“Being a beacon of hope for the rest of the world is a lonely business.”
When I wrote about Noah Baumbach and Greta Gerwig’s collaboration Frances Ha, I said, “the movie and the character, just aggravated the shit out of me. I imagine anyone who meets the character is fighting an urge to slap her every second they’re in Frances’ company.” Gerwig’s titular character was just way too precious for me to handle. It was like an episode of Girls turned up to 11. When I wrote about Baumbach’s follow up, While We’re Young, I said it, “highlights a lot of what I didn’t like about Frances Ha… Because While We’re Young is basically laughing at” the same kind of people that Frances Ha seemed so enamored with. Well, Baumbach and Gerwig take it even further in that direction with their latest, Mistress America.
New and friendless at college in New York, aspiring writer Tracy (Lola Kirke) is struggling to fit in. Things start to look up when she meets fellow wannabe writer Tony (Matthew Shear). But when he starts seeing a possessive girlfriend (Jasmine Cephus Jones as Nicolette), Tracy is once again all alone. On the advice of her mother, Tracy calls her soon to be step sister, Brooke (Gerwig). Tracy’s mother is about to marry Brooke’s father, but the two daughters have yet to meet.
Brooke takes Tracy on a whirlwind night in the Big Apple where the teenaged Tracy is immediately in love with the 30 year old Brooke’s seemingly carefree life. With no real job, but plenty of hobbies and ideas for businesses, Brooke floats from one whim to the next, seemingly never looking back, and only looking forward enough to see the next impulsive decision. But when her flighty nature leads to money troubles too big to ignore, it’s time to ask her former best friend, current nemesis, for financial help. So now Tracy, Brooke, Dylan and Nicolette all head to upstate New York, to the swanky mansion of Mamie-Claire (Heather Lind) and her husband, Brooke’s one time fiancé, Dylan (Michael Chernus).
I think Baumbach and Gerwig genuinely loved their main character in Frances Ha, so maybe I’m forcing this view on this latest movie. But I really felt like Brooke was a make good for Frances. Brooke has to face the consequences of her entitled actions in Mistress America in a way that I just felt like never existed in the world of Frances Ha. They’re very similar characters, but Brooke being forced to actually grow up and take some responsibility for her own life made me like her so much more.
But even with how much I liked this movie, and I haven’t even got into the well executed farce sequence that unfolds once they arrive at the home of Mamie-Rose and Dylan, I hope Baumbach has got this world out of his system. The millennials of Frances Ha, While We’re Young and now Mistress Amercia became less grating and more entertaining with each movie, but I don’t need to see middle aged Baumbach tackle this stuff again. I get it, Noah, you’re knocking off Gerwig and she’s your muse. But just because you think everything she dies is delightful, it doesn’t mean everyone else does as well.