Spencer's Review of Damsels in Distress
Damsels in Distress(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.