Mistress America

LetterboxD review link

I went to see this at BAM tonight where Baumbach attended for Q&A. He drew some comparisons between Frances Ha, While We’re Young and this film. Frances Ha features a similar, strong, female, eccentric protagonist. If Frances Ha paid homage to French New Wave, Mistress America pays homage to screwball and odd couple comedies. While We’re young has similar main focal relationship between younger and older protagonists. The younger is in love with the older but doesn’t really understand the complications of older. Eventually the younger falls out of love, while we go on some sort of emotional journey too.

Baumbach edited this while making and finishing While We’re Young. The inspiration he had in Frances Ha seemed to have been quelled or worse, lost. He lost some of his sureness during While We’re Young and it shows in the 3rd act of this film. I felt this while watching While We’re Young and seeing him struggle with Ben Stiller’s director-character. I fear some of that crisis of confidence may have watered down Mistress America too.

The 3rd act, where the screwball antics are really turned up, feels like the end of one of those TLC cake-making competitions. The part where the chefs have assembled the cake backstage, but it’s all precarious and they have to carry it to the judges very carefully; the whole time we feel like it could all fall apart. In this case, the cake shakes quite a bit, but it basically stays together. But it was really close to falling apart.

The thing I was most interested in were the connections to America. If I could’ve gotten a question in I would’ve asked Baumbach what Tracy or Brooke say about America, in his estimation. Does he think America is perpetually stuck in young-adulthood? Does he think America is earnest, but uncouth, lovable but deluded? Brooke ends up paying her debts and moving on, maybe even growing up and becoming something new, can America do this? Brooke keeps referring to her upbringing, “I wasn’t brought up that way,” as the reason why she is the way she is. Does Baumbach think America can shed its past? Become something it wasn’t brought up to be? Or am I pulling out inferences where none exist?