Tuesday, 8 May 2012
'Damsels in Distress' review:
"It felt longer than it was" said one cinema patron, checking the time on his way out of a showing of 'Damsels in Distress'. Never a good sign. But even worse when you consider Whit Stillman's hyper-stylised indie comedy - his first film in over a decade - lasts scarcely 99 minutes. Yet it really does outstay its welcome despite a beguiling first half and another fantastic performance from mumblecore queen Greta Gerwig, as the defacto leader of a gang of female students selflessly seeking to improve those deemed below their station. It's not that 'Damsels' is without charm, wit or laughs, indeed it's easy enough to see why many cite Stillman as an influence on the likes of Wes Anderson, but it's so resolutely deadpan that it can't sustain beyond the first hour.
It's also at times difficult to locate the target of Stillman's American college satire, with many of his characters so broad and extreme that they seem to lack a clear real-world analogue. There's, for example, the American girl who has affected a British accent after a brief period of study in London and the rich fraternity boy who never learned the difference between colours. Sometimes the film seems a wholly ironic putdown leveled at the vapidity and pretension of youth, yet it could also be seen as entirely earnest and sympathetic towards its off-beat gang of co-eds: the suicidally depressed, the confused, and the tragically dim. It might be that there's something really rewarding and ingenious at the centre of 'Damsels' for those prepared to weed it out. I remain at a loss.
'Damsels in Distress' is out now in the UK, rated '12A' by the BBFC.