"Damsels in Distress"
Release Date: April 27, 2012
Running Time: 99 minutes
Not many of us know the world director Whit Stillman inhabits. It is populated with insufferable self-absorbed WASPs who happily live in a vacuum. They look down at each other while ignoring anyone who does not attend an elite school or live at the right New York address. Regardless, we know these frigid, privileged people exist, and it makes us feel better that they don’t live next door. Like Stillman’s bone-dry comedies of 1990s--Metropolitan, Barcelona and The Last Days of Disco--Damsels in Distress doesn’t make it easy for us to relate to its smug young protagonists or to completely dismiss them as disagreeable fools. At times, though, it is too easy to laugh at three of the four university gal pals who get up to all sorts of nonsense in Damsels in Distress, Stillman’s campus comedy that is so innocent and whimsical that it feels like it was unearthed from a time capsule that was buried in 1952. Led by Greta Gerwig’s Violet, the three friends work at a university campus suicide prevention center. They suffer from a superiority complex that is unbefitting of their volunteer work, but they don’t seem to realize they pass judgment on the students who stupidly seek their help. Enter Analeigh Tipton’s Lily, a mousey transfer student befriended by Gerwig. It is through Lily that we watch Violet grapple with the very issues that bring depressed students to the suicide prevention center. Constantly taken aback at how Violet behaves and operates, Lily also serves as the sole voice of reason in Damsels in Distress. She often articulates the mild and bemused outrage that we feel toward Violet. Unfortunately, when Violet goes into her emotional tailspin, it is next to impossible to feel anything for her. Violet is nothing more than a figure of ridicule—for the most of Damsels in Distress, she represents everyone you have ever known who have helped people for all the intentional and unintentional wrong reasons. Still, there’s no denying that Gerwig on occasion manages to turn Violet into a droll comic creation, one who is just as likely to infuriate us with her selfish causes as she is to make us want to join the dance craze she wants to start.
Aired: April 26, 2012
Web site: http://www.sonyclassics.com/damselsindistress/