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“Damsels in Distress” – Review (SO-SO POSITIVE)

April 29, 2012

I’m new to Whit Stillman’s work, so forgive me if there are any fans out there, but his latest film, “Damsels in Distress” has me at cross roads. On the one hand, I can respect the film for being an interesting character study piece, about a woman who judges everybody, and everything that is the male side, and then has her world turned on it’s end, but on the other hand, why did this movie come off so pretentious? And is it me, or was Stillman copying every Woody Allen trick in the book?

A trio of girls set out to change the male-dominated environment of the Seven Oaks college campus, and to rescue their fellow students from depression, grunge and low standards of every kind. The leader of the group is Violet (Greta Gerwig), an ostentatious lady, who has an answer for just about everything, she’s the kind of woman who has this higher power appearance. It’s not until later in the film, when her boyfriend, who turns out to be the very doofus she was defending her fellow girls from, cheats her on.

Stillman’s script can be very tongue and cheek at times, which plays out well for the character development. There is a very strong script present here, but my only major problem was the presentation the film ultimately takes. The sly cutaway cards, the happy-go-lucky attitude that rings back to Woody Allen-isms, in fact most of this film feels like a recycles Woody Allen comedy. It does take certain directions that Allen’s films wouldn’t normally take, but the interactions between characters, having these in-depth philosophical discussions about the male and female persons, it just came off too familiar, and at times I found myself rolling my eyes in disbelief.

I’m being a little harsh, the winning factor to the movie is Greta Gerwig’s performance, who’s making a stand in Hollywood today, I hadn’t heard of her until I saw 2010’s “Greenburg”, now she seems to be popping out of smaller films, indies mostly, but this summer she can be seen in, funny enough, Woody Allen’s new romantic comedy “To Rome with Love”. Her performance caught my attention from beginning to end, she’s real and fantastical all at once. Perhaps it’s her nice girl mentality, because there are some things she does say in the movie that aren’t very…’nice girl’ friendly.

The movie needed work in it’s presentation overall, and while it has problems in that department, it still has a very endearing story to tell, and a special performances from Greta Gerwig.


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