Thursday, April 19, 2012

Review of DAMSELS IN DISTRESS (2012)

- Rated PG -13 for mature thematic elements including some sexual material.
- Starring Greta Gerwig, Analeigh Tipton, Adam Brody
- Written & Directed by Whit Stillman
- Running Time: 1hr 38min.

This was my first experience of a Whit Stillman film. He made 3 movies in the 90's, but hasn't made a film in 14 years. For his comeback, he made a semi-surreal tale about a group of college girls who attempt to change the frat boy mentality of your typical college dude, as well as saving fellow students from depression and suicide. In reality, the girls are snobs who think they're better than everyone else and seem to do these helpful humanity activies to make themselves feel even more superior. They are led by Violet, who is satirically full of her self. She has a few followers as well that try and imitate her. But when newcomer Lily joins the group, she questions their ways and changes the routine in Violet's hypocritical world.

It's a hard movie to describe. It's actually kind of clever. I liked how it didn't seem to take place in reality, but in a sort of stylistic version of college life. The costumes are subtly colorful and there is a contrived way the dialogue is delivered. But it sort of works. Greta Gerwig completely embodies Violet, who has all the best lines. Every thing she says is passive aggressive, but there's a rhythm to it, and Gerwig just nails this. Analeigh Tipton has this innocence about her as Lily that is completely believable. I think she has this natural acting ability and will probably be the next big thing. Adam Brody is also pretty good as a sort of love interest for both Lily and Violet.

Stillman's script snarls with wit and snarky commentary on social organizations. He certainly has a unique style, and it makes me want to seek out his earlier films. Unfortunately, I felt like the film kind of petered out in the last act. The juggling of the characters started not to work. There were a few things that Lily did that didn't a whole lot of sense. Also, it felt like there were scenes missing. For example: Two characters fight with each other, and then a few minutes later everything is fine. I also thought the ending was a bit of a cop out. Even though I like musical numbers, and this one was very good, it felt out of place. Like the movie couldn't figure out how to end. I'm sure there was a point to it, and I might possibly understand and appreciate it more upon a second viewing. But, for some reason it just didn't feel right.

I have a feeling that this will find a following amongst hipsters, and those that enjoyed the Christian Slater movie HEATHERS (I love it too!) will find a similar (but far less violent) tone. I do think that Wilt Stillman is a truly unique artist, but I think I need to see it again to fully appreciate it.

**1/2 (out of ****)

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