Hot Take: A frantic, good comedy that’s also a good drama but not a great comedy-drama. Can a movie under 90 minutes ever be great? I’m still saying no.
You can skip the red text if you only want the review without a personal anecdote.
I went to see Mistress America on Labor Day at 9:40pm. The normally crowded multiplex was so empty, if it weren’t for the ticket seller, the concession worker and the ticket taker, it would have felt post-apocalyptic. Somehow, I managed to enter and exit a 16 screen multiplex without seeing a human being paid to be there. If it weren’t for my girlfriend sitting in a theater 300 miles away watching the same movie (long distance dating is a thing), I might have bought in to the potential of an ongoing apocalyptic event even more.
It’s been a few years since I was the only person in the theater to watch a film. (It was a re-release of The Wizard of Oz if that’s important.) If you’ve never experienced it, it’s odd. Plus, it was in a theater with reserved stadium seating which put me dead center and I was fully reclined and about as comfortable as you can get watching a movie in a public setting.
Sometimes, the mood you’re in impacts your viewing experience more than it should. Mistress America is fast paced, rapid fire and in my relaxed state, it mentally winded me. My brain didn’t acclimate to the pace until about 30 minutes in (Plus, I was still thinking about how part of me would have welcomed the apocalypse if it meant I were stuck in the theater but true love would have forced me into the world to make the 300 mile trek to Pittsburgh if my girlfriend survived the end of days) and then it just gets more frenetic.
Anyway, back to Mistress America. This comedy-drama delivers a solid mixture of both but neither to the point in which director Noah Baumbach’s film delivers a knock out but rather wins the audience on points. Lola Kirke (as Tracy) and Greta Gerwig (as soon to be step-sister Brooke) are a dynamic team. I instantly want to see more of their work. The most impressive feature are their non-verbal enhancement of a smart, dialogue-driven script.
The film is not without it’s pitfalls. Mistress America flirts with a number of topics at once but, at 86 minutes, it views like an suitcase over packed to avoid a baggage fee. Everything you want is there but it’s a challenge to take it all in upon first glance.
“Spoiler Free” Pros
- The Energy Is Dynamic
I remember the first time I mixed Mountain Dew and Red Bull. Watching this movie felt awfully similar.
- Comedic Social Insight
Mistress America rarely takes itself too seriously and in all of the farce are a number of insights that are funnier because of how on target they are.
- The Lightning Quick Second Half Is A Frenzied Freefall
The troupe leaves NYC for one of my favorite scenes of the year. (Notice I said favorite and not best?)
“Spoiler Free” Cons
- An 86 Minute Film Shouldn’t Feel This Off-Kilter, Should It?
Maybe that’s what the filmmaker was going for as an attempt to mirror the characters it portrays but the pace never relents as the characters develop and change.
- The Mood of the Audience is Tied to the Experience
Some movies can overcome their surroundings. Mistress is directly tied to it. A large audience would have a bigger impact on this movie than most.
- Not Everyone Will Appreciate That Second Half
The scene in will be polarizing and likely make or break the audience’s ultimate reaction. If not bought in to the wordy, character-loaded peak, this is where Baumbach’s work could completely derail for some.