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Tracy, a lonely college freshman in New York, is rescued from her solitude by her soon-to-be stepsister Brooke, an adventurous gal about town who entangles her in alluringly mad schemes. Mistress America is a comedy about dream-chasing, score-settling, makeshift families, and cat-stealing.
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Saw this today after seeing many 5 star reviews in many publications and billboards here in London. To say I'm disappointed would be to employ gross understatement.
The premise is interesting and creates big expectations from the outset (two young women - one has hit 30 and the other is a English Lit freshman at a NY university form an unlikely friendship when they are on the verge of becoming step-sisters when their respective divorced parent arrange to get married to each other).
This is the kind of screenplay Woody Allen could write in his sleep; but where Allen would exhaust the budding friendship of all its possibilities for humour, melancholy & therapy, Baumbach chooses instead to write an overly arch and self-conscious piece where all the characters seem to be on the same page in the same tribe with all involved being too cool and too smart for school; with all spouting dialogue that is too self-conscious for its own good. I would feel profoundly alienated in the company of these people in real life, where by contrast the characters in Wood Allen films always seem like friends I haven't met yet.
The whole story seems to be overy-worked, contrived, and reaching levels of shallowness I haven't witnessed for a long time. None of the characters are remotely warm or likable and by the end I didn't care what happened to Brooke or Tracy and their budding friendship.
Had Baumbach managed to get Wood Allen's involvement (as editor/collaborator) this could have been a highly humorous (I didn't laugh once and found a lot of the dialogue inaudible and localized for my understanding - Woody Allen never makes this mistake, his films are universal in their appeal even though they're set in the navel-gazing, therapy obsessed New York, there's a wonderful warmth and humour in his films which is just not present in 'Mistress America'.)
And as for the synth pop soundtrack it just seemed completely out of sync with the story and the main protagonists. I can't imagine either young female listening to synth pop composed in the 1980s - like OMD's 'Souvenir'. Play it once fine but repeat it later in the soundtrack sounds like 'clutching at straws' tactics to my ears.
On the plus side Greta Gerwhig clearly is a leading lady and I hope one day I see her again in a film that really showcases her talent. She reminds me of many other actresses like: Kate Winslet, Gwyneth Paltrow and would you believe Maria Sharapova?
She's like a hybrid of all these women and yet has her own unique presence and look - not to mention having a passing resemblance to a younger Catherine Deneuve? Has a bright future in film but the crazy character she plays in Mistress America doesn't flatter her beauty or talent very much.
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