DAMSELS IN DISTRESS
Some people have greeted the return of Whit Stillman like the return of the Prodigal Son. Sadly, I found his new film annoyingly whimsical, as if the last 15 years never happened.
Between 1990 and 1998, he made three fragrant films – Metropolitan, Barcelona and The Last Days of Disco – of which Metropolitan was by far the best. The subject matter was a group of upper class young Manhattanites behaving like rich spoiled kids everywhere, but the main means of communication was verbal. In other words, everyone talked, no one did anything. Looking at it now, it seems very dated.
22 years later, it's not clear that Stillman has learned a great deal. We now have four young women, led by Greta Gerwig, whose mission is to clean up their college, by inculcating better manner into men. For example, they think it's important that women go out with guys who haven't yet realised their full potential, rather than cool guys. And they hand out doughnuts at the Suicide Prevention Center (it's American, duh) or go tap dancing. I can see that it's all meant to be very sophisticated and stylised, but the delivery of the dialogue is so mannered that it feels phony, and the satire, such as it is, is heavy handed.
I'm at a loss to understand why Stillman felt there was a need to make this film now, why anyone gave him the money to do so, why anyone would want to go and see it, and why so many film critics are so enthusiastic about it. For me, it's like Heathers with all the fun removed.
By Phil Raby
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