The perfect antidote to your late-summer movie doldrums has arrived in Noah Baumbach and Greta Gerwig’s Mistress America, a rare comedy that feels both generationally specific yet utterly timeless. With their latest collaboration, they tell tale of college freshman Tracey (Lola Kirke), an aspiring writer who escapes the apathy of commencement after she reaches out to her step-sister-to-be, Brooke (co-writer Greta Gerwig), a gabby entrepreneur who whisks Tracey on a journey to an invariable amount of New York City hotspots. But the two butt heads when they find themselves spending an extended afternoon at Brooke’s ex-boyfriend’s lavish home in Connecticut—giving Tracey a bachelor degree’s worth of stories to tell in the process. At heart,Mistress America is a story about a budding artist who discovers her first muse, and the ways that experiencing life vicariously through another person can fuel creativity, for better and for worse.
But the major discovery of Mistress America is the arrival of its breakout star, Lola Kirke, younger sister of Girls’ Jemima Kirke, who has her first lead role after making waves as a backwater criminal in David Fincher’s Gone Girl. With her literary narration that bookends the film, and her character’s habit of developing a crush on her best friends, Kirke embodies the film’s nostalgic spirit—a young woman for whom college is an inherently transient experience, and the real learning comes off-campus. With her acerbic demeanor and youthful glow, the British-American actress finds herself more than adept at matching Gerwig’s comic rhythms, and she met with our press roundtable to discuss her character’s low-key fashion sense and the film’s clandestine friendship.
How did you and Greta begin working together on building the dynamic of your characters?
I mean, it was a pretty organic development of our relationship. Our dynamic outside of the film is definitely different from the one that you see in the movie, but there was no like, rehearsal where we pretended to be animals. I don’t know if anyone’s ever taken an acting class, they’re like, “Be a chipmunk now,” or something. It was a 60-day shoot, so it was–it just grew. And luckily, I really admire Greta—she’s incredibly inspirational to me as well.I think that’s really key to the relationship of Tracy and Brooke. I think Brooke makes Tracy want to be better than she is already, and I think that Tracy even says, like, she’s the type of person that made you want to be more like yourself. Even though you see Tracy come into her own kind of power, and start speaking her mind the way that Brooke does, she doesn’t quite turn into Brooke. So yeah, it was a very organic development.
This is your first all-out comedic role, and it’s an unusually fast-paced movie. I’m curious if you could talk about what it was like to get used to the rhythm of both the dialogue and direction. What it was like to work with Greta, who we’ve already seen in this style?
For me, in terms of approaching any text, it’s not like—is this a comedy, is this a drama. It’s more “What am I saying?” Because a lot of the time it will be inherent. It’s not about like, hamming it up for comedy. I also think that Greta and Noah’s writing really lends itself to being funny anyway, and there is a really specific rhythm. We’ve been getting asked a lot if the movie was at all improvised, and it isn’t. Noah and Greta are very much interested in everyone being word-perfect. And it’s actually kind of wonderful, because you want to be saying words that people care about. Coming from a stage background, you don’t work with playwrights that are like, “Yeah, just make it your own.” The words are the art form—along with other parts of it, obviously. And with film and TV, I think that gets left behind a little bit more. So it was really a pleasure to work with people who had really thought about the rhythm of what they were saying.
Considering this is a very New York movie, best online casino do you find the movie to be an accurate portrayal of characters taken from the city.
I think it’s very taken out of New York life. But I can’t say that it’s New York-specific to right now. There’s something really timeless about the movie to me, and I think that’s because of the reference points that Greta and Noah were really inspired by, which was like, screwball comedies of the 40s from George Cukor to Ernst Lubitsch and Howard Hawks, and like Something Wild and other movies from the 80s. So there’s like, this bizarre hybrid of time that’s happening within the film, but I also think the way that Brooke and Tracy dress is really bizarre. Like, no hip New Yorker actually dresses like Brooke. [Laughs] There’s something really kind of off about her outfit to me. Tracy, by the same token, is kind of–I don’t even know what she’s wearing, that terrible sweater and a beret. Well, first of all, I wore that costume for 60 days, probably washed it twice—so that sweater smelled horrifying. I don’t know, there’s something definitely liberating about wearing clothes like that all the time. Like, ill-fitting jean and sneakers that I probably wouldn’t wear. I do wear berets a lot, much to everyone I know’s dismay.
But to speak to the New Yorkiness of it, I definitely think that Brooke’s like, hustle and aspirations to move upward are specifically New York. I mean, no one moves to New York to just enjoy themselves. I mean, I have enjoyed myself here, but you could go to like, LA or Scottsdale if you wanted to do that. I think that New York is all about changing your position in a lot of ways. I think Brooke also says that in the film. She says like, “You know, I wish it were feudal times so that everybody could just stay in their place and be happy there,” so yeah, I do think that the movie is specifically New York in the way that you have these really unique characters that just want to be something else and are hustling to do that.