banner-mistress-america-film_2**** (out of five)

The second screenplay collaboration between Noah Baumbach and Greta Gerwig, Mistress America is gleefully, self-knowingly stuffed with spectacularly funny dialogue, the kind of rapid-fire zingers they used to give to Tracy and Hepburn or Hope and Crosby. It sounds very written, especially coming out of Gerwig’s mouth; she hits every consonant, syllable and punctuation point, as if proud of her own words, which she should be.

Gerwig is Hope or Hepburn to Lola Kirke’s Crosby or Tracy; Kirke plays a Tracy, an NYU Freshman feeling lonely and disconnected, who is inspired to write a short story by her soon-to-be sister (by marriage) Brooke (Gerwig). They immediately develop a May / August bramance, and Tracy inspires Brooke to follow her dreams, with mixed results.

This is really witty stuff, the funniest film Baumbach has made (while not necessarily being his best, which is probably The Squid and The Whale; we also have to remember that he co-wrote Fantastic Mr. Fox and The Life Aquatic With Steve Zissou, both of which are really, really funny). Gerwig is luminescent even in her artificiality while Kirke is movingly real; rather than being a distraction, their differing styles complement each other beautifully. You’ll be hard pressed to remember details of this film in a couple of months – it’s a light, breezy, quick trip to the fountain – but it’s joyful as hell, and as funny.

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