By: Henry J. Fromage (Three Beers) –
Greta Gerwig’s a fast-rising fresh face on the indie scene with impeccable delivery, while Whit Stillman crafted a reputation in the 90s as a writer/director who produced some of the wittiest scripts out there. Sounds like a match made in heaven, right?
Or at least in a 90s-themed LA nightclub
Damsels in Distress follows a group of college girls who devote themselves to civilizing frat houses and preventing the spate of suicides they’ve convinced themselves is just around the corner. The inclusion of a Freshman girl into the group and a upcoming dance performance (because tap-dancing is effective in preventing suicide, dontcha know?) set the plot wheels in motion.
Stillman built his reputation on clever dialogue, and this film is chock full of it. This is all the more impressive because every one of these characters is an idiot, ranging from “self-delusionally” all the way to “aggressively.” Think a much classier Idiocracy, sans Luke Wilson, and President Camacho is a sorority girl with excellent grooming (also handy in suicide prevention).
Terry Crews could play that
Greta Gerwig is great as always as an idiot closer to the self-delusion side of the ledger, and she’s supported by strong performances all around, especially the always paranoid Megalyn Echikunwoke and Gerwig’s boyfriend, Ryan Metcalf, who might be the dumbest character I’ve ever seen on screen. That’s a compliment.
It’s hard to see what Stillman is trying to say with this. It’s funny, but it’s not pure comedy, and there’s no halfway regular character to sympathize with. The overriding conclusion seems to be “college kids are stupid.”
There are several musical sequences scattered throughout the film. It’s a strange creative touch, although not a bad one. However, Stillman goes back to that well once too often, and when the already thin plot just kinda peters out at the end and he tacks on one more, having a beer handy isn’t a bad call.
This one’s plenty clever and often funny, but feels a lot more inconsequential than the talent behind it would lead you to expect.
Take a Drink: every time someone says something stupid (so, just when there’s dialogue, essentially)
Take a Drink: every time suicide is mentioned
Do a Shot: whenever someone smells soap
During the credits there’s one more musical number. Yay!