It was hard to believe Noah Baumbach was at it again with Mistress America, just a few months after the release of While We’re Young. The two are similar in that they deal with modern hardships in a comedic fashion. Both films accurately capture current upper-middle-class struggles, which Baumbach never fails to poke fun at.
Tracy (Lola Kirke) has just been shipped off to college in NYC. She aspires to be a writer and, when she fails to gain acceptance into the literary society of her choice, becomes friends with a fellow misfit, Tony (Mathew Shear). A romance does not ensue because, being first-year undergraduate, Tracy has obstacles of her own to overcome.
Baumbach accurately depicts the whirlwind insanity that is student life – doing so much but never enough whilst witnessing minor interactions that jab at your major underlying loneliness. It’s these subtleties that Baumbach always gets right. After a conversation with her mother expressing her minor discontent, in which Tracy exclaims a hardtruth that “no one makes friends in classes”, she does take some advice and calls her soon-to-be stepsister, Brooke (Greta Gerwig).
From the moment that Brooke thrusts Tracy into her life, immediately nicknaming her “baby Tracy” and parading her around, the film enters a different kind of whirlwind – and a much more fun one. Although Tracy hadn’t found the perfect place in university, Brooke creates space for her in her life. The climax of the story reaches a peak of absurdity, sometimes getting tiresome, but eventually pulling back to convey a message. Baumbach visits old themes that were the basis of his more serious films, such as Margot at the Wedding, when Tracy writes a short story with Brooke as her muse. Is it fair for artists, writers, and filmmakers to base their art off of reality? It’s hard to define how much of art is a reduction or caricature, or whether muses should have a say in what the artist creates.
When Noah Baumbach and Greta Gerwig get together they create something impossibly wonderful; the last movie the two worked on together, Frances Ha, is a modern masterpiece. Mistress America thrived in places that While We’re Young fell flat. It was believably absurd and at times painfully honest. It’s a comedy but it also explores harder, meta issues of artistry and the complexity of creativity. Anything from this duo is a must-see.
Mistress America is released nationwide on 14th August 2015.
Watch the trailer for Mistress America here: