Films of the Year: ‘Mistress America’


I was sold by Frances Ha, but Mistress America completely sold me on and made me fall in love with Noah Baumbach and Greta Gerwig.

My flatmate has Greenberg and Noah and the Whale on DVD, so to celebrate his moving in I watched both films over a weekend alone. I then rewatched Frances Ha. And listened to the soundtrack on repeat (I’m really into soundtracks now. Other soundtracks of note from the year: EdenUnder The Skin). For Christmas, my flatmate got me While We’re Young, which is not Baumbach’s best work, but still succeeds as a window into the cruelty that is reality.

First of all, let us watch the trailer:

Now forget everything that you have just seen, because that trailer is a horrible misrepresentation of the film.

My boss said that she very much enjoyed Frances Ha but didn’t want to risk Mistress America as the second half may fall flat. ?. She later watched it on a plane back from the Maldives (she asked me if I had ever been to the Maldives. Her understanding of my life is tenuous at best), loved it, and proceeded to read a swathe of articles about it, Baumbach and Gerwig.

So what of the film? It is about a college student (Lola Kirke, or ‘Jemima Kirke’s sister’) who moves to New York, fails to fit in, and befriends her soon-to-be-stepsister Brooke (Greta Gerwig. Is it a coincidence that ‘Greta’ is an anagram of ‘Great’? Most definitely). Brooke is very New York. Like most of the characters in Baumbach’s films, I should hate every single one of them, but they are damaged and this is redemptive, making them more endearing than dislikable. Or, at worst, pitiful.

Brooke is quite a pitiful character. The barber/restaurant sounds like a ludicrous idea, but there is in fact a Polish barber/restaurant near Waterloo. Maybe I will try there some day, though I feel that it would be like I was cheating on de lady called Lady.

The first quarter made me feel like I did uni all wrong.

The second quarter made me miss New York and want to have better friends.

I was then fine with my friends.

The whole scene at Mamie-Claire’s house was farcical brilliance. Aside from the whole ‘wow that film was really real’ feeling I get with Baumbach’s pictures, I enjoy the way that he writes and directs dialogue. No-one, or no-one I know, speaks like this. The rhythms. The snap. The real ridiculousness. Wonderful. Plus it was shot largely as one long take.

They don’t make ’em like this anymore. Yes they do. Case in point. Reviewers say such droll things.

I can’t really remember the end. It was sad then it was fine. I felt uplifted, which is definitely a step-change from Frances Ha. I didn’t dislike any of the characters and thought all the cast were on point (just as in Frances Ha, en pointe).

I watched this on a second date. I suggested the film. It’s a risky move. I went wearing a knee brace and gold trainers. I cared more about the film than the date. We both enjoyed it and walked across the Thames. It is the perfect film for a successful date which ends with a walk across the Thames.

He said he preferred it to Frances Ha. I think I do too. My Chicago-based friend DD went on a date to watch it as well and said that both she and her date preferred Frances Ha. They are different films and I would say which one you prefer says more about you as a person than the films themselves as neither is inherently ‘better’.

On exiting Odeon Panton Street, the most corridor-y of all the cinemas, a 40 year old man and his elderly father both declared to the usher that they “fucking hated it.”

If I were to make films, this is the type of film that I would want to make.



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