Mistress America (2015, Noah Baumbach)

Katy’s pick for post-Thanksgiving viewing was much more successful than my vote for Looney Tunes. In any year that I hadn’t watched Damsels In Distress, this would obviously be the funniest and most charming Greta Gerwig movie. It’s still funnier and more charming than Frances Ha (which was pretty damned charming).

Lola “sister of Jemima” Kirke (the trailer-park neighbor who robs Rosamund in Gone Girl) is an aspiring writer who can’t get into her campus literary society and can’t get a boy in her class (Matthew Shear of Baumbach’s While We’re Young) to go out with her. Lola meets vibrant Gerwig (their parents were gonna get married, then they don’t) and starts mining Gerwig’s life for story ideas on the sly. Great second half as the three of them and the boy’s jealous girlfriend (Jasmine Jones) crash the Connecticut* house of Gerwig’s rich ex (Michael Chernus, of this year’s People Places Things) and his wife (Heather Lind of Demolition and Boardwalk Empire) to beg funding for the restaurant Gerwig wants to open.

Great dialogue in the movie overall, and Baumbach is good at coordinating all these characters into a sustained screwball sequence. He loves Gerwig’s energy and idealism, but he can’t keep from knocking her characters down a few pegs at the end of his movies, so she is punished for having no business sense and letting other people steal her ideas, but at least she seems to stay friends with Lola.

* wikipedia: “The philosopher Stanley Cavell has noted that many classic screwball comedies turn on an interlude in the state of Connecticut (Bringing Up Baby, The Lady Eve, The Awful Truth).”

V. Rizov:

Driver’s amateur documentarian in While We’re Young may be a jerk, but pretty much everyone around him (save poor Ben Stiller) concedes the end results are worth it. Inversely, in Mistress America, Tracy is climactically shamed for the diagnostic cruelty of her fictionalized portrait of Brooke, but she remains secure in the value of the work. Both films articulate multiple tangled perspectives on the rightness or wrongness of unkind fictionalization, and both effectively end by throwing their hands up and walking away from the question without resolution. This is self-critique, but it shies away from concluding that the ends don’t justify the means: the films themselves negate that conclusion.

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