For Reel

Damsels in Distress (2011)
June 27, 2012, 7:02 am
Filed under: Reviews | Tags: , ,

Director: Whit Stillman

Since 1990’s Metropolitan, Whit Stillman has been addressing the social elite – that is, characters that would be flattered to be christened as yuppies – with a uniquely stylized dialogue that is heavy on wit. In Damsels in Distress, the familiar artificiality of Stillman’s universe is transplanted into Seven Oaks, an east coast college wherein, according to Violet, a trend-setting blonde played by Greta Gerwig, male barbarism predominates. Violet and her disciples take on a promising new-comer in the similarly florally-named Lily, and together the group seeks men who have not yet realized their full potential in an act that they consider to be charitable. The female cast is impressive – Gerwig is as natural a screen presence as any actress of her generation, and Analeigh Tipton, an America’s Next Top Model alumni with irresistible doe-like eyes, plays the fledgling debutante with a refreshing lack of gullibility. Where Stillman falters is in his men, not exclusively in the way that they’re written (ostensibly as simple-minded brutes), but in the performances, which are too broad for an Adam Sandler vehicle. Whereas an actress like Megalyn Echikunwoke can earn a laugh with her umpteenth delivery of “playboy operator”, the central frat boys seem desperate every time they’re on screen, grinding the picture to an unfortunate halt.

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