Gerwig stands out in engaging ‘Mistress America’
By Bob Bloom
Greta Gerwig’s Brooke Cardenas in “Mistress America” is a rude, immature and self-obsessed woman-child who is her own publicist and number-one fan.
She is one of those people whose brain discharges an idea a minute, but lacks the follow-through to become successful.
Money is the main obsession of her various schemes, but recognition for her self-proclaimed brilliance follows close on its heels.
Outwardly, Gerwig creates a character who makes you cringe. At times, you are embarrassed for and by her. But, you also come to recognize that underneath, Brooke is a lost soul who really has no concrete life plan.
You come to pity her, even while you shudder at some of her attitudes and outrageous statements.
Brooke’s soon-to-be stepsister, Tracy (Lola Kirke) has recently arrived in New York to attend Barnard College. She is a writer, who — like Brooke — wants her talents recognized.
The two become immediate soul mates after meeting up in Times Square. Brooke introduces Tracy to her whirlwind existence, which the younger
woman easily and eagerly soaks up.
Though more than 10 years older than Tracy, Brooke considers her a contemporary.
Brooke, it seems, has never grown up. But she is no Peter Pan. She is one of those people who wants celebrity and acclaim not for what she has done, but simply for who she is.
Brooke fails — or more likely ignores — her shortcomings. She refuses to take responsibility for any setbacks or hurts.
In one telling scene, a former high-school classmate confronts her, accusing Brooke of being hurtful to her. Instead of recognizing the woman’s pain, Brooke turns it back on her, saying that was what high school was like and that — after all these years — the woman should move on with her life and get past it as Brooke has.
Brooke is so self-centered that she fails to see the emotional havoc she creates around her.
Tracy continues to defend her, overlooking her flaws and stunted maturity.
Gerwig and Noah Baumbach, who also directed, co-authored the script, which, at times, sounds like a symphony of words.
The dialogue flows with an engaging verve and pitch, which makes you laugh, despite some dark aspects.
Gerwig is all motion and mouth, a human tornado who you will not soon forget.
Kirke’s Tracy is quieter, residing for most of the film in the shadow of her older friend. Inspired by Brooke, she writes a semi-fictional short story that showcases her true understanding of the woman and her shortcomings.
“Mistress America” is snarky and engaging. It may be a little too cute for its own good, but the performances by Kirke and, especially, Gerwig will take you on a wild and unforgettable journey.
Bloom is a member of the Indiana Film Journalists Association. His reviews appear at ReelBob (reelbob.com) and The Film Yap (filmyap.com). He also reviews Blu-rays and DVDs. He can be reached by email at firstname.lastname@example.org or on Twitter @ReelBobBloom. Other reviews by Bloom can be found at Rottentomatoes: www.rottentomatoes.com.
3½ stars out of 4
(R), language, sexual references