Fall is the perfect time for watching films, and there's two female lead comedies out now that I would especially recommend if you have a soft spot for New York Indies!
In “Mistress America”, Tracy (Lola Kirk) is a freshman at university and has not made any friends yet. She gets the number to Brooke (Greta Gerwig) from her mother, who is marrying Brooke's father. Reluctantly, she calls her future stepsister, and is immediately drawn into Brooks wild New York-existence. Tracy looks up to Brooke and follows her everywhere, but her fascination turns out to be not only as a friend, when she start taking notes of everything they do together.
In “Fort Tilden” Allie (Clare McNulty) prepares as best she can for the Peace Corps, but gets distracted by impulsive Harper (Bridey Elliot) who's carefree lifestyle is supported by her father's checkbook. A couple of good-looking guys invites them along to Fort Tilden, and all responsibilities for the day are forgotten. The two young women hop on their bicycles and embark on an adventurous trip through the different areas of Brooklyn.
"Mistress America" and "Fort Tilden" are interesting to compare because both are stories about young women living in New York City (Times Square vs. Brooklyn). Director Noah Baumbach has written the script for the former together with actress Greta Gerwig. It's a screwball comedy about a charming young girl hustling her way through the city as best she can with no particular talent, training or willingness to work. Noah and Greta lives together as a couple, and has been compared to Woody Allen and Diane Keaton. Allen is an obvious influence, but also 80's movies like “Desperately Seeking Susan”. “Mistress America” premiered at the prestigious Sundance Film Festival, and received great reviews when it opened in movie theaters in August. It can be seen as a declaration of love and nostalgia for a NY that doesn't really exist anymore.
"Fort Tilden," however, shows a contemporary Brooklyn with young hipsters who listens to vinyl, and gets laughed at when trying to order iced coffee a few blocks away in an area not yet gentrified.
The film is written and directed by Sarah-Violet Bliss and Charles Rogers, who won the SXSW Film Festival's Grand Jury prize. Noah and Greta are more established in the indie circles (Noah's "The Squid and the Whale" was nominated for an Oscar back in 2006) which shows in the finished product, which is well made and very entertaining, but quite mainstream for an indie. "Fort Tilden", which received limited distribution in select movie theaters, might not be as smooth and evenly crafted, but feels much more organic and authentic – anyone who spent any time at all in Brooklyn will recognize it 100%.
Interesting to compare are also the faith of the lead characters in both films - Greta's character is forced away from New York because there is no space for small time hustlers like her anymore, while Bridey Elliot's hipster character living of her father's money thrives, even though her self-absorption hides sad depths. Both films passes the Bechdel-Wallace Test* and are must-sees this fall! Especially if you are living the city life as a single girl, you might find them extra amusing. Enjoy! :-)
*The Bechdel-Wallace Test is a way to address gender inequality in films. A film passes the test if it includes 2 women with names talking to each other about other things than men. Surprisingly few films passes this test. http://vionel.com/theme/vnl.mwchm5