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‘Mistress America’ Sundance Reviews: Baumbach and Gerwig in ‘Frances Ha’ 2.0

'Mistress America' Sundance Reviews: Baumbach and Gerwig in 'Frances Ha' 2.0

In the past, Noah Baumbach has been the king of caustic, bitterly funny comedies, but he seems to loosen up whenever Greta Gerwig co-writes his films. “Frances Ha” was the warmest, most immediately enjoyable film of his career, and the word from Sundance is that their new collaboration, “Mistress America,” is “Frances Ha 2.0,” or, in the words of David Ehrlich, “‘Frances Ha’ on Adderall.” Critics are calling it Baumbach’s purest attempt at comedy, with Gerwig and co-lead Lola Kirke singled out for praise. If that weren’t enough to recommend it, many are calling it a throwback to the kind of screwball films that Preston Sturges or Howard Hawks might have made, complete with some instant-classic lines (“”I’m gonna shorten that, punch it up, and turn it into a tweet”). The film was picked up by Fox Searchlight, and its Stateside release can’t come soon enough.

Jason Bailey, Flavorwire

Baumbach has always been a writer who builds his comic set pieces casually, lining up the pieces before you even realize what he’s up to, but he’s never done anything quite like the centerpiece sequence in a rich friend’s fancy-schmancy Connecticut home, which is a remarkable high-wire act of writing, directing, and playing; there are so many plates spinning at once, it’s a little dizzying, yet it keeps topping itself with rat-a-tat-tat dialogue and inventively funny compositions. It’s screwball comedy, but with sliding-glass doors. Read more.

David Ehrlich, Time Out New York

“Mistress America” steamrolls through its mesmerizingly dense running time with such joyous violence that its themes only bubble up to the surface in retrospect, the heart of the movie identified like the dental records of a body that’s been burned beyond all recognition. This is the second script that Baumbach has co-written with Gerwig (his creative and romantic partner), their collaboration adding an extra wrinkle to the film’s obsession with what we borrow from the people around us in a time when everyone is bleeding into one another. Read more.

Gregory Ellwood, HitFix

Baumbach has cast a wonderfully talented group of up-and-coming actors around Gerwig and Kirke, but it’s the screenplay and the leads’ incredible chemistry that makes it all so entertaining. There are so many one-liners that you miss because the previous line of dialogue is just as smart and laugh-inducing. In particular, the major Greenwich set piece feels like it’s plucked out of a Whit Stillman movie (Gerwig starred in Stillman’s 2011 comeback “Damsels in Distress”), and yet, somehow the movie also has an energy that feels as though it’s completely missing from independent comedy these days. Read more.

Scott Foundas, Variety

Midway through Noah Baumbach and Greta Gerwig’s “Mistress America,” the movie arrives at a long, zany setpiece so inspired and brilliantly sustained that it alone would be worth the price of admission (or the wait in a long Sundance queue). But there’s much else to admire in “Mistress,” which finds the crown prince of New York intellectual self-loathing and his ebullient co-writer/muse returning to the terrain of their 2012 “Frances Ha” — intense female friendships and eager young people trying to find their places in the world — while pushing even closer to full-tilt screwball farce. Read more.

Jack Giroux, The Film Stage

The ensemble Baumbach put together is terrific. A sizable chunk of the film takes place in one house, with everyone running around, bickering and joking as if they’re in a Peter Bogdanovich movie. This kind of banter is rare in comedy these days, but the cast and Baumbach time almost every joke to perfection. The quickness of the film, especially in that house, is only a few degrees away from being overwhelming, but Baumbach and Gerwig know exactly when to pull back. Read more.

Tim Grierson, Screen International

Filmmaker Noah Baumbach’s recent streak of warmer, breezier comedies continues with “Mistress America,” a thoroughly delightful bauble about female friendship and the double-edged sword of getting to know someone who seems far cooler than you. Lacking the lacerating dark laughs that marked Baumbach’s earlier efforts (“The Squid And The Whale,” “Margot At The Wedding”), this latest collaboration with star and co-writer Greta Gerwig radiates indomitable wit. And Gerwig is a hoot as a woman whose unflappable, unearned confidence lands somewhere between inspiring and horrifying. Read more.

Jordan Hoffman, The Guardian

“Mistress America” eventually travels down roads of broken trust and acceptance of reality, but please don’t let those heavy themes suggest this movie is anything other than pure delight. The primacy of the joke rules the day, and if that means the occasional pratfall or Gerwig pantomiming what being rewound on videotape looks like, everything is up for grabs. Gerwig is funnier than ever, but Kirke does more than play straightfoil. Tracy is drawn to Brooke because she sees in her a possible future – her secret notetaking is something of a warning to herself. Read more.

Eric Kohn, Indiewire

When that moment arrives, over the course of several awkwardly funny confrontations at the Chernus’ character’s palatial upstate home, “Mistress America” reaches the apex of its appeal: Most of the narrative revolves around neurotic characters in close proximity batting around zany dialogue that constantly hits its mark. Yet for every goofy aside, Baumbach and Gerwig include perceptive takeaways as the two women attempt to psychoanalyze each other’s flaws.  Read more.

Rodrigo Perez, The Playlist

Delightful and giddy, “Mistress America” features two knock out performances. Lola Kirke has a lot of raw talent (check “Gone Girl” and Amazon’s “Mozart in the Jungle” for further evidence) and Gerwig certainly is tremendous in this immense outsized persona. We’ve certainly never seen the ultra-hyper and confident side of her before. Read more.

Alison Willmore, BuzzFeed

The story is the ticking time bomb, the confrontation waiting to happen in Baumbach’s briskly paced, concentrated comedy, which is so packed with clever quips that it wavers between delightful and distancing. Brooke airily notes that people steal from her all the time, especially her ideas, before she seems to get anything done herself. Her life might be a muse, for Tracy and others, but they actually make things, while she continually finds herself with nothing. Read more.

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