“She was everything and nothing” is the best way to describe Brooke (Greta Gerwig) in Mistress America. She’s like a stick of fireworks — one minute her light is shooting past you at full speed, the next, it has flickered out never to be seen again.
Tracy (Lola Kirke) needed fireworks. She entered college with no life jacket to help her float. Hovering on the surface, she found a friend — only to see him move to someone else quickly. She saw an opportunity with a writing fellowship, but it also fell to the wayside. Tracy was lost, almost gasping for air, until she grabbed onto Brooke’s shot into the air.
Mistress America is the inverse of Baumbach and Gerwig’s previous film, Frances Ha. Gerwig has a knack for playing instantly lovable characters whom you immediately want to befriend with Brooke pontificating it. She is the “It” girl. On the first night they meet, Brooke engulfs the young Tracy and begins to shoot her through moments of an unforgettable night — parties, drinks, laughter, hijinks — it is everything you want and more in life, and for Brooke, it seems to be just a run of the mill Wednesday.
Director Noah Baumbach, who co-wrote the script with Gerwig, films the introduction of Brooke, and the following time she spends with Tracy, like a flash. You never linger in these moments because they are all fleeting — they happen quickly and then POOF — gone. At first meeting Brooke seems like a drug for Tracy, it is almost as if she wants to be apart of whatever is happening in this organism, which in turn leads to creative fuel.
Brooke is unlike Frances from the previous Gerwig/Baumbach movie, in that, where Frances struggled to grab onto something and begin any semblance of mature responsibility, Brooke is bobbling everything that Frances wants but is unable to realize that obtaining it is one thing, sustaining is another. When Tracy finds Brooke, she is trying to start a restaurant with her aloof Greek boyfriend with the backing in place. But when the one end of the budget backs out, Brooke must look for a second source in order to propel her latest passion off the drawing board.
If Frances was one side of the millennial, Brooke is the other. We see as she bobbles project after project, constantly doing something but never really feeling like she is moving forward. She knows that she has been given the talent and charisma to do a lot, but figuring out just what that is baffles her, leading her to trudge through each new side project seeming more like a collector of skills rather than a craftsman.
Like his previous two films — Frances Ha and While We’re Young — Baumbach shows an understands of the current generation and their climb to security. The millennials are enterprising, intuitive, and energetic but they lack the focus to narrow in on one set goal, leading them to juggle multiple things with nothing really getting done. It is one thing to have the desire to accomplish multiple things, and it is another to actually follow through with it.
Brooke encompasses this as she makes her journey and realizes that failure is an option, something she hadn’t faced before. In the past, there was something in the way or someone stealing her idea. There was never the threat of the entire enterprise burning to the ground.
Where Baumbach’s last movie looked at the traits of millennials to Baby Boomers, Mistress America feels like the transition from one to the other. Tracy is the new wave while Brooke is waning and going into nonexistence, a thought that never crossed her mind or could be a possibility. It doesn’t mean the end is near for Brooke, but her light is starting to go out and this speed of life will begin slowing down.
Mistress America allows Gerwig to continue to show she is a queen of the indie scene with another role that exudes her bubbly personality with the underneath chaos of growing up. It is a film about the acceptance of age and the harsh reality that you face when life has finally caught up to you. The light is going down and a new blast is encompassing the air, and this time, you aren’t apart of it.