Written by Films

Mistress America

I think it must be a surfeit of summer super hero films, but I’ve not been to the cinema much recently. However a new Greta Gerwig film is always something to look forward to, so I decided to head out to see Mistress America.

I thought it’d be nice to see it locally so I checked out the listings for the massive Cineworld near me. Of course there was no sign of it. They need to squeeze in a dozen screenings of Mission Impossible each day. But Google informed me that it was on at the Everyman Barnet.

Huh? Since when has there been an Everyman in Barnet? I did a bit of Googling. It seems that the Odeon Barnet – the cinema I first watched Star Wars on its original UK release – has been sold to the Everyman group. This may have even been its opening weekend, because when I went there everything looked very new. Well in the foyer anyway. I think they have plans to refurbish the interior, but at the moment, Screen 4 at least was untouched since it had been an Odeon. The cinema was of course built as a single massive cinema, and over the years it’s been cut into smaller segments. I think there were three screens when I was a kid, but these days there are five.

The new lobby looks quite impressive and I’m unsure whether they’ve restored some original features, or just added to it. The staff all seemed new – no, I didn’t want any ice with my beer thanks – and they were very friendly. As with other Everyman cinemas, they’re probably hoping that it’ll do good business as a coffee shop too.

But what about the film?

It’s another collaboration with Gerwig’s partner Noah Baumbach, with the pair writing the script. According to an interview of Radio 4’s Film Programme, they do this separately and then compare notes. The story is told from the perspective of Tracy (The excellent Lola Kirke), newly arrived in New York at university, and struggling to make friends or an impression. Back at home, her mother is getting remarried, and she suggests that Tracy seeks out her new father-to-be’s daughter Brooke (Gerwig).

As well as being an instant friend, Brooke is seriously cool. She sings in a band; she can get VIP access to parties; she knows people. Tracy is smitten. And she’s also taking notes. Because she’s an English major and is trying to get a short story into the snobbish college literary magazine (if you get accepted, they “pie” you in your bed in the middle of the night!).

Tracy and Brooke spend more and more time together. Brooke has a Greek boyfriend who’s basically supporting her while she puts her plans together to start a restaurant, but she needs to find extra money. Meanwhile Tracy has a potential boyfriend, except he’s now found another girlfriend, and she’s a bit jealous.

The comedy is rich, witty and pin sharp. Gerwig’s character is hilarious – supremely self-confident, but somehow needing the support of Tracy, herself becoming more confident as the film progresses.

The final section of the film, set in Maimie-Claire’s house (Heather Lind) is laugh out loud funny as things come to a head. It’s a tightly choreographed farce of sorts.

There’s a terrific soundtrack Dean Wareham and Britta Phillips is excellent, with some great use of music – I came out wanting to immediately have another listen to OMD’s Souvenir.

If you think this film will appeal to you, then it will. It’s not going to be everyone, but it’s bang on the money for me.