Mistress America (2015)

A charming story of a literature student’s search to find her own authenticity within the expansive world of New York City. Baumbach and Gerwig hit all right notes in one of the most beautifully told stories of the year.

Mumblecore is a genre that I’ve always grappled with. For me it lacked in plot, development, and emotion while having such potential to truly convey modern life. Baumbach’s Frances Ha failed to excite me in the way it gripped others despite my love of his magnum-opus The Squid and the Whale.

Arriving just five months after While We’re Young, Baumbach’s second outing of 2015, Mistress America, is a beautiful and understated film that documents a teens search for authenticity and highlighted to me what the genre really can offer – a realistic view of modern youth. The husband and wife duo really are a match made in heaven cementing themselves as royalty of the genre.

Greta Gerwig stars alongside Lola Kirke as Tracy (Kirke), a college freshman, uses her future step-sister, Brooke (Gerwig), to find her own authenticity. The literature student and aspiring writer is struggling to fit in culturally, socially, and academically into her new surroundings so in Brooke she finds a figure to look up to as she delves into New York’s hip and diverse world.

The film plays on the impressionability of youth. Its chic, minimalist, and enticing story explores the modern fascination with finding your authenticity. Baumbach’s dialogue is as awkward and off-beat as we come to expect, but through this he creates two wholly lovable characters in two very different ways. In Brooke we have an extrovert who has acquired a broad set of both lovers and haters, while Tracy is just beginning to find her feet in the world of hipster America. The juxtaposition of character makes for a film that it would be difficult not to like, it is in equal parts both funny and charming.

Gerwig and Baumbach have created the perfect follow-up to While We’re Young. While the Ben Stiller driven predecessor created juxtaposition in age through the protagonists longing to find his youth and sense of denial of age, Mistress America pits two young women both in their prime who can pull each other in a better direction. Both films push themes of impressionability, authenticity, and longing as driving forces for personal awakening and realization, surely this is what mumblecore was created to achieve. Its realistic depiction of youth is a wholly relatable tale that is one of the most stand out and well told stories of the year.

It is with Mistress America I see the true originality and stature of Baumbach and Gerwig’s films, maybe a second watch of Frances Ha could make me see its potential. Baumbach is an incredible and exciting storyteller that has created a sense of excitement in what he and his wife do next, lets hope they’re already discussing it over their morning coffee!


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