Saturday, May 19, 2012

Damsels in Distress: Movie Review


Romance, depression and intellect set to an uptempo dance beat.

Three mistakenly wise-beyond-their-years damsels seek to help those less fortunate — socially and intellectually less fortunate than themselves. All three are crazy, obviously, and Violet (Greta Gerwig) is book smart with a presumed air and affected way of speaking. “Damsels in Distress” is a comedy about depression, heartbreak, suicide, the education system, homelessness, linguistics, musicals, dancing and love. Every character is crazy, the film is too, but it’s also hilarious. 2011

Directed by: Whit Stillman

Screenplay by: Whit Stillman

Starring: Greta Gerwig, Analeigh Tipton and Adam Brody

It can be hard to get into at first as your immediate thought will be, “nobody talks like that!” It’s true, nobody does, except Violet. Violet’s main goal is to help people while being completely oblivious to her own arrogance. Her first “rescue” is new student Lily (Analeigh Tipton) who’s probably the sanest one around but Violet and her cohorts want to teach her how to talk, dress and become romantically interested in fraternity doofi (the plural of doofus). This takes place at Seven Oaks college which clearly exists in a different time and place.

The colours are extreme. The opening credits are in bright pink letters on a bright blue background; bring your sunglasses. The girls are usually wearing ‘50s-styled sun-dresses, where as the guys (the doofi) are such morons that they haven’t even learned the different colours yet (but they are hitting the books) and go chasing after rainbows. Sound a little odd? It is but it’s exactly the quirky, silly humour on a fairly high level that indie film fans crave.

There was one line that made me laugh out loud that is a biting indictment of the American education system; a handful of scenes criticize all religions (probably without them even realizing it); there are a significant amount of literary references which reinforces the college setting and erudite script. Filmmaker Whit Stillman is clearly well-read. I don’t dare compare him to Woody Allen but I’m assuming he is an influence.

The soundtrack is what makes it so joyful. There are retro songs that remind one of school-age days (think Aqua), but all have a classic romantic beat. It seems to be in direct contrast to the film’s story so I was thinking something sinister was afoot. The damsels are here to help people, they want to find those that are depressed and make sure they don’t commit suicide. There actually isn’t anything more sinister, except the obvious, that the damsels are the ones in distress — romantic distress.

“Damsels in Distress” is a bit more silly and dance heavy than the storyline, scholarly references and funny lines would suggest, but that’s also what makes it more unique.


Dirty Girl (2010) - Embracing the dirty girl attitude.

HappyThankYouMorePlease (2011) - Happiness, gratitude and wit all in good measure.

Jesus Henry Christ (2011) - Eccentricity and precociousness put to the paternal test with hilarious results.