The Phoenix Film Society hosted its inaugural Summer Film Festival August 10 – 14. The first film in the series, Mistress America, is due in theatres on August 14th.

College can be challenging enough when you’re trying to find your way in the world.  Noah Baumbach’s Mistress America adds another complexity:  college life while meeting your future, successful sister-in-law.

Set in Midtown Manhattan, aspiring writer Brooke (co-writer Greta Gerwig) is settling into college, attempting to please a boy while also attempting to get into the snobbish writing club.  Her recently divorced mom suggests that she connect with her future sister in law, Tracy (Lola Kirk).  They eventually connect with hilarious, life changing consequences.

Baumbach, who co-wrote the screenplay with Gerwig and produced the film, has a deft hand with situational comedies.  One is reminded of television sitcoms such as ‘Cheer’s’, ‘Taxi’, or ‘Seinfeld’ where timing and character building is done in the moment.  Mistress handles it with grace.  There is a 30 minute scene with all our characters which felt as if it was  stage play rather than a scene in a movie, characters feeding off of each other, flinging one comedic comeback after another. Baumbach and Gerwig handle it with grace and aplomb.

Most of the Manhattan scenes are set at night, allowing cinematographer Sam Levy to use the illumination from the surrounding buildings.  Jennifer Lame’s tight editing allows the quick witted story to move along.  An intriguing electronic score by Britta Phillips and Dean Wareham rounds out the natural environment that Baumbach was attempting to achieve.  He does so with great success.

Mistress reminds us to never stop chasing the dream and appreciate each other.

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