Damsels in Distress, Whit Stillman’s first film since 1998’s The Last Days of Disco, focuses on the lives of a group of co-eds at a fictional East Coast college that is dominated by a boorish and vulgar male mentality. The young women (Greta Gerwig as Violet, Megalyn Echikunwoke as Rose, and Carrie MacLemore as Heather) devote themselves to reforming the male-dominated ethos of the college with the goal of rescuing students from all sorts of evils, everything from suicidal depression to unsavory odors. As is always the case in Stillman films — which in addition to Disco include Metropolitan and Barcelona — the main characters are quaint and innocent; this film is more overtly comic than his previous entries and less situated in a determinate social milieu. Damsels is about what has been lost, about the absence among the young of any clear mores governing relations between the sexes. Beneath the comic veneer, it is a remarkably perceptive commentary on what ails the contemporary liberal-arts college.
Although The Last Days of Disco was a box-office disaster, Stillman’s films have received critical acclaim and attained a kind of cult following, especially among conservatives. Both Disco and Metropolitan have been released in Criterion Collection editions; Mark Henrie edited a volume for ISI Books entitled Doomed Bourgeois in Love: Essays on the Films of Whit Stillman. Stillman’s films are chatty; they feature young characters trying to find some sort of orientation in a social world that offers little in the way of guidance. They are often highly educated, overly analytical, and self-involved. Yet they are complex characters, capable of warmth, generosity, and even insight.
Keep reading this post . . .
Copyright © 2013 BernardGoldberg.com