By Murphy Kenefick, Columnist
Hip, fresh and energetically self-aware, “Mistress America” is an approachable and fascinating look into the sadness and confusion of the time between college and adulthood. Similar to its spiritual predecessor “Frances Ha” (my #1 movie of 2013), two women navigate a sense of loneliness in the bustling environment of New York City.
“You know that feeling where you’re at a party and you don’t know anyone? That’s how college feels all the time.” Tracy, on the phone with her mother, describes the sensation of not feeling wholly herself, trying to mold her talents into the various opportunities that await her at school. Finding none, she reaches out to her soon-to-be stepsister, in hopes of being exposed to a more carefree and socially enveloping pre-adulthood. Their relationship is masterfully crafted with life and wonder, attempting to assert themselves as individuals with something to bring to the table.
Co-writer and star Greta Gerwig is flawless in both the pacing of the story and the creation of a character that is totally unique yet perfectly fit to the tone, keeping a strong sense of hope throughout the film without ever being exhausting or confusing. In fact, often times so much happened so quickly I wanted to rewind a certain scene just to get a handle on every quick piece of snappy dialogue bounced between the two leads and the ever-growing cast of supporting characters. Brooke exists as America’s mistress, doing things such as SAT tutoring, spin class instructing, and dancing with obscure bands, which are all things that aren’t necessary, but good to have on the side. Eventually, she grows tired of this role, as anyone would, and goes on to become someone that people have to come to, as opposed to the other way around.
The ideas of self, family, relationships, honesty and the true purpose of life are all fantastically expanded upon with humor wound all throughout, making it never feel like a lesson but more like a familiar experience.
Much of the message of the film has to do with putting one’s passions before all else, but also knowing how to have mastery over them. The goal is not to succeed financially or to have thousands of discordant ideas, but rather to do work you are passionate about. Tracy and Brooke have trouble with some aspect of that goal, but through the zaniness of the plot and each other’s influence, they both seem to improve themselves. In the final scene, Tracy’s narration describes Brooke as “the last cowboy,” someone who fights for the romanticism of life and wants to help other people with their endeavors as well.
By the end, I was ready to start it over and go through it all again. That might be the only thing I need to say to encourage you to go see this beautiful, hilarious, enjoyable film.