The Films of Whit Stillman
The Last Days of Disco
Damsels in Distress (April 17/12)
Whit Stillman's first movie since 1998's The Last Days of Disco, Damsels in Distress follows Greta Gerwig's Violet as she and two friends (Megalyn Echikunwoke's Rose and Carrie MacLemore's Heather) attempt to assist fellow students suffering from depression (whether they want help or not). Writer/director Stillman has infused Damsels in Distress with an incredibly idiosyncratic feel that is, at the outset, somewhat off-putting, as the filmmaker emphasizes characters and dialogue of an almost unreasonably eccentric nature (eg when asked if certain guys are the same age as she is, Rose answers, "Only numerically"). The uncomfortably broad atmosphere does, after a certain point, begin to grow on the viewer, with the engaging performances basically compensating for the film's meandering narrative and lamentable lack of laughs. It's just as clear, however, that Stillman's plotless sensibilities grow more and more problematic as time progresses, and it does, as a result, become increasingly difficult to stomach the relentless, pervasive quirkiness of Gerwig's impossibly oddball character. And although Stillman has admittedly peppered the proceedings with unexpectedly cogent instances of dialogue (eg "the past is gone so we might as well romanticize it"), Damsels in Distress, which progresses from tedious to interminable as it passes the one-hour mark, ultimately establishes itself as a hopelessly misguided vanity project that is, one can only hope, not indicative of Stillman's past work.