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Mistress America

If, when you were younger, you got to hang with the older kids, you can understand how Tracy (Lola Korke) feels when she gets to pal around with her older sister-to-be Brooke (Greta Gerwig) in Mistress America.

It’s nice to be accepted by someone with more life experience. But sometimes you find that the more worldly person may lack certain life skills. Mistress America is a tale of a few weeks in the lives of these two likeable women and it’s a fun visit to their worlds.

Tracy is a lonely freshman at Barnard College. She meets and likes nerdy guy Tony (Matthew Shear), but he directs his affection to Nicolette (Jasmine Cephas Jones).

Tracy calls Brooke, the 30-year-old daughter of the widower who’s set to wed Tracy’s divorced mom. Brooke and Tracy explore Manhattan. Brooke drinks, she smokes, she exudes confidence. She is beautiful and seemingly carefree. Her life is far more exciting than Tracy’s.

Brooke shares her life story with Tracy, including details about her “nemesis” Mamie-Claire and ex-fiancé Dylan, who is now married to the nemesis. She shares her vision for a restaurant she wants to open and shows Tracy the space she’s leased.

When investors pull out, Brooke must come up with $42K within days. Amazingly, she goes to visit Mamie-Claire (Heather Lind) and Dylan (Michael Chernus) at their modern mansion in Greenwich to ask for money.

The mansion episode is madcap silliness. Because Tony has a car, he drives Brooke, Tracy and Nicolette to Connecticut. At the house they find Mamie-Claire leading a gathering of pregnant women. (It’s a book club meeting.)

Brooke delivers her pitch to Dylan for money. During the mansion visit, Tracy is accused of incorporating elements of Brooke’s life into a short story titled Mistress America (taken from the name of a TV show Brooke wants to create). The assemblage reads the story together and Brooke’s feelings are hurt.

The plot of Mistress America is secondary to these two characters and the way they interact, which is frequently hilarious. They present a number of contrasts: older/younger, gorgeous/plain, not obviously smart/brainy, brassy/quiet, callous/sensitive, etc.

Mistress America (directed by Noah Baumbach, co-written by Baumbach and girlfriend Gerwig) is light comedy but Gerwig’s performance is powerful and memorable. If you have 82 minutes (from opening logo to end titles), you’re likely to be amused, if not fascinated.

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