Tuesday, April 24
Damsels! In! Distress!
I've been waiting for Whit Stillman's new movie Damsels In Distress for a long time and I finally saw it this past weekend. I had mixed feelings about it. I was excited that one of my favorite directors had ended his 15 year hiatus to make a film AND that said film was about preppy, Northeastern liberal art school campus life (oh golly!) Though, I was disappointed with its grating, often ridiculous plot points (the frat boys don't know the colors?) All of the characters besides Violet (portrayed by Greta Gerwig) are flat and annoying. The main character herself, Lily (unfortunately played by a breathy, overly childlike Analeigh Tipton), isn't even funny. Not even accidentally so. It seems all of the hilarious satire was given to Violet, which is a shame seeing as how Stillman has delivered awesome ensemble cast movies where every single character shines in their own disillusioned sense of pretension. I want more clueless intellectuals! Is that too much to ask for? Or, maybe I really just wanted Chris Eigeman to be in the movie.
Watching the movie, I had the sense that Stillman may have packed the film with too much material. I could imagine him writing down inspiration over the past years for snippets of dialogue in the movie that cover the typical topics discussed by Stillman characters (decadence, proper/invented semantics, the stupidity of young love, etc.) Stillman manages to pack in tap dancing, frat culture, depression/suicide, Catharism, the arrogance of philanthropism, and more all into one film. Each idea on its own could be a movie! Some scenes were hilarious, though most were downright bizarre (the Catharism seems like a strange after thought, and a tap dancing musical number at first feels right in the movie...yet doesn't?) The film also had a strange imbalance of Stillman's usual high brow comedic dialogue and a sort of awkward attempt at a more commercial comedy (i.e. that whole thing with frat boys not knowing colors?!)
It's a return, and I hope he makes more movies (or books! or whatever!), but Damsels In Distress wasn't amazing. It had so many funny moments, but as a whole it was strange and unpolished. Definitely not his best work, but let's be real: can anything be better than Metropolitan?