“Mistress America” joins a couple of recent movies that dealt with the dark side of ambition, and mixes it with a nice portrait of a growing friendship between two women at different stages of their lifes who expect to become sisters soon, due to the upcoming wedding of their parents. Very well written, and with two great lead performances by Lola Kirke and Greta Gerwig, it’s another winner for Noah Baumbach.
Kirke and Gerwig don’t just play their individual characters incredibly well, they also have great onscreen-chemistry, and are very believable as soon-to-be-sisters. Kirke shines as ambitious writer who, as much as she likes Brooke, mostly uses her for her own means, eg. basing a character after her and writing a short story (which was really well written, by the way) in order to get into a prestigious fraternity. Plus, she also seems to use her to boost her own self-confidence, so while Brooke pretty much stays the same over the course of the movie, stuck in her dream world, Tracy goes through quite a change – and not necessarily for the better. I also loved how Kirke – and the movie – portray the exhilaration of being about to fall in love, and the devastation of finding out that your crush is already taken. Which, once she starts down her dark path, also leads us to a seduction scene where I honestly have to say that if I would have been in his shoes, I’m not entirely sure if I would have been able to stay strong and rebuff her. Holy smokes! This short moment was just one of many great scenes throughout, starting with Tracy’s and Brooke’s first night out (that captured perfectly the often weird, rumbling conversations when you’re drunk) up to their arrival at Brookes ex, where things get weirder and more absurd by the minute. The dialogue was great too and had a certain machine gun-like quality to it that some might feel to be rather contrived and unrealistic, but which I absolutely loved. If there’s one thing that I’m not sure of, it’s that during the course of the movie, Tracy learns an important life lesson, and while they at least spare us a “Full House”-like scene where they present us with the moral of this story, it’s still apparent as hell. Mind you, I’m not saying that it isn’t a lesson worth learning, but it’s hardly original, and for me, it was the least interesting part of the movie. However, when the rest is as strong as it was here, I can live with that.