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Damsels in Distress (2012)


Average Rating: 6.7/10
Reviews Counted: 129
Fresh: 97
Rotten: 32

Critics Consensus: Damsels in Distress can sometimes feel mannered and outlandish, but it's redeemed by director Whit Stillman's oddball cleverness and Greta Gerwig's dryly funny performance.

Average Rating: 6.5/10
Reviews Counted: 43
Fresh: 31
Rotten: 12

Critics Consensus: Damsels in Distress can sometimes feel mannered and outlandish, but it's redeemed by director Whit Stillman's oddball cleverness and Greta Gerwig's dryly funny performance.


Average Rating: 2.9/5
User Ratings: 13,071


Movie Info

Whit Stillman's Damsels in Distress is a comedy about a trio of beautiful girls as they set out to revolutionize life at a grungy American university - the dynamic leader Violet Wister (Greta Gerwig), principled Rose (Megalyn Echikunwoke) and sexy Heather (Carrie MacLemore). They welcome transfer student Lily (Analeigh Tipton) into their group which seeks to help severely depressed students with a program of good hygiene and musical dance numbers. The girls become romantically entangled with a … More

PG-13 (for mature thematic content including some sexual material)
Directed By:
Written By:
Whit Stillman
In Theaters:
Sep 25, 2012
Box Office:
Sony Pictures Classics - Official Site


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Critic Reviews for Damsels in Distress

All Critics (131) | Top Critics (43) | Fresh (97) | Rotten (32) | DVD (2)

Like a degree in gender studies, there's no payoff.

Full Review… | May 4, 2012
St. Louis Post-Dispatch
Top Critic

The film would probably drag if it weren't so perfectly cast, especially with the gawky-beautiful Gerwig as its center.

Full Review… | May 4, 2012
Detroit News
Top Critic

For the most part, it's a film filled with simple pleasures...

Full Review… | April 27, 2012
Top Critic

Damsels in Distress ambles about amiably without much of a narrative: Plot has never been Stillman's strong suit, and in this film he seems particularly indifferent to its demands.

Full Review… | April 27, 2012
Miami Herald
Top Critic

There's a self-consciousness to "Damsels" that takes away much of the fun.

Full Review… | April 26, 2012
Seattle Times
Top Critic

While the comedy might be patchy, Gerwig and Stillman make for quite the two-step.

Full Review… | April 24, 2012
Time Out
Top Critic

Although the themes of clueless rich kids acting boorishly are very much the same as in Stillman's biggest hits, 'Metropolitan' and 'Barcelona,' the light and breezy "Damsels" more than stands on its own as an Austen-tatious delight.

Full Review… | May 24, 2013
The Patriot Ledger

Why he would once again focus his imagination on another ensemble of shallow, self-absorbed characters that are all directed to speak like they were born in the same upper-class Connecticut suburb indicates a one-track mind, at the least.

Full Review… | April 21, 2013

One doesn't realize one has missed the airless irony of Whit Stillman until one sees Stillman's first feature film in 13 years.

Full Review… | December 31, 2012
McClatchy-Tribune News Service

Greta Gerwig gives a career-defining performance.

Full Review… | December 12, 2012
Antagony & Ecstasy

And while it occasionally feels a little wobbly, it grows more sure of itself and richer as it goes along.

Full Review… | October 24, 2012
FILMINK (Australia)

While the highly mannered banter on show here doesn't quite have the cutting ring of Whit Stillman's] epocal, yuppie-era conversation piece Metropolitan (1990), it brims with dry wit and wry observations about college life and awkward emotions.

Full Review… | September 15, 2012

Whit Stillman hasn't been behind a camera in 13 years and it's time to toss the old adage out, you can forget how to ride a bike.

Full Review… | August 24, 2012

This is a very funny movie, and in some ways a dirty movie, in the old Ernst Lubitsch sense of innuendoes standing in for outright sex talk.

Full Review… | July 3, 2012
House Next Door

Once you let go and just go with the oddball flow, many delights await.

Full Review… | June 11, 2012

Its characters are unrecognizable to those of us inhabiting the real world, and despite its mounds and mounds of dialogue, it ultimately doesn't have a sticking thought in its pretty head.

Full Review… | June 1, 2012
Washington City Paper

A mannered comedy that's an acquired taste.

Full Review… | May 23, 2012
Ozus' World Movie Reviews

'His wit largely depends upon the shape and cadence of the sentence and upon an eccentric and personal vocabulary.' This Britannica entry on Ronald Firbank (a novelist mentioned in the movie) offers a perfect summation of the sense of humor found here...

Full Review… | May 18, 2012
Commercial Appeal (Memphis, TN)

... has a paradoxical aura of weighty triviality ...

Full Review… | May 17, 2012
Sacramento News & Review

Stillman's return in "Damsels" ends up being like a friendly lunch with someone you used to have deep, all-night dorm-room conversations with back in college.

Full Review… | May 16, 2012
Capital Times (Madison, WI)

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.

Full Review… | May 12, 2012
Sin Magazine

A good-hearted, delightfully quirky film with an intelligent vibe.

Full Review… | May 9, 2012
Mountain Xpress (Asheville, NC)

To refer to a film's olfactory properties is ordinarily associated with expressing one's displeasure, but to do so in regard to Damsels in Distress is to praise this cinematic aromatherapy's mood-lifting qualities.

Full Review… | May 8, 2012
Reel Times: Reflections on Cinema

Stylized, slightly surreal, perhaps overdosing with flimsy whimsy

Full Review… | May 5, 2012
SSG Syndicate

It would be wonderful to report that Damsels in Distress marks a completely triumphant return for Stillman, yet while it's certainly recommendable, it falls short of his '90s output.

Full Review… | May 4, 2012
Creative Loafing

Whit Stillman ... creates dialogue that is as clever as it is chatty, with charming discursions for Gershwin tunes and even an attempt at starting a dance craze.

Full Review… | May 4, 2012
Salt Lake Tribune

Audience Reviews for Damsels in Distress

Damsels in Distress is a love letter to the decadents and literature of the early 19th century, there is certainly an air of Oscar Wilde about it, albeit with contemporary social issues explored as well as age old problems experienced in youth. It is a celebration of the sincerely superficial, the character of Violet (played brilliantly by Greta Gerwig) being the best example of this as a masterful governess who is only spurred on by the fact she is knowingly hypocritical and self-aware. Violet has to be one of my favourite new characters in film for a very long time, probably since Max Fischer. It's silly, it's nonsense, it's wonderfully superficial and there is nothing wrong with that from time to time. It was a little hard to like at first but once it reached its stride it was thoroughly enjoyable and the lovely ending was the cherry on the top. Good stuff, don't over think it, enjoy it.

Anthony Lawrie

Super Reviewer


This movie strikes a tone that few before it have, and presents a undergraduate environment as one in which people aren't who they seem to be and are always putting on airs to disguise their weakness of spirit, morals or intellect. The ending was wacky and I couldn't get my head around it, but for most of the film the characters and the conversations were interesting despite the uncommon language they used. The film is full of little ironies and the characters hypocritical, and yet, it doesn't come off as satirical; in fact, I found I could relate to it, more than five years after finishing my BA. The cripplingly good intentions are something to behold, as is the self-obsession and projection, but what's remarkable about the movie is that it's still all rather happy... and not in that saccharine or hollowly nostalgic way that college movies usually are; I genuinely liked these characters while simultaneously watching them be repulsive. A solid story of anti-heroes that would play well with fans of HBO's Girls or Sex and the City (the TV series, not the cheap cinematic cash-ins), and a film that can generate a lot of discussion about altruism and whether or not it's completely dead. Worth checking out, if only because no two people will read it the same way.

Daniel Perry

Super Reviewer


Two people who are no better suited to work together. Independent filmmaker and actress Greta Gerwig and legendary script writer and director Whit Stillman unite for his first film in thirteen years, and his first recognized film in some twenty. Both of them have been delightful in most films they make, and as both of them linger in the obscure, young, and bourgeoisie, it's only fitting that they came together and made a film together. What's kind of baffling is why Stillman is coming back to films now, and why he decided to make this film of all things. At least in his coveted and award nominated "Metropolitan" he was speaking about a kind of people that actually existed, who he as a young man had met. Those people were as strange and high minded as some of the characters here, but they had an element of greed, naiveté, and true agency. This is definitely of a completely different element, flaunting eccentricities and quirkiness over realism. While his earlier work blossomed formerly lonesome characters into greedy socialites, here he is talking about a generation he doesn't know about and doesn't connect to. Gerwig doesn't help in the matter either, deciding to be odd in lieu of developing any character. The film follows a group of college girls, with the affinity of fifties' debutantes, and plants them into the world of college without showing much outside of social forays, and not realistic ones either. Most of what is charming and offbeat happens when the characters stop trying to hide themselves in their quirky personalities; when the layers of strangeness are peeled back and we see the depths of the characters' struggles and want to belong. That and the jock humor, which realizes a new level of dumb and destructive. Violet's (Gerwig) desire to start a dance craze, help suicidal people, and her love for idiots, gained nothing and didn't further the plot along, which ruined all the buildup she had managed throughout the film. I would say that the only performance that wasn't odd was from newcomer Analeigh Tipton ("Warm Bodies") as the outsider who takes this all in. I don't understand those who find this trilling, light as wind chimes, when it's too obvious and comes off more like a timpani.

Spencer S.

Super Reviewer


"Damsels in Distress" is Whit Stillman's first feature in well over a decade. The result is a film that aims for dead-pan brilliance but instead comes off tedious and repellent with only sporadic instances of satisfying satirical bite. The cast can't be faulted (Gerwig and Tipton are particularly strong), but Stillman's writing can. The film is so leisurely paced, so unfocused, that the whole endeavor doesn't add up to much (and the "musical" finale merely cements this). You'll get a running sense of "what's the point" throughout a nimble running time, while the Stillman of old shines through on occasion in the form of slick,razor-sharp dialogue. It's in these rare moments that "Damsels" works; and even rarer? You won't be hoping for these dames to just shut up already!

Michael S

Super Reviewer

Damsels in Distress Quotes

The scent... in this soap... is what gives me hope.
– Submitted by Stephanie B (48 days ago)
For someone who is suicidal, like Priss, that can be a real boost.
Oh, I'm not suicidal.
Oh, that's good. I think it's best not to identify as a suicidal person, don't you?
– Submitted by Stephanie B (48 days ago)
What the world needs to work properly is a large mass of normal people.
– Submitted by Frances H (12 months ago)
Mad Madge:
What do you think you're doing?
Violet Wister:
I'm sorry, did I disturb you?
Mad Madge:
Why are you wearing tap shoes? Are you out of your mind?
Violet Wister:
I think that's pretty clear...
– Submitted by Brian V (14 months ago)
Priss is a rat; a bitch; a rat-bitch.
– Submitted by Elijah B (22 months ago)
Young Rose:
What's your name.
– Submitted by Laila D (2 years ago)

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