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Film review: 'Mistress America'

A charming, witty performance by Greta Gerwig

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  • | 2:36 p.m. September 8, 2015
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Greta Gerwig always manages to light up the screen with her presence in a film. In "Mistress America," she sets it on fire. She's also behind the film's witty script, teaming up once again with partner Noah Baumbach, who writes and directs. 

The story is told by first-semester freshman, Tracy (Lola Kirke), who is having problems acclimating to college life. Her mother suggests that she call soon-to-be stepsister, Brooke (Greta Gerwig) once their parents marry. They meet in Times Square, and Tracy is immediately smitten by 30-year-old Brooke.

Brooke takes it upon herself to become Tracy's mentor. Her outrageously funny and acerbic musings on life are a tonic for Tracy and become fodder for a short story that she's secretly writing. Their shared chemistry results in analyzing one another's flaws with zany, spot-on zingers. 

Brooke has her fingers in in myriad pies, but most of her ideas are half-baked. Her greatest passion is to open a restaurant, but her backer boyfriend is "off in Greece, betting against the economy or something." Strapped for cash, Brooke heads to Connecticut in hopes of securing a loan from an old boyfriend who dumped her for her roommate, who stole her cats. 

"Mistress America" is a richly layered, farcical jaunt accentuated by a massive quantity of hostile and hilarious one-liners. The actors who deliver them do so with such wry wit, it's worthy of the savvy work penned by Gerwig and Baumbach ("Frances Ha"). But it's Gerwig's performance as the lovable, narcissistic flake, Brooke, that steals your heart. 

"Mistress America" has that Woody Allen feel at times. The characters are charmingly flawed; it' set in marvelous Manhattan and the score is snappy. But Gerwig's fresh, eclectic appeal is a rare, unparalleled commodity that sets this beguiling movie apart from all others.  


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