Watched Aug 20, 2012
Mitchell Beaupre’s review:
After an almost fifteen year absence since The Last Days of Disco, Whit Stillman finally returned this year with Damsels In Distress. His new feature should certainly appeal to a particular demographic, but unfortunately for me it's one that I don't belong to whatsoever. I honestly can't think of a more off-putting experience I've had with a film in some time. Stillman brings a unique brand of dialogue and character to his college setting here, and it's one that I couldn't stand. There are characters who don't think their gas smells, characters who are naively susceptible to the kind of bullshit that these others sling and, worst of all, characters so exaggeratedly stupid that they don't even know what colors are.
Damsels In Distress exists in some bizarre place in Stillman's mind that he clearly enjoys living in, but for this viewer I just wanted to leave. I'm sure there are people who will embrace this fully (some already have, of course) but it's not for me. I found the characters grating, the dialogue excruciating and combining them with interactions made me consider just giving up on it altogether. I've never allowed myself to not finish a film that I've started, but this is the most I've ever been tempted to do so. It got slightly less unbearable somewhere in the middle, but with that I just found it more dull than anything else, until it worked its way back around to detestable again.
Greta Gerwig was a perfect fit for whatever Stillman was going for and she was surprisingly convincing in this dry role, but matching his sensibilities so perfectly made for an unbearable experience for me. It's strange, I think that Stillman definitely nailed what he was going for, but that thing he was going for didn't work for me at all. So in some ways I'd consider it a success, but in a similar way that I'd consider a Michael Bay movie a success. A strange comparison for sure, but here me out.
In the way that the master of pointless incomprehensible explosions and sexism is always able to meet his goals, Stillman did the same for his personal goals here. He surely accomplished what he was striving for and for those viewers who it will appeal to, this will be a unique and enjoyable treat all the way through. I'm not one of those viewers though, and for me it was instead just a significant disappointment from a writer/director I was quite looking forward to seeing return to the screen. Now I hope he stays away, or at least I won't be returning for his next picture.