Movie ReviewsMovies

Mistress America

I have enjoyed all of director Noah Baumbach’s films that I have seen, but his second collaboration with Greta Gerwig—they first shared co-writing credits on 2012’s Frances Ha—is his single most entertaining comedy. Lonely college freshman Tracy (Lola Kirke, sister to Jemima Kirke of HBO’s “Girls”) finds a friend and mentor in soon-to-be stepsister Brooke (Gerwig), who lives the sort of adventurous New York City life most people only witness on HBO. But Brooke is not perfect, and Tracy is keeping track of the older woman’s foibles as she tries to open a restaurant. Apparently, Tracy has some issues with niceness and boundaries. 

Baumbach and Gerwig do what so many other indie filmmakers cannot: They make their self-absorbed, immature young adults appealing (while “Girls” continues to struggle with likability). Characters do not have to be jerks to be complex and interesting, but they do not have to be perfect, either. Baumbach and Gerwig get it and make it funny at the same time. 

Gerwig gives another in a line of award-worthy performances. A fabulous comedian, she has dramatic chops, too. Someday, she will be as famous as Jessica Chastain or other Oscar-nominated actresses of that ilk. Until then, Baumbach needs to keep her on retainer. She makes his already good movies even better.