Film: Damsels in Distress (2011)
Cast includes: Greta Gerwig (Greenberg), Carrie MacLemore (Gossip Girl), Megalyn Echikunwoke (Fix), Analeigh Tipton (Crazy, Stupid, Love.), Adam Brody (Jennifer’s Body)
Writer/Director: Whit Stillman (The Last Days of Disco)
Genre: Comedy | Romance (99 minutes)
“Look… there.” “Yes, I think so.” It’s Seven Oaks’ orientation, and Violet, Heather and Rose are looking for someone to help. Lily looks like a good candidate. “We’d like to help you…. Life can be pretty bad,” says Violet. “Would our help and guidance be something you’d appreciate? Or would you like to sink or swim on your own?” As it turns out, the college has lost Lily’s dorm room assignment, so maybe it’s a good thing that Violet’s threesome could use a forth.
Violet and the gals are brimming with helpful advice. When they go to a party at the DK house, Violet explains that the “guys are crying out for guidance…. Do you know what’s the primary problem in contemporary social life? It’s the natural tendency to seek someone cooler than yourself.” But it’s better to “take a guy who hasn’t realized his full potential… or doesn’t even have much… and help him reach it.” We soon learn that Violet, too, is striving to reach her full potential. “I’d like to do something really significant in my life.” Maybe that’s why the girls started the Suicide Prevention Center… no case is too hard or challenging… the girls are always ready with donuts and tap dancing… at the first sign of a suicide that needs preventing. Priss, for example has been crying for weeks, ever since her boyfriend left her. “He used to gaze at me with such love in his eyes.” Violet and the gals to the rescue! But when Lily questions Violet’s methods… yet again… Violet points out the obvious. “We’ve got a rebel amongst us.”
You’d think when Violet’s heart gets broken and she ends up in a “tailspin,” she’d have an epiphany about the bizarre advice the gals dispenses. But Damsels in Distress isn’t that kind of movie. It strives for persistent deadpan humor and, in fact, delivers many charming, clever moments. But the misguided goody-two-shoe act turns out not to be an act. While it’s often quite creative, it’s hard to care about what happens to the characters. The film is nicely produced and the acting is rather good, in that they play these wacky characters with total sincerity. The beginning is quite cute, the end has a fun musical finale, but the middle seems like an excruciatingly long hodgepodge of silliness. At one point, Violet wonders what the plural is for doufus. Is it doufi? As it turns out, it’s a word that might come in quite handy when thinking about the damsels and their projects.
1 popped kernels
A large helping of intense cuteness looking for a story
Audience: Young adults
Distribution: Mainstream limited release
Tempo: Cruises comfortably
Visual Style: Nicely varnished realism
Character Development: Not that kind of film
Language: True to life
Social Significance: Pure entertainment