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Damsels in Distress [Blu-ray]
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18 of 22 people found the following review helpful
This is the long-awaited return of writer-director Whit Stillman, who we last saw with the delicious 1998's "Last Days of Disco" movie.

"Damsels in Distress" (98 min.) brings the story set at a fictional Northeast university in which a group of young women, namely Violet (played by Greta Gerwig), Rose (played by Megalyn Echikunwoke) and Heather (played by Carrie MacLemore) take a transfer student Lily (played by Analeigh Tipton) under their wings. The group is determined to bring a better life to students, running the Suicide Center (which they rename the Suice Prevention Center). Of course that is not counting for the guy troubles that may, and will, occur. One of those is a fellow named Xavier. There is a hilarious scene in which Lily tries to explain that Xavier is spelled with an X, when one of the other girls say that it is surely it is spelled with a Z, as in "Zorro", at which point Violet surmises that the letters X and Z are pronouned the same when not ending in a word, ha! Gerwig's performance pretty much carries this movie, as she shows her vulnerability and you can't help but rooting for her all the way.

This light and quirky tone never leaves the movie, and I found myself quite smiling a lot (but not laughing out loud). Truth be told, the "tone" of the movie is better than the actual plot (which I won't give away here, you'll just have to see for yourself how it all plays out). In all, this is a quirky little but loveable movie. This is MILES away from your Hollywood standard fare, and if you are into such type movie, I would readily recommend this. Nothing earth-shattering, just plain likeable. In that sense, "Damsels in Distress" is HIGHLY RECOMMENDED!
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9 of 11 people found the following review helpful
on October 13, 2012
After reading reviews I thought this film would be much different than his others but now that I have seen it I think it was quite similar. It is critical, smart, interesting, and funny. Some of the dialogue is absolutely hilarious. Whit Stillman is the only filmmaker I know of that writes pretty realistic yet comic films about the elite. It is fascinating to me to see how these people think. This film, even more than his others, shows how sad and pathetic the people that run the world really are. Sure they are oppressing just about everyone on earth and their actions cause untold devastation and suffering yet they believe they are doing the right thing "God's Work". This is a scathing yet sympathetic critique of the American aristocracy. One would think this would be impossible but here it is. He really has matured as a filmmaker. This is his most complex and nuanced work yet. Also, as with most cutting edge art, this film will likely require repeated exposure for one to learn to really appreciate its brilliance. I look forward to many further viewings.
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5 of 6 people found the following review helpful
on May 30, 2014
It's not the old Stillman, but rather an uneven and mainly inept attempt to satirize college life by someone clearly out of touch with actual undergraduates. There is a running joke that frat boys are so stupid they never learned their colors. There is a frat guy named Thor who is excited at the end to finally learn the names of the colors of the rainbow. One of the main female characters has no lines in the movie except to describe various men as "playboy or operator types" in a english accent. The only really interesting character in the film is involved in a bizarre and jarring subplot involving anal sex. Altogether I was not able to see what Stillman was aiming at here.
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4 of 5 people found the following review helpful
First, I am a major Whit Stillman fan. Last Days of Disco, Barcelona, and the wonderful Metropolitan are among my top favorite movies. Smart, funny, literate, observant of a tribe -- the WASPs -- no one bothers with anymore. But this movie is incomprehensible. It's almost as if anyone who does a movie with Greta Gerwig becomes weirdly spellbound and ends up making her film about her horrible dancing (see of don't see Hannah Ah). Stop already! The movie starts out with an interesting premise -- attractive young girls at a mediocre Northeastern college who are mean-girl opposites. They want to save students from committing suicide by teaching them to tap dance. On the look out for depressed under grads they are well-meaning but intrusive. It's promising beginning, however, disintegrates into a tangle of overly eccentric relationships that make no emotional sense at all and that pop up and disappear as if Stillman is making the movie up as he goes along. It ends for no reason except to allow Greta to gamely dance with a throw-away young man through a 30-like set with a Fred Astaire musical bit. And I was so looking forward to this movie!
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6 of 8 people found the following review helpful
on May 5, 2012
Life, perhaps, is an allusion. Therefore, gentle reader, please move on to a different review if you don't smile in Pavlovian fashion when hearing uttered the name "Whit Stillman."

Recently I learned that Stillman's Last Days of Disco has yet to break even in sales. Alas, how long we NCAs (see below) have waited since they booked that clown! Damsels in Distress, gratefully, is scarcely stillborn-- rather, it's more Still. If you have worn laser holes into your Criterion-Collection copies of Metropolitan, Barcelona, and The Last Days of Disco, then Damsels will not disappoint. However, if you are unfamiliar with the signature dialogue, settings, motifs, and characters of this returned-to-America auteur, perhaps Damsels will disappoint. Here, I write for the initiates. (And for these, I whisper, "Watch closely: the professor and one of the two off-campus waitresses are familiar friends from the trilogy!")

What's to tell? There are four principle characters, all matriculated at Ivy-Shrouded Seven Oaks College after prepping in the usual way. While it is true that Greta Gerwig's Violet is the heroine, Carrie MacLemore as Heather, Megalyn Echikunwoke as Rose, and Analeigh Tipton as Lily make Damsels another ensemble piece.

I live in the Lehigh Valley of Pennsylvania, and while many who bedroom here commute to Manhattan, it is the home of Mack Trucks and Bethlehem Steel, which is sufficient explanation for why during both my first viewing of Metropolitan and of Damsels (in the selfsame indy-theatre complex), I annoyed many in the audience with my vulgar guffaws and howls of laughter while the rest of the moviegoers were silent.

Stillman, gratifyingly, is at the top of his game in Damsels. As with the trilogy, I will never grow tired of watching this film. I found Damsels as pitch-perfect as the trilogy, and while not so small-budgeted as Metropolitan, Damsels finds Stillman able to deadpan as much mirth as ever without the expenses of Disco. I do hope Mr. Stillman does not keep his Nearly Cultist Aficionados waiting so long before his next cinematic venture.

Neither my wife nor I were born with Stillman's or his characters' class prerogatives, and our Phi Beta Kappa keys from the familiar safety school of our locale--namely, Lehigh University--have done us absolutely no good for over thirty years, at least with respect to our wannabe aspirations, much like those of Luis Buñuel. We have an old poster of Barcelona on the wall of my workspace, which is slightly more commodious than a railroad-apartment's standard room.

While unfit to play croquet with either Mr. Stillman or Jamie Johnson, I wish to thank Mr. S. for bringing delight to those with the ears and eyes to hear and see. We do associate with Episcopalians, but none of these sired debutante progeny waiting in the Hamptons for the season to begin.
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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
This is the long-awaited return of writer-director Whit Stillman, who we last saw with the delicious 1998's "Last Days of Disco" movie.

"Damsels in Distress" (98 min.) brings the story set at a finctional Northeast university in which a group of young women, namely Violet( played by Greta Gerwig), Rose(played by Megalyn Echikunwoke) and Heather (played by Carrie MacLemore) take a transfer student Lily (played by Analeigh Tipton) under their wings. The group is determined to bring a better life to students, running the Suicide Center (which they rename the Suice Prevention Center). Of course that is not counting for the guy troubles that may, and will, occur. One of those is a fellow named Xavier. There is a hilarious scene in which Lily tries to explain that Xavier is spelled with an X, when one of the other girls say that it is surely it is spelled with a Z, as in "Zorro", at which point Violet surmises that the letters X and Z are pronouned the same when not ending in a word, ha! Gerwig's performance pretty much carries this movie, as she shows her vulnerability and you can't help but rooting for her all the way.

This light and quirky tone never leaves the movie, and I found myself quite smiling a lot (but not laughing out loud). Truth be told, the "tone" of the movie is better than the actual plot (which I won't give away here, you'll just have to see for yourself how it all plays out). In all, this is a quirky little but loveable movie. This is MILES away from your Hollywood standard fare, and if you are into such type movie, I would readily recommend this. Nothing earth-shattering, just plain likeable.
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
on January 15, 2014
This movie is a complete mess. At times I thought the director was making it up as it went along. There is no plot. Nothing makes sense. Presumably set in present times, but the Ivy League college, some of the fashions, the principles of some characters.....seem like throwbacks to the 50s or 60s. Even the title doesn't seem to fit......these strong, crusading damsels are not in need of rescue. Or are they?

I had to surrender to the movie's appeal, since Gertwig is so fantastic as Violet and moments made me laugh out loud. It seems a female response to some of the gross-out male comedies. The idiotic battle of the "Romans" and the barbarians perfectly portrays just how ridiculous men sometimes seem to women......and not just on campus.

And why not portray coming of age as a mess of missteps and colliding intentions? Real life may not feature the redemptive value of soap and international dance crazes, but choices and values are a difficult path to navigate, and one can sympathize with an insistence on standards, however idiosyncratic. These are young women haphazardly trying to hang on to dignity and self-respect.

The brilliant absurdity of Violet's dialogue and Gertwig's performance lift this screwball comedy above "chick-flik." Don't expect too much of a plot, and you'll find a lot to enjoy about this movie.
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5 of 7 people found the following review helpful
VINE VOICEon September 6, 2013
"Damsels In Distress" appears to be a contemporary film about modern college life on the surface but underneath lurks a throwback screwball comedy to an era when films like this starred Cary Grant and were directed by Howard Hawks. The plot of this thinly-disguised reverb revolves around four college women running a suicide prevention center and using dancing as therapy for those so lovelorn or torn by conflict they may want to end it all. To satisfay modern sensibilities, it spends some time in their socialization with men. However, the dancing subplot (wait until you see the end!) should give anyone under age 50 a clue this film isn't about modern times but a refelction of the not-so-near past.

If that's not enough, the film eschews all the trappings of modern college films. There are no sex scenes, no topless women, no bimbos, few idiotic young men living out of a beer bottle, almost no predictable scenes, and just about none of the cliches that usually surround college age film in the new century (or the latter part of last century.) This film is instead a sober, almost understated, comedy about being young and growing up, turns in life, mild conflicts, subtle humor, sensitivity and making lemonade when handed lemons.

It was very pleasing to see such a fine film among the trash that usually passes for filmmaking today. Not a single time did I have to witness a cheerleader, jock, BMOC or other cliches in a college film. In contrast, there was often intelligent humor and conversation substituted for profanity and other R-rated tactics meant to draw in the younger audience seeking titilation. Without the apparent trappings, it's a curiosity to whom the film is intended. My guess is it is people seeking highly creative entertainment with elements of both fantasy and real-life. If that's you, go for it.
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
on April 30, 2015
Its not a great movie. If you are interested in Whit Stillman you should watch Barcelona with Mira Sorvino. This one seems aimless and lacks focus. The first time I watched it I thought it was awful but now I have re-watched several times and found it enjoyable. Not a great movie but still gave it 5 stars because its the kind of thing you can have playing in the background while you work. Just don't expect anything.
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
on August 4, 2014
The 4th film by Whit Stillman(Metropolitan-1990, Barcelona-1994, and The Last Days of Disco-1998. Where have you been for 15 years. If you enjoy great dialogue, good humor and good drama, this is for you.
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