Mistress America – Interview with Greta Gerwig

Writer/Director Noah Baumbach and Writer/Actress Greta Gerwig continue to make strides with each project they collaborate on.  Mistress America is a wonderfully witty look at young college freshman, Tracy (Lola Kirke) and her whirlwind adventure with her future step-sister Brooke (Greta Gerwig).  Greta sat down with us to discuss this fun film, the fun of college life, the beauty of New York, her favorite fighting moves and more! 

Lola Kirke and Greta Gerwig

In Francis Ha, Greta Gerwig got to fully showcase her quirky adorable nature and caught critics and fans attention even garnering awards along the way.  Mistress America showcases a new young actress, Lola Kirke, while also allowing us more time with the lovable Greta.  Noah Baumbach's sense of sarcastic and weird humor clicks perfectly with these two actresses.  I haven't laughed as much in a Baumbach film since the wonderful The Squid and The Whale.  Baumbach and Gerwig's writing taps into the universal quality of being a freshman in a college in a big city, but also still holds true to their slightly off-main stream command of what's hip and cool.  Take for instance this hilarious scene that captures so much quick pace of the dialog as well as the slight tinge of anger at life that vibrates off Gerwig's Brooke character.

Another element of this enjoybable film is the way in which Cinematographer Sam Levy captures his two lead actresses.  Levy has now worked with Baumbach on his last three films. 

Noah Baumbach with Cinematographer Sam Levy

The duo have really come to capture a lot of the New York minute pace, the bright lights impacting the city and also how to highlight the actors.  Francis Ha followed Greta's dance movements in this fun yet directionless way.  That lack of focus feel is also apparent in Mistress America, but the Brooke character's full force determination is the constant push needed to get from scene to scene.  As her emotions get more crazy and wild the more she becomes to trust young Tracy and the further she drags her along on the odyssey of regaining her life.  In contrast the slower pacing of the Tracy arch allows for more intimate and even ambigious sequences.  Levy really captures that confused lost feeling that most college kids have when they first arrive.  Then things go mobile and we see the beauty of what is outside of the city lights when the characters travel to Connecticut.  It's a very fluid and unpredictable style that Levy has captured in his films with Noah Baumbach. 

Noah Baumbach with Cinematographer Sam Levy 1

Overall it totally works and yet there are some incredible moments of stillness, a lingering effect that most directors would be to scared to allow to happen. This next clip showcasing Times Square really captures that lingering feeling.  The anticipation of Greta traveling down these brightly lit steps creates such a sense of fear, laughter and intrigue into what the hell is about to happen in these two ladies lives.

Now the film is also fully realized because of the great surrounding cast.  Matthew Shear as Tony, a potential love interest for Lola's Tracy character, who gets sucked into each small crazy adventure including the eventual road trip that allows the film to escape it's NYC bubble, just like when Francis went home in Francis Ha.  Tony is a really unique character and minus Greta's Brooke is by far the most fully fleshed out figure in Tracy's short college life.  Their struggle to get into a secret writers club at the school is one of my favorite sequences, but Tony's sense of humor really shines when having to work off his girlfriend Nicolette.  Jasmine Cephas Jones as Nicolette is pure sarcastic bliss as her constant fear of losing Tony never lacks in hilarious tone.  Overall the relationships in the film are so slightly deranged it totally fits with Baumbach/Gerwig's non-stop dialog pace.  You don't have a second to ask what the hell are these folks thinking.  But the road trip to picturesque Greenwich, Connecticut is a wonderful detour that allows for a more ensemble style rumble when Brooke gets to confront her "nemesis".  Heather Lind's performance of the ticked off "evil bitch who stole my boyfriend" character of Mamie-Claire is a real highlight of the second half of the film.  We hear of her from the very beginning and Heather's performance doesn't fail in living up to our expectations.  And lastly I loved Cindy Cheung who plays one of the hilarious friends of Mamie-Claire who's husband has forgotten to pick her up from book club, but who also is 7 or 8 months pregnant.  Her ability to pop in and out of scenes at the house is pure joy with each little interruption.  The ability for Greta and Lola to work so well with the other supporting cast is what truly brings out the best qualities of this script. 

Cindy Cheung Dean Wareham Matthew Sheer Greta Gerwig Michael Chemus and Heather Lind

And now here is the wonderful and amazing Greta Gerwig!!!

Interview with Actress / Writer / Fighting Machine – Greta Gerwig.

For more information on this witty and funny film please go, here.

Also an added treat!  Fellow director and friend of SeligFilmNews Michael Mohan wrote a wonderful piece on Mistress America and his love of Baumbach, here.

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