Tuesday, May 8, 2012

Damsels in Distress

No one walked out of the Art Mission while I watched Whit Stillman's Damsels in Distress. I'm still not sure if that surprises me or not. The average moviegoer might find it to be too original, strange, and quirky...or they might walk out because they have no sense of humor. The married couple that sat in the row behind me laughed at ninety percent of the jokes. And when Zach Woods showed up on the screen, the husband whispered, "Look, it's Gabe from The Office." Anyone who is still watching The Office definitely has a strong sense of humor.

While I might've laughed once or twice, I mostly smiled throughout the film. Ben's right, there's something to the charm of the characters and the dialogue; it's easy to get swept up in Whit Stillman's style, and the actors do an exceptional job of achieving likability. With the damsels, you essentially have three female Homer Simpsons walking around. Most of what they say is silly, but every now and then, they'll give you something brilliant. And all the while, you'll enjoy their company.

I'm not too familiar with Stillman. The only connection we share is that Metropolitan has been in my Netflix instant queue for the past six months. It's among a small group of movies that I might choose when it's my turn to select something for all of us to watch. After having seen Damsels, I admit my interest in his films has certainly piqued.

I can appreciate his dialogue and its tone. The humor in Damsels is very dry and deadpan; I can always support that as long as the screenwriter is intelligent. And Stillman is. Whit's got wit...and he isn't the only one ;)

One of the reasons why I wanted to see the film was because I had a feeling it would help move our Girls conversation to a new phase. Now that I've seen the film, I'm not exactly sure where it move us; I have nothing new to add. Sure Damsels feels more honest and interesting than Girls, but that was never going to be difficult to pull off. John's investigative findings on Stillman and Dunham are pretty intriguing. I wonder which character Dunham was supposed to play. If it was Violet, then I'm glad Girls exists. I sit here convinced that no one could've done better than Greta Gerwig.

Truly, you can't say enough about Gerwig's performance...it's brilliant and loveable. Every word she says, every look she gives seems almost too perfect. She's so much more than an actress reciting dialogue and it's a lot of fun to watch.

Not once did I think of Eric Rohmer while watching the film, but that's mainly due to the fact that I've only seen Claire's Knee. I need to watch more Rohmer anyway, but now there's an added bonus of being able to see how he's influenced Stillman. Thanks for linking that review, Ben.

You'll probably take this as an insult, John, (it's not meant to be) but in some ways Damsels in Distress feels like a sophisticated version of Napoleon Dynamite. Mainly I'm referring to the comedic tone. The characters display plenty of weird behavior in both, but the respective weird behaviors do seem to reside in different worlds. It's not to say that I picture Napoleon walking through one of the quads at Seven Oaks, but there are slight similarities in the overall strangeness of the two films.

When I said that I was meh-ing at the film's song-and-dance ending, I was mostly joking. I don't think there was any other way to end the film. Although I did feel as if the story was dragging on a bit too long toward the end. I don't have specific cuts in mind, though.

I read a short review somewhere that griped about the level of stupidity displayed by the frat boys. Personally, I had no problems with it. If anything, it was justified (is it at all obvious that I agree with Brandon's feelings on frat boys?). But sure, John makes a nice point about them being loveable without seeming desirable or cool. Though we'd be surprised as to what certain people think is cool.

So it would seem that we're mostly in agreement on this one, fellas. I'm a little surprised that John was so impressed with the film, but then I read the "glorious waste of time" line in his review and everything made perfect sense to me. I agree with that statement. My "meh" attitude mostly stemmed from the fact that the film doesn't hold as much power as many of the others in my top ten from 2011. It's a poor man's Le Havre. That doesn't mean I can't appreciate it. Hygiene is important. Seeking growth/potential is important. Laughing/smiling is important.

And so, Damsels in Distress is now among my 2011 honorable mentions. I'm really fond of my top ten; it's become a hard nut to crack...to use a cliched/hackneyed phrase. But there's no shame in being grouped with The Mill and the Cross, Midnight In Paris, and The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo; I like those films a lot. Honestly, I was slightly disappointed to find out that Damsels was a 2011 film...had it been a 2012er, it would've been interesting.

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