Mistress America, the new indie movie co-written by and starring Greta Gerwig ’06, features Barnard prominently and includes several scenes shot on campus. In the film, which opened August 14 to glowing reviews, Gerwig stars as Brooke, described by The New York Times as “a peripatetic New York gal about town and dynamic human whirligig” who is cobbling together multiple jobs (including one as a spin instructor) and planning to open a bistro/hair salon/art gallery in Williamsburg.
Gerwig co-wrote Mistress America with the film’s director, Noah Baumbach. The movie is narrated by Tracy, Brooke’s soon-to-be stepsister and a Barnard first-year. The campus locales shown on the big screen include Milbank Courtyard, Arthur Ross Courtyard (the Quad), Sulzberger and Brooks halls, Hewitt dining hall, and The Diana Center. In addition, two students interned as production assistants, and several got to be in the film as extras. Spanish professor Alfred Mac Adam as well as a few staff members also make appearances in some scenes.
Gerwig and Baumbach say that Mistress America was heavily influenced by the screwball comedies of the 1930s and 1940s, as well as by several ’80s comedies. A New York Times article on the cinematic inspirations for the movie says that while Baumbach grew up around film (his parents were film reviewers), Gerwig only began learning seriously about film at the College. “‘It wasn’t until I got to college at Barnard that I became interested in seeing older movies at Film Forum and the Museum of the Moving Image. Kim’s Video in the East Village organized the films by directors, and that was also a big shift for me,’” she tells the Times.