Thursday, May 10, 2012

Reel Thoughts: Whit's End

If you like those “Bein’ Quirky With Zooey Deschanel” skits on Saturday Night Live, you’ll love Whit Stillman’s new film Damsels in Distress, starring Greta Gerwig, Adam Brody and Analeigh Tipton (from America’s Next Top Model and Crazy, Stupid, Love). There is more quirk per minute than any other film this year; whether this is a good or a bad thing will determine whether or not you should see these Damsels.

Transfer student Lily (Tipton) shows up to Seven Oaks College and is immediately taken on as a project by a trio of self-appointed do-gooders, Violet (Gerwig), Rose (Megalyn Echikunwoke) and Heather (Carrie MacLemore). Unlike Alicia Silverstone’s Cher in Clueless, these girls are pretty clueless themselves, as is everyone on the campus. The frat boys are so sheltered, they don’t even know the names of the colors.

Not much happens in Damsels in Distress, mostly the girls are disappointed by the men in their lives, Violet tries to start an international dance craze and Lily goes through a mid-movie personality change that serves no purpose. Of course, Stillman knows how to write funny dialogue, like the scene where Brody decries how homosexuality has gone down the tubes and now gays are just muscle men working out.

Getting there is all the fun in Damsels in Distress. The performances are all pitched at a level completely out of touch with reality, which is done on purpose and which seems to reflect Stillman’s peculiar worldview. Metropolitan, Stillman’s first hit, portrayed the same kind of rarefied preppies, but was more naturalistic. If you don’t find Damsels in Distress too precious and forced, you should enjoy its witty writing and charming WASP-centric pleasures.

Review by Neil Cohen, resident film critic of Movie Dearest and Phoenix's Echo Magazine.

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