Damsels in Distress

Rated PG-13 98 min. 2012

Whit Stillman’s flowery, absurd Damsels in Distress substitutes Animal House’s crude frat boys for priss-pot coeds in this too-cute-for-school, obnoxious evocation of a make-believe college life. Block-of-wood indie queen Greta Gerwig is all square shoulders and flatline delivery as the bossypants Violet, the queen bee in a hive of girliness dedicated to rooting out bad smells and suicidal depression from their private Seven Oaks College. The slightly dim brunette Heather (Carrie MacLemore) and the elegant African-American girl Rose (Megalyn Echikunwoke), who has come back from a London trip with an affected British accent and a conviction that all men are “playboys and operators,” round out this coterie of Lanz nightgowns and proper enunciation. This girl gang in Anne Klein separates operates a quaintly Victorian suicide intervention club at Seven Oaks whose remedy for depression is free doughnuts, tap dancing, and Violet’s passive-aggressive line of questioning. Into this state of affairs comes transfer student Lily (Analeigh Tipton), a dewy, wide-eyed boy magnet who seems shipped in from reality to this cartoon campus. Lily becomes involved with a French foreign exchange student, Xavier (Hugo Becker), who has convinced her he’s part of a religious sect founded on sodomy (those French!). Stillman’s comic crux seems to be inserting an antediluvian, almost Victorian moral standard into the moral free-for-all of college, a juxtaposition that is as tedious as it is artificial. It’s a world utterly and intentionally cut off from any recognizable contemporary reality where the Occupy movement, Al Qaeda, or a presidential election might exist. Instead, the greatest horror Stillman conjures up is a romantic break-up. Stillman’s schtick has always been a WASP form of Woody Allen-style navel-gazing, but in Damsels in Distress, that’s morphed into a boundless and irritating self-regard. Convinced of its own cleverness despite being teeth-grindingly insipid, Stillman’s characters are more propositions than people, and it is hard to tolerate such constructs without the force of a message or agenda behind their maddening behavior.

Film Credits

Official Site: www.sonyclassics.com/damselsindistress/site

Director: Whit Stillman

Writer: Whit Stillman

Producer: Whit Stillman, Martin Shafer and Liz Glotzer

Cast: Greta Gerwig, Adam Brody, Analeigh Tipton, Megalyn Echikunwoke, Carrie MacLemore, Hugo Becker, Billy Magnussen, Ryan Metcalf, Jermaine Crawford and Caitlin Fitzgerald

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Damsels in Distress

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