanges but shortly becomes highly irritating as you realise how shallow and lacking in the fundamental characteristics of life these people are. They are typically lonely and disparate people struggling to find their way, perhaps because they are so self-indulgent beyond reproach that they have been ignored by anyone they have come into contact with. 

In one almost triumphant scene, Brooke is put on the spot to pitch her new business idea to her ex-boyfriend in an attempt to gain financial backing for a conceptual café that sounds like a mess of non-ideas. It was the only scene in the film that I derived any enjoyment from as her lack of business acumen and a basic idea concept resulted in an embarrassment of a presentation. When sister Tracy stepped in to save the day, the triumphant music belied the fact that she also didn’t add anything to the pitch, just spurted more idealistic jargon with no real substance. My real enjoyment came when the whole room erupted in applause. Why were they clapping. A raised voice and some positive music doth not a business idea make.

I don’t think I’ve ever checked the progress of a film so much as when watching this, and it was making painfully slow progress. I certainly don’t think it’s the worst film I’ve ever seen, but it comes close and it isn’t something I could ever recommend to anyone.


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