Damsels in Distress Reviews

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Super Reviewer
½ December 30, 2013
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.
Super Reviewer
½ March 13, 2012
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.
Super Reviewer
½ January 18, 2013
"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!
Bill D 2007
Super Reviewer
May 28, 2012
After a nearly-15-year hiatus from filmmaking, Whit Stillman ("Metropolitan") is back with "Damsels in Distress," starring Indie It Girl Greta Gerwig. I was quite excited about Stillman's return, but, alas, the film never comes together. It's not terrible, but much of it does not work.

Gerwig plays a student at a small secluded liberal-arts college in the Northeast (inspired by Dartmouth maybe?). But it's not so much a character as a comic caricature blown up to absurd proportions. She and her two pals, who are even cruder caricatures, staff a Suicide Prevention Center and are obsessed with helping fellow students avoid depression.

There are many funny lines in this spoof of over-educated lost children, but it's just actors reading funny lines. No one for a second seems like a real person. It's more like a Saturday Night Live sketch than a film. This archly unrealistic approach could work if the satire is scintillating and brilliant. But it's never that good. It's just mildly funny throughout.

Also, for satire really to work, it has to resemble real life to a degree. These caricatures are so over the top that they don't resemble anyone. No college students are this screwed up. The film is not so much poking fun at real people as imagining absurd things. "Damsels" wanted to be satirical but often comes off surreal. Not because the humor was intentionally surrealistic, but because the attempts at satire kept misfiring. It hurts to say this, but I think Stillman's filmmaking career is over.
Super Reviewer
½ April 24, 2012
Damsels in Distress is populated with preppy characters that seem to inhabit some alternate universe where catchphrases, pop culture and TV doesn't exist. These girls speak with a theatrical air of authority that makes them a fascinating lot. Their world is definitely unconventional. Some of it rooted in sense, the rest rooted in nonsense. They talk with such dignity and confidence, we feel compelled to listen. For a good part of the movie it works. Their sardonic banter is like spoken word poetry. Much of the conversation is captivating in its affected state. Yet there's a shapeless lack of focus that ultimately does the whole production in. It ends with a random musical number that while pleasant, does nothing to address everything we've watched before it. It feels a little, "since I couldn't write an ending, how's about a song and dance ?" What exactly was the point of all this? I'm still not sure and for the first time, I don't think Stillman knows either.
Bathsheba Monk
Super Reviewer
May 7, 2012
This was a tongue-in-cheek look at what it means to be sophmoric...a word I haven't heard in a while...and the fumbling for identity that defines young adulthood...and the suicidal impulse that accompany less than successful attempts at finding that identity. Things I particularly liked: Violet's (the main character) complete breakdown when her loser boyfriend dumps her--it really captured the complete despair you feel when someone you feel completely superior to dumps you---if even HE can't love me, then WHAT? I LOVE the Indian girl with the British accent who thinks every man is a phony player manipulator turns out to be a complete phony herself. Brilliant. I liked the character (Heather?) trying to figure out the world by dividing women into two camps: those who have hips and those who have no hips. Women with hips, she opines, have morals, whereas women with no hips have none. I thought that completely captured the searching in the dark for meaning that young adulthood is and I find myself, even this morning, wondering how long that character will define the world like that until one day she shakes her head violently and says, "what on earth was THAT all about?" I found the suicide cult hilarious, but that's probably because I am far beyond that. If I were thirty years younger it probably would cut too close to the bone. I liked the dresses that the friends exchanged as easily as their personalities. I liked the male characters search for identity, too: the flit-lit class, the weird religious cult. I had a hard time telling the male characters apart, however, but maybe the casting of a certain type was done on purpopse. Overall, I'm still thinking about it and the questions it raised. Quite enjoyable.
Super Reviewer
½ December 6, 2013
Speaking of "Damsels in Distress:"

Violet(Greta Gerwig), Heather(Carrie MacLemore) and Rose(Megalyn Echikunwoke) recruit new student Lily(Analeigh Tipton) into their cause. Said cause being suicide prevention. Which they intend to do through donuts, coffee and tap dancing. When that does not work, there is always busting down doors which they do when they rescue Priss(Caitlin FitzGerald) who claims she was only glum. Otherwise, Lily is content with being the third wheel to Xavier(Hugo Becker) and Alice(Meredith Hagner).

With "Damsels in Distress," writer-director Whit Stillman manages to prove once and for all that he has his head jammed firmly up his backside with dialogue that no human being would ever say in the real world in his hard hitting expose of cliques on college campuses. Out of that there are maybe a couple of nice moments.("Did you stay at the Motel 6?" "No, I stayed at the Motel 4. It was cheaper.") Plus, the movie has a rather cavalier attiude towards mental illness. Well, since the spoken word had no chance, then maybe Stillman should have made a musical with this material which he hints at repeatedly until the musical number that finally arrives too little too late.
Super Reviewer
½ April 15, 2012
Whit Stillman's films are an acquired taste at best. Often compared to the late great French filmmaker, Eric Rohmer, his films are high-minded, extremely arch and talky affairs. He's only made 4 films in his career, starting with 1990's METROPOLITAN, and then continuing with BARCELONA, THE LAST DAYS OF DISCO, and now he brings us DAMSELS IN DISTRESS. I can't say I've ever been a fan of his work, as its snobby airs have always made me want to roll around in a gutter somewhere with syringes sticking out of me like Tina Turner in TOMMY.

But his new film, while still operating in his same wheelhouse, won me over, for the most part. Still a formless, talky mess, DAMSELS has many things going for it. First, never underestimate Greta Gerwig. She's fast becoming an indie MVP, with her great turn in GREENBURG and now here playing your typical Stillman character - -articulate, preppy, and slightly aloof. There's no mistaking that she's channelling (intentionally or otherwise) Chloe Sevigny, who starred in Stillman's DISCO. Her Violet, however, is a unique creation and is charming because she's so open to criticism. The leader of a group of vocabulary-rich HEATHERS who welcome a rebellious naysayer into their college -life fold, Violet never quite reacts the way you think she will. When the newbie, played by CRAZY STUPID LOVE scene stealer Analeigh Tipton tells her she's rude, Violet responds that she thinks she's right instead of letting her claws out. It's a measured, unexpected performance, and one that kept me sitting forward throughout.

The girls run a Suicide Prevention Center, and it's hear where we see that well-intentioned yet misguided people can STILL do something good for others. It's a lovely conceit that perhaps tap dancing IS the best antidote to suicidal ideation.

Repetitiveness definitely sets in, although the cast remained committed and enjoyable throughout. Megalyn Echikunwoke as Rose (yes, the 4 leads are named after flowers - - so precious!), tended to annoy around the 60th time she called a man a "rat player", and Carrie MacLemore as Heather did the one-dimensional dim girl act as best she could. All of the male characters are underwritten and tend to border on the moronic, but this is a comedy of manners, not a comedy of body parts and fluids like most college-era films. Things turn disastrous in the final reel, when we're subjected to a full-on musical sequence and abrupt character co-minglings. And I REALLY could have done without the too-cutesy dance instructions during the end credits. Despite this, I got lost in its charms.

Others will definitely disagree. The Writers Guild screening I attended had more walkouts than I had ever seen. I just don't think they're used to hearing characters speak in complete sentences in movies. It's as if we're witnessing a modern day English Drawing Room Comedy without the corsets, tea, carriages, and Maggie Smith.
Super Reviewer
April 19, 2012
I missed Whit Stillman. I can't remember the last of his films that I viewed but the general idea is that the story and plot line matter less than the dialogue and the concepts that you just have to shake your head at. Here Stillman doesn't disappoint and the actors buy into it convincingly.
Super Reviewer
½ October 5, 2011
Its perhaps a little too dry and repetitive for my taste, but Stillman is still able to craft a funny, unique comedy after a 15 year hiatus. The idea here, I think, is that people who exist in a complete insular environment (like college) tend to create their own reality and invent issues because they don't have any serious real problems to contend with
Super Reviewer
February 16, 2012
Sometimes i thought this film was highly pretentious. But then I also found that it was very cute, quirky and funny. It ended up really growing on me. Greta Gerwig as Violet was probably the most annoying out of the group but also the most charming in a way. I also really liked Analeigh Tipton in this movie as well as the rest of the cast. Some parts I thought were a tad stupid. Like the fact that Thor didn't know his colours. I get that him and the frat boys were supposed to be morons...but how honestly could he have made it that far and go to college without even knowing basic colours like blue or green? It was a bit preposterous and probably could have been left out. However, despite all that I ended up really enjoying myself. I thought it was fun.
Super Reviewer
½ September 17, 2012
A good low-key charming gem of a movie.
Its not as good as Metropolitan and The Last Days Of Disco but it takes place in the same universe as those two and its still good.
Great acting by Greta Gerwig and the other actors.
½ May 9, 2012
Stillman continues to make watchable overly stylized films that I love, though I think I may prefer the banter to be coming out of male characters to females, as it did grate on me a few times here, where I'm somewhat accustomed to such asshole-ry from his males.

Weird, eh?

Worth a rental.
½ April 20, 2013
its cast and names spell out indie gem however this is a indie piece of glass that is slow and seems to even force itself back to life at the end
½ March 15, 2013
A plentiful supply of witty and honest one-liners are not enough to make up for Damsels pretentious characters and messy plot.
½ January 13, 2013
Quirky characters. This was an example of the preview being more interesting than the actual movie. This movie felt like it wanted to be Heathers, but in no way came close other than the really interesting dialogue of Violet. The ending was a little weird with all the dancing.
November 2, 2012
Oh Whit, you disappointed me. I miss the days of Metropolitan... And I usually like Greta Gerwig but these characters were floppy and weird.
½ October 8, 2012
This movie was not as good as I hoped. I really didn't like the movie, but some of the characters kept me watching until the end.
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