Mistress America On Blu... It Does Exist (DVD/ Blu-ray Comparison)

Noah Baumbach's latest, Mistress America, has finally... dribbled out onto blu-ray. It had a release date of December 1st, but Amazon didn't ship its copies out until days after (possibly due to some minor cold war between between Amazon and Fox). It's barely at any stores. Even bestbuy.com only has the soundtrack. That's right, Best Buy has the vinyl LP, but not the blu-ray in 2015. And where it is being sold, the price is exorbitant compared to comparable new releases, and surprisingly, there's no DVD counterpart. But still, it exists. I got my copy, so you guys can get it, too. Let's just enjoy.

Update 5/9/17: No DVD, did I say?  Turns out there's a "rental exclusive" version, anyway.  So I hunted one down, because I like a challenge.  So now you can enjoy a DVD/ Blu-ray comparison.  Yay.  Oh, and now in 2017, bestbuy.com does have the blu.  I guess they read this site.  😉
Mistress America is pretty great. It might be a little light on surprises for anyone familiar with Baumbach's last couple films (you could easily describe MA as Frances Ha meets Greenberg, with the look of While We're Young), but it's hard to complain about having your expectations happily met. Lola Kirke is a young college freshman who moves to the city and hesitantly contacts her new big sister in-law, Greta Gerwig, who once again co-wrote the screenplay. Gerwig's been living in a commercial space in Times Square, leading a sort of Breakfast At Tiffany's-style fantasy life, who's poured all of her ambitions into opening a restaurant/ community center where you can also get your hair cut. And when her backers pull out, the pair drive off to Connecticut to squeeze a business loan out of her old "arch nemesis."
There's a bit of a zany 80's comedy feel to the proceedings, but it still comes from an earnest well-shaded base. It's like a drama dressed up as a comedy. Of course, Baumbach can be relied upon to bring the wit and cleverness, and many of recent themes are being revisited, particularly of aging without having met your dreams. The characters might seem fun but obvious at first, but membranes are sporadically peeled back to reveal bigger characters underneath. Gerwig's character first appears to be all quirkiness and charm, until she's confronted by an old classmate about the emotional scars her high school bullying left her; and the tables are turned again when Gerwig shames her for carrying an irrational, childhood grudge. When Kirke describes how Gerwig's methods of coping in the world were collapsing, her old friends quietly deserted her as they could smell the failure on her, her youth had died and she was now carrying around its decaying corpse, I thought okay, this film has come to do more than just lightly entertain.
Fox 2015 "Rental Exclusive" DVD on top; Fox 2015 blu-ray below.
Of course Mistress looks great here. A brand new release, shot digitally and put on an HD disc, there's not a lot to get wrong, and thankfully nothing was. The film's slightly letterboxed to 1.85:1 on both versions, and apart from looking slightly softer and the usual SD compression distinctions, the DVD and blu are the same.  The fact that there's no film grain helps bring the two closer together, but don't get me wrong, fine detail on the DVD is blurred away, but clear on the dual-layered blu.  The blu features a DTS-HD 5.1 mix, plus 5.1 mixes for French, Spanish and English Descriptive audio.  There are also optional French, Spanish and English HoH subs. It also featured a new anti-piracy update thingy, though, that made me update two of the players I tested it on before it would play. So look forward to that hassle. But the movie's presented in top form once you get to it.
Extras, on the other hand, are disappointing. We get three promotional featurettes, two of which are less than 2 minutes(!) long (and yes, the rental exclusive DVD has them, too). The third is about four minutes, and they all feature more clips from the film than anything else. They do feature teensy tiny soundbites of interviews with Baumbach, Gerwig and Kirke, but they don't do anything more briefly than describe the film you've just seen. Apart from that, you get the trailer, a photo gallery, some bonus trailers which play on start-up, and the disc comes in a slipcover. It's pretty underwhelming to see half of Baumbach's films get celebrated by first class Criterion Collection discs, while the other half gets this generic, no frills treatment. Especially when, if you search for "Mistress America" on youtube, there's tons of longer promotional interviews and Q&As with Baumbach, Gerwig and Kirke. Surely at least one of those could've been slapped onto this disc?
A release like this would be underwhelming at a usual price. At the price they're asking, it's particularly frustrating. But at the end of the day, it's a great movie and the movie's presented perfectly well. So as long as you're not expecting anything fancy, fans should be more than happy with this disc. I mean, look at the state Highball and Mr. Jealousy are in on home video. Take this blu-ray and run.

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