Film Review: Damsels in Distress (2011)

No matter how many ways I look at it, there is just something that isn’t right about Damsels in Distress, the new comedy written and directed by Whit StillmanIt’s just as well Whit has an “h” in his name because here his urbane style of humour doesn’t quite click. 

The story follows a group of girls living on campus at the fictional Seven Oaks collegeViolet Wister (Greta Gerwig), along with her entourage, the spry Heather (Carrie MacLemore) and killjoy Rose (Megalyn Echikunwoke) run an on campus suicide prevention program. This is just one part of a plan to raise the standards of the entire campus, hygiene and all. Violet’s word is taken as gospel amongst the group and seems to wield a hypnotic influence over themAlthough the same cannot be said for the rest of the campus, the great unwashed who “haven’t come to realise their full potential.”

The welcoming of new girl Lily (Analeigh Tipton) into the group challenges the status quo. She is herself battling between feelings for the Frenchman Xavier (Hugo Beckerand the handsome Charlie (Adam Brody) who seems a bit of a playerAnd, as Violet’s odd theories become clear, Lily is torn between their impeccable logic and her own quiet scepticism.

This is a strange film which tends to get caught up in its own sense of whimsyWorking as a satire of the Ivy League collegesit plays mostly on the delusions and pretentiousness of the privileged while also semi-praising their motives. Encompassing this, the campus’ timeless feel and the 50s-esque costumes serve to alienate it from reality. The issue of anal sex came as a surprise aswell but I won’t spoil too much.It is an interesting mix to be sure but the attempts in blending them ultimately seem laboured

Regardless, there are some genuinely funny moments, Violet having the pick of the best lines. Unfortunately Gerwig’s glazed face and monotonous tone stifle some of the humour but her slightly delusional Violet still has a strange appeal. Tipton, in the other lead role, is decent enoughIt is a pity then that the impressionable Lily isn’t really a very interesting person which means the film drifts at stagesThat the background characters are little more than cardboard cutoutdoesn’t help either

All in allDamsels in Distress is an interesting film even if it doesn’t quite gel as well as it shouldIt left me empty but it is worth a look.

Damsels in Distress will be theatrically released in Australiaon September 6 through Sony Pictures.

2.5 blergs

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