Dan the Man's Movie Reviews

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Damsels in Distress (2012)

College kids from Connecticut seem like so much fun when they aren’t speaking!

Sophomore Lily (Analeigh Tipton) falls in line with a new group of gals on her first day after transferring to a new school. The group she falls in line with is led by Violet (Greta Gerwig), a fellow student who tells it like it is, thinks way too much about certain things, and is trying to get her dance craze off the ground and for the whole world to see and become apart of. Together, the two, along with 3 other girls in the group, they run a non-profit Suicide Prevention Center where they allow people to let their feelings loose, and even find a creative escape by tap-dancing. It starts to work because it makes people happy, however, they still battle for the hearts of the fellow male students they see on a regular-basis, and some can’t handle the idea of denial, quite as well as others.

Whit Stillman’s films sometimes work for me, and other times, they don’t. While I’m ultimately interested by what they’re trying to say and do, by the end, I can’t help but feel like I was just talked to, rather than actually given a movie to work with. It’s almost as if I was just in a conversation with someone who is clearly high off their rocker, or just had a tad too much coffee, I sit down with them, try to bring them back down to leveled-ground, but instead, they’re so crazy and hyper, that they just end up controlling the whole conversation, making me frustrated, and then, when it’s all over, leaving me in a cloud of dust, having no clue just what the heck happened to me, or what was even said.

That’s how I feel watching Whit Stillman movies. While I may think about them long after having said conversation, no way am I fully impacted.

I get it, Greta! You can dance!

I get it, Greta! You can dance!

That said, Damsels in Distress is a fun little movie in that I don’t think it ever tries to be as serious as his other movies. In fact, it’s a lot goofier and perhaps more of an actual “comedy” than anything else; whereas his other movies can be seen as “comedies”, but are more based on actual wit, with some more darker themes at-play. And this is all to say that Damsels in Distress is, yes, clever, if not very funny.

Just sort of chuckle-worthy, if you will.

Stillman’s script is filled to the brim with double-meanings, that are splashed with an insane amount of irony, which can make this movie work its magic a little longer. The humor does take awhile to get used to, just by how strange it is, but if you’re willing to let your shields go down on the ground, you’ll find yourself a whole lot happier and more pleasant with how Stillman frames these characters, their personalities, and everything that comes out of their mouth, whether it be just a bunch of mumbo-gumbo, or actual thoughts from the mind of a youngster. I don’t think that Stillman is trying to make any ground statement about the youth in today’s society, but that’s alright, because he doesn’t have to. He’s just having fun with some of these silly, almost caricature-like characters.


“Wait, what?”

But like I said, being clever doesn’t always make your movie funny, or better yet, interesting. The only times that it really feels like Stillman himself seems all that invested in this material (that is, when he isn’t coming up with snappy-lines), is whenever he’s focusing on and playing around with Greta Gerwig and her character. As the perfectly-named Violot, Gerwig gets to be a lot of things that we know and love her for, as she’s quirky, odd, funny, realistic, always happy about life, sometimes thinks way beyond her head (and the stars for that matter), and has something to say, even if it’s only gibberish. Gerwig seems like she’s perfectly ready and capable of hanging around in Stillman’s world and it’s why she’s been able to transcend the “indie darling” title she’s been slapped with.

However, because the movie loves Gerwig so much, it’s hard to care for anything else when she isn’t around. But it’s almost like Stillman himself knew that; after all, he’s working with so many characters that, after awhile, it just becomes a tad overstuffed and draining to keep up. Not to mention that because the movie doesn’t entirely care about developing these characters beyond “what other funny things they can say”, it’s hard to actually get invested. A part of me likes to think that Stillman knew this, which is why he doesn’t put the greatest effort into helping out Analeigh Tipton’s character, or the countless others who aren’t Greta Gerwig.

Still, it’s fine to listen to these characters talk and go on and on, even if we don’t always know what it’s about, or what Stillman’s trying to say. He seems to want to make fun of the college-life, the sororities, the frats, and the people who just try so desperately to “fit in” and feel apart of something, but in the end, he just settles for clever one-liners. That’s fine and all, just maybe give me something more of a story or what have you.

Or at least, one that’s worth caring about.

 Consensus: When Stillman and Gerwig aren’t working their magic together, Damsels in Distress loses a little bit of luster, but still will keep you laughing in with its odd approach, even if it just takes a little while to get moving.

6.5 / 10

"Honestly, do they really think people talk like this?"

“Honestly, do they really think people talk like this?”

Photos Courtesy of:


Metropolitan (1990)

Maybe having so much money and being so snobby isn’t that bad after all.

Proletarian Fourierist Tom (Edward Clements) is immersed by chance in Manhattan’s upper-crust deb world. At first, he is against all of these late-night parties but soon starts to enjoy them as well as the people the surround him.

Writer/director Whit Stillman is a dude that I always hear about, but never actually get myself to see. I thought of him as more of a “Woody Allen, if Woody made teen movies”. Now I kind of feel like a dick for saying that in the first place.

What I liked most about Stillman’s script was just how damn entertaining it was to hear these people speak and talk about certain subjects I had no idea about. Subjects like Jane Austen, Luis Buñuel, public transportation, and the work that they do in school are all foreign subjects to me that have no meaning but the way Stillman puts in his own dry wit and sarcasm makes it all the more entertaining. That’s why I have to say that this is a very funny flick that doesn’t rely on some big punch-line to get you laughing. You have to pretty much listen in to what these people are talking about to eventually get the joke at hand. Sounds a little too complicated for a comedy about a bunch of rich people, hanging around, getting drunk, and spittin’ out their knowledge of suits, but it’s still something to listen to and I can totally see why this script got nominated for an Oscar after all.

Most of the comedy from this film comes from the way we see these rich yuppies hang around, and how pompous they can be but Stillman surprisingly takes a sympathetic look at them. Of course Stillman shows us that these people can be assholes who think they’re better than everybody because their daddies make more money in an hour than you do in a year, but it’s more about how these kids, no matter how rich, are just like us in many ways. There are plenty of scenes where these kids are drinkin’ and shootin’ the shit on God knows what, but there are also plenty of other scenes where these kids actually do things that normal teenagers would do such as playing strip poker, burning a piece of toilet paper with a lit cigarette for a dime to fall in, and telling fake and phony stories about another person just to ruin his/her reputation. Let’s not also forget to mention that these kids have a lot of wonders in their lives that they don’t have the answers for just yet and it’s that real insightful speak that Stillman gives us that is meaningful.

These kids may be rich, dress fancy, and get any kind of car they want come their birthday, but they also have dreams, questions about the world, and to still have the need to want to have a good old time, even if that does mean arguing about French socialism a lot more. This may not make you look at these yuppies types any differently than half of you reading this do now, but Stillman’s script still makes you realize that these teenagers are just like you and me, with heftier wallets.

My problem with this flick was that since the film was so low-budget, there will a couple of problems when it came to editing. Certain scenes seem to run on too long and give it this awkward silence and then the scene suddenly ends out of nowhere. It’s really strange and it happens a couple of times and almost made me laugh a couple of times unintentionally. I think some of that also has to go along with the fact that some of these actors aren’t that good and they seem to over-sell a lot of what they’re trying to say. Sounds like a weird complaint but I still can’t get past the fact that maybe Stillman had to check out the final product a bit more.

I think the main reason why his script worked so well too, was because he had a good, young cast to deliver it. Edward Clements is very good in the central role as Tom, and creates a sincere and very real character that is the perfect dude for us to see connect with this group because with anybody else, it would have surely been a bit more stranger. Carolyn Farina plays melancholy, shy type as Audrey, and gives a very cute performance that feels like a real girl who just wants to be liked by somebody even if she can never find that one special dude. The one performance that really had me laughing though was the one given by Christopher Eigeman, who plays the totally snarky and cocky Nick. Eigeman is great in this role because he has a lot of funny moments that are just dedicated to him being an ass. At first, he’s terribly unlikable but he ends up being the most memorable and likable character of the whole bunch when it’s all said and done. Like everybody else in this flick, I wonder where they have all went because I don’t notice these faces and it’s a surprise that this flick didn’t put them all on the map.

Consensus: Metropolitan pokes some fun at the rich and pompous yuppies we usually see in these kinds of social satires, but Whit Stillman is more about showing these characters as your normal, everyday teen that may have more money, but still thinks the same as your or I. Also, his script is great and definitely deserved the Oscar nomination that it got.