Mistress America

If I keep being tormented by average films, how will I know if I’ve seen a really good one?

Mistress AmericaUnfortunately, I’m beginning to suspect that my love of movies is leaving me a bit exhausted. I was rightfully criticized by a couple of good friends concerning my initial review of The End of the Tour, forcing me to reconsider it. While I still found it to be a rather dull movie, I was shortsighted to criticize the character of Mr. Wallace and not the Director who brought this uneven film to the big screen.

Additionally, I’m waiting to see if my savage review of The Diary of a Teenage Girl will produce a similar reaction. I still strongly believe that this movie was profoundly overrated in every respect, but maybe I once again ignored a deeper meaning.

Regardless, I am beginning to think that the last two weeks of August resemble the cinematic dead zone enveloping movie theaters each year from the middle of January to the beginning of March. Having seen more films during that time period than most, I am convinced that Hollywood is delaying the release of average films in the hope of making a few quick bucks off of the gullible audience.

Which serves as a lead-in to my short review of Mistress America, a film that resembles a stage play that couldn’t make it to Broadway. I am a big fan of Director Noah Baumbach and Greta Gerwig, and you need look no further than their hidden gem Frances Ha (2012). However, Mistress America lacks any of the spunk or fire of that fine movie.

In fact, I’m not sure what this movie was about. Ms. Gerwig plays a 30ish single woman in New York who is trying to open a restaurant with little money or backing. Opposite her is Lola Kirke, playing a freshman college student who dreads everything associated with her first year at school. Given that their parents have announced that they are going to marry, Ms. Kirke decides to travel to New York to spend some time with an older, unknown woman who will soon be her sister.

Ms. Gerwig likes the nightlife of New York, and shows her colleague the joy of dancing the night away. While Ms. Kirke is enthused, Ms. Gerwig quickly dismisses her and leaves her to return to school.

What happens next is both convoluted and largely unnecessary. Ms. Gerwig travels to Connecticut to visit a wealthy ex-fiancé and his wife who profited after allegedly stealing some of her fabric creations. The interplay largely takes place in their house over one day, and it quickly descends into the cinematic doldrums that even it’s occasional humor can’t save.

And yet despite my criticisms, this movie defines the reason that independent films need to exist. As flawed as it is, you know that Mr. Baumbach and Ms. Gerwig will find a way to create the genius reflected in Frances Ha, and you are left applauding them for the failures experienced during their artistic journey.