Damsels in Distress

2011

Comedy / Drama / Romance

11
Rotten Tomatoes Audience - Spilled 39%
IMDb Rating 5.7 10 0 7535

Synopsis


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Movie Reviews

Reviewed by oOgiandujaOo_and_Eddy_Merckx 10 / 10

Lovely and silly

Damsels in Distress felt to me like antidote, though I have been puzzling over exactly what it's an antidote to, which is a particularly charming trait of the movie.

Violet is the instigator in a group of delicate and vague young ladies attempting to fashion some sort of social nest for themselves via means of a campus suicide prevention centre promoting good vibes. The film is rather curiously out of time and place, like a very long dream.

At the danger of romanticising the past (Violet is keen to point out this pitfall of a fallacy), I've met people who went to university in the sixties and seventies, who had plenty of free time for epiphanies, large grants, and who had companies fighting over them when they graduated. Now universities massively oversupply a demand for thinkers, and they can be scary places to be, because you don't know where work is coming from when the music stops.

Seven Oaks is a campus away from this, a verdant and etherised place without a trace of gadgetry and social media, with comically lowly or merely fanciful levels of ambition and only a fleeting hint of financial constraint (Violet does acknowledge that drinks are expensive). So it's an antidote in that way.

But also I think it suggests that people may want to be more understanding of one another, and that there are natural differences in personalities and perspective, and many ways to live, with La Grande Illusion, a poster of which appears several times being somewhat of a touchstone in this regard (the joke being that the gentleman who owns it is probably the most self-righteous person in the whole movie). Violet is arrogant, but only in the most charming way. Often the most normal, and identifiable characters in the movie turn out to be the most arrogant, because they patronise others in earnest, whereas I think Violet is doing it quixotically, as some sort of elaborate and kindly coping strategy. I find quite often that the most arrogant people in life are fond of calling others arrogant, and the most snobbish are fond of calling others snobs. I think that Whit Stilman enjoys turning received ideas on their head, very much in the manner of Oscar Wilde, "We should treat all trivial things very seriously, and all the serious things of life with sincere and studied triviality".

One of the aspects I found funny and intriguing about the film was the spread of misinformation, for example Violet claims the wrong Strauss popularised the waltz, and also that an individual named Charleston invented the Charleston dance, in the middle of a tutorial, calmly and authoritatively. She goes further and claims that the attribution of the Charleston to the city is a common misconception, which it definitely is not! I think you can see from the number of "citation needed" tags on Wikipedia that there are a lot of people who enjoy making up information, the fianc? of a work colleague actually boasts about having deliberately put a lie on a Wikipedia page about a particular citrus fruit.

I adored the musical numbers that got put in at the end of the film (check out Tsai Ming-liang films if you're looking for more), and I think I found the whole movie delightful. I found a scene where the girls talked to one another in the dark prior to falling asleep particularly touching, it's a pleasure that I haven't experienced for over a decade.

Reviewed by charlie-schlangen 9 / 10

Delightful, quirky, intelligent fun

It's clear that some reviewers "got" this film and some didn't. As always, Stillman delivers with marvelous, laugh-out-loud funny dialogue. This is so rare that that that virtue alone sets it apart from the majority of the drivel that passes for conversation in movie scripts these days. You can't tell me that there aren't some one-liners in there that you hear and just *wish* you could have uttered yourself if only you'd had the wit (Whit?).

The characters are all flawed, some lovably so, some not--just like life. You're not meant to like all of them, and it's part of the subtle, social observation of which Stillman is capable that the unlikable characters are not always immediately unlikable. Some characters learn from their mistakes and misperceptions, some do not. Again, like life.

The thing that is so winsome about Stillman's movies is that virtue always triumphs. There is a sweetness to his choice that the good always eclipses the bad. It's almost heart-achingly sweet, because we know that that is not how things usually work out, and yet you find yourself rooting for these flawed, quirky, sometimes idiotic characters to get out of their own way and allow their better natures to win the day. I've wondered for a long time about the central role of dancing in his movies, and maybe it's that when you're dancing, it's hard to do much else, and you become one with music, rhythm, and your dance partner(s). Perhaps that's what he wants for his characters--to use dance as a vehicle to get out of their own way and lead a happier, less complicated, less tortured existence.

My favorite of his movies will always be "Metropolitan," but this is an excellent new addition to his oeuvre. We've been waiting for "the new one" for a while, and now that it's here I find it a sheer delight.

Reviewed by IDwasTaken 8 / 10

Witty, quirky, and funny...and that's just the characters

Few films recently have been able to capture my imagination like this one. With the glut of comic book films and remakes, very few people are making original films. I was not expecting much going into this film (I saw it at a festival). In fact I had not planned on seeing it, but it seemed "different" enough to warrant a watch. Well, I went in not knowing what to expect and came out with a big grin. I was happy I gave it a shot and was surprised by the other comment on here.

If you want to see something original, that has some break out actors, and is funny, then check out "Damsels in Distress." Days after I left the screening, I kept thinking back on the funny lines and comically earnest characters. Go in with an open mind and come out with a grin.

IMDb does not allow 8.5 stars, but that's my verdict. This goes into the category of films I'll be watching again once it hits the theaters.

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