A lot or a little?
The parents' guide to what's in this movie.
What parents need to know
Parents need to know that Mistress America is a comedy about a college-age girl that seems best suited to college-age viewers. There's some strong language ("f--k," etc.) and references to sex and lovers (though nothing overly graphic is shown on screen). Characters drink socially on several occasions, with some minor drunkenness (played for humor) that doesn't have any real consequences. Characters argue and make some angry accusations. Like the filmmakers' previous offering, Frances Ha, the humor may not appeal to all teens.
What's the story?
Tracy (Lola Kirke) is attending college in New York City but having trouble making any headway in her social life. Her single mom is about to marry her new boyfriend, giving Tracy a would-be step-sister, Brooke (Greta Gerwig). On a whim, Tracy calls Brooke and finds herself swept up in a whirlwind of energy and sophistication; Brooke seems to know the ins and outs of the city, working several "jobs" and forever spouting ideas for more. Tracy idolizes her and begins writing down their exploits in her stories. When a fortune teller sends Brooke to an old boyfriend to seek financing for a restaurant idea, Tracy goes along. Unfortunately, she finds the entire situation coming to a frothy head.
Is it any good?
This comedy from director/co-writer Noah Baumbach and co-writer/star Gerwig is intelligent but overwritten, energetic but irritating, and it's difficult to become attached to its chatty characters. With their wonderful previous movie, Frances Ha, Baumbach and Gerwig found the soul of their lovable goofball main character, but they fail to do the same with MISTRESS AMERICA. By focusing on an inexperienced main character and seeing Gerwig's Brooke through her eyes, she feels removed.
That might have been fine if Baumbach's production wasn't focused on low-budget, urban realism, with impressive shots of New York City as it lives and breathes. This approach only makes Brooke feel more artificial and displaced. She's the property of a wordy screenplay. Attempting a crackling banter between characters, the movie rarely gets off the page; it feels more like a read-through than a movie. But Gerwig is terrific, and, with a little focus, Mistress America might have been a treat.
Talk to your kids about ...
Families can talk about Mistress America's depiction of drinking. Is it glamorized or realistic? Does the movie make it seem necessary to drink in order to be sophisticated?
Is Brooke a role model? Does she seem smart, strong, and independent? What does she achieve? What opportunities does she miss?
How is Tracy and Brooke's relationship similar to or different from a sisterly relationship you might have had?
What's the difference between "highbrow" and "lowbrow" comedies? Which appeals to you more? Where does this movie fit in?
- In theaters: August 14, 2015
- On DVD or streaming: December 1, 2015
- Cast: Greta Gerwig, Lola Kirke, Matthew Shear
- Director: Noah Baumbach
- Studio: Fox Searchlight
- Genre: Comedy
- Topics: Brothers and Sisters
- Run time: 84 minutes
- MPAA rating: R
- MPAA explanation: language including some sexual references
- Last updated: September 20, 2019
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Common Sense Media's unbiased ratings are created by expert reviewers and aren't influenced by the product's creators or by any of our funders, affiliates, or partners.
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