Have you ever encountered one of those human dynamos whose very
force of personality makes you want to be around them, even though they
might make you feel inadequate, jealous, and slightly off your own game?
But their light shined so brightly that you just wanted to bask
in the reflective glow?
Lola Kirke plays Tracy, a college freshman in Barnard, who thinks
of herself as a writer, but didn't make it into the prestigious literary
club. Her roommate is
completely rude to her, and she's made all of one friend, Tony (Matthew
Shear), a geek down the hall who also didn't make the literary club.
They seem to have maybe made a connection, until Tracy spots him
walking across campus holding hands with another girl.
Later he tells her that she was too intimidating for him.
Actually, what she feels right now is just plain lonely.
Her Mother, about to be married to a guy she met online,
encourages Tracy to look up her fiancee's daughter, Brooke.
Desperate for some kind of personal connection somewhere, Tracy
agrees to meet Brooke in the middle of Times Square.
Greta Gerwig plays a brash, lively, vivacious Brooke, a
thirty-something New York City girl who has become notable for,
well....nothing in particular. She
brags about never having gone to college.
She works as a fitness trainer in a group exercise class,
sometimes, when she does work. She'll
occasionally dance on stage for a band where she knows the bass player.
Tracy is both impressed and overwhelmed by her
it turns out that Brooke is not so perfect, either.
She used to have a boyfriend, who agreed to invest money in her
restaurant idea, but now she's scrambling because the other investors
have suddenly pulled out, and she's caught with rent she can't pay and
start-up supplies she can't afford.
She claims she had a great idea for a t-shirt line, but a former
friend stole both her idea and her fiancee.
She finds herself locked out of her apartment because she's not
current on her rent, which forces her to climb the fire escape and climb
in through the window. While
Tracy and Brooke are at a bar, Brooke is confronted by a former high
school classmate who claims Brooke was abusively mean to her.
Brooke shrugs her off, saying it's time to get over all that.
The middle part of the film takes a left turn.
Brooke drags Tracy and friends to the house in the suburbs of her
former fiancee, now married to her former best friend, in order to ask
for money for her restaurant venture.
The other characters in the house—a neighbor, a pregnancy
support group member, a maid----form some a sort of subplot of people
who together turn on Tracy, once they find out she's written a story
exposing Brooke's flaws (entitled “Mistress America”), calling
Brooke a sad and tragic figure unaware of her own fatal flaws.
Strangely, the movie perks back up when, much later, Brooke and
Tracy reconcile, this time on much more equal terms.
And now, even though their respective parents have broken off the
engagement, the would-be stepsisters find themselves to be emotional
soul sisters in a way they both could use.
Yes, it's an uneven comedy. Sometimes
the rapid-fire one-liners feel like a skit rehearsal on fast-forward.
The humor is occasionally starkly scatalogical (which is supposed
to be funny, but not after several awkward attempts).
But the main characters are people we can empathize with:
a little talented, a little lost, sometimes confident, other
times awkward, and not at all certain how to finally get comfortable in
their own skins.