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Movie review: 'Damsels in Distress'

Movie review: “Damsels in Distress”
Oklahoman Published: May 4, 2012

Writer-director Whit Stillman established a singular tone of vermouth-dry urbanity in his 1990s indie films “Metropolitan,” “Barcelona” and “The Last Days of Disco,” movies filled with smart, amiably self-absorbed young people who seemed drawn from both the preppy culture of the recent past and F. Scott Fitzgerald's Prohibition-era depictions of the upper crust.

Then Stillman disappeared from the screen activity for 14 years, during which time he ran up against creative and financial brick walls. On its surface, Stillman's fourth film, “Damsels in Distress,” has all the aesthetics of “Metropolitan” and “Barcelona,” featuring a cast that looks bred for a Stillman film — Greta Gerwig, Analeigh Tipton, Aubrey Plaza and Adam Brody seem like they've been waiting most of their lives for Stillman to return. But “Damsels in Distress” is curiously devoid of spark or purpose, playing like Stillman doing a Stillman parody.

Gerwig plays Violet, the leader of a group of young women with floral names at Seven Oaks, a sub-Ivy League university attended by neurotic females and comically dumb males. Rose and Heather (Megalyn Echikunwoke and Carrie MacLemore) follow Violet around on her constant social engineering jag, running an unusually busy suicide prevention center and trying to improve the intellectual standing of the men around them. The trio spots the lost-looking Lily (Tipton) during the first week of classes and takes her under their wings, an occasion that mainly serves as a springboard for Stillman's observations about campus life, most of which are voiced through Gerwig's distressingly deadpan delivery.

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‘Damsels in Distress'

PG-131:38 2 stars

Starring: Greta Gerwig, Adam Brody, Analeigh Tipton, Megalyn Echikunwoke, and Carrie MacLemore. (Mature thematic content including some sexual material).


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