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|Index||51 reviews in total|
Ever so glad I saw a trailer for this in a Blockbuster rental tape, this
movie was quickly one of my favorites. Nobody cares how the movie ends,
since the dialog is the key to this film. I had never paid attention to a
director's or producers name until METROPOLITAN. I will watch any Whit
Stillman movie that comes out.
If you enjoy this movie, watch BARCELONA, then LAST DAYS OF DISCO. There are some interesting 'ties' between the three, though not important to any of the individual stories by any means at all.
Read all of the other people's comments to learn what it is about. I just give it thumbs up with each hand.
Not full of belly laughs, but quite a few "I wish I could say that in real life", or better yet, "I wish I could think of things like that in real life to say to my friends, and even to strangers".
The majority of critics ADORED this movie and the screenplay was nominated for an Academy Award, so I figured it was a fairly safe bet. You can't win 'em all. This film was Mumblecore before Mumblecore (a genre which critics initially poured far too much praise upon). Of course, these characters don't mumble as much as simply drone on and on about their fear of eventual failure that would apparently bring more emptiness to their Park Avenue lives. Bringing us into this world has the potential to keep an audience's interest for a short period of time, but the film never progresses behind exploring this youthful angst. It's not a plot issue. A filmmaker can afford to have 90 minutes where not much happens in terms of plot, provided he or she creates characters and situations that are so compelling, you want to continue watching (not much happens in Hal Ashby's "The Last Detail" either, but try looking away from Nicolson and company in that film). Alas, that is not the case here. Yet, like Mumblecore (which is thankfully dying a rapid death), this film revolves around post- (or mid-) college, white, upper middle class, awkward youngsters who can't seem to shake their general sense of malaise. The film itself appears to be shot on a shoestring budget, and considering that, the cinematography is quite impressive. However, the acting is often painful to watch (with the exception of Carolyn Farina), and though there are no pyrotechnics, there's barely a plausible moment in the film. None of the characters speak or behave in a way that is even remotely believable. It's one pseudo-intellectual diatribe after another with no hint of a natural segue. The actors all seem to be standing around, with no sense of true life or action, waiting to spew out or be the recipient of the next unmotivated monologue. Aside from a truth-or-dare type party game that involves burning cigarettes through a napkin, there's not one conversation that feels authentic. One scene finds an apparently sober middle-aged man at a local bar pouring his heart out to our pair of 19-year old protagonists for no apparent reason except possibly that the author wanted to squeeze in another monologue. This scene could have worked with a different character if it were more skillfully setup. Finally, the final scene at the beach house is "groan-worthy" in its attempt to manufacture misplaced drama, but winds up looking like a bad student film with the poor actors looking completely lost as how to try and make the scene look realistic. However, this was Stillman's first film, so I'd be interested in checking out his other 2 films to see where he went from here.
People who like this film may feel smug for doing so and who could
blame them. This is that rarest of rare things, an American romantic
comedy about young people that could have been directed by Eric Rohmer.
It's full of talk and it's all highly intelligent, at times almost
unbearably so, but the young writer/director Whit Stillman has a
wonderful ear for a bon mot and he doesn't take things seriously. He
lampoons these smart young New Yorkers but he doesn't despise them; the
comedy is gentle and affectionate.
It's set among the well-heeled New York débutante set as they embark on a roundelay of parties over the Christmas period. It owes a considerable debt to Jane Austen and acknowledges this by referencing her as often as it can. Another reference point, of course, is Woody Allen when Allen was writing and directing genuinely smart New York comedies. It's even got a nerdy Woody Allen character in the form of Taylor Nichols' pseudo-intellectual.
Indeed if it has a weakness it's that the boys are far better developed as characters than the girls and in a good, fine, unknown young cast the best performances come from Edward Clements as the hero from the wrong side of the tracks, or in this case, the wrong side of the city and from Chris Eigeman as the handsome, verbose rich boy who befriends him, (think "Emma" with the sexes changed). A little gem of a movie.
While every other social and ethnic group is deemed off-limits to
filmmakers, one remains a target for cheap laughs: Preppies. From
"Animal House" and "Caddyshack" ("the slobs versus the snobs") to John
Hughes and Savage Steve Holland, to more serious fare like "Six Degrees
Of Separation," filmmakers have availed themselves of this last group
of people they can target with a broad brush of easy scorn.
Which is one reason why Whit Stillman's debut film, "Metropolitan," is so refreshing. By taking a more sympathetic, inside look at a group of affluent East Side Manhattanites home from college, Stillman makes a case for an underlying core of goodness beneath the Thurston-and-Lovey veneers.
Making the foray into their world for us is Tom Townsend (Edward Clements), literally and figuratively a red-headed stepchild in this world of privilege, having little money (his big secret, which he guards carefully with the help of mass transit, is that he lives on the West Side) and a defensiveness about his place in high society he manifests by adopting the stance of a disapproving socialist, though in reality he is more than a little too shallow to feel anything that deeply.
The truth of Townsend is immediately obvious to members of an upscale social set that call themselves the Sally Fowler Rat Pack, but they take him in anyway because he knows their world and seems like a good audience. Running the group is Nick Smith, who you can call a snob, as well as sexist, obnoxious, and of late, rather weird. Just don't call him tiresome, or you'll get an argument.
Nick is also a good guy beneath his preppie bluster, a fellow who champions Tom and breaks down Tom's highminded resistance to joining their circle with snarky logic ("You'd rather stay at home and worry about the less fortunate, but has it ever occurred to you you ARE the less fortunate?") He also has real values he honors, sometimes at no small risk to his nose. Chris Eigeman plays him with such panache you understand why Stillman kept using him in his movies; Eigeman's delivery is a thing of wonder, especially with lines that sound a mite too polished for instant expression. He can speak of his stepmother as "a woman of untrammeled malevolence" and make it sound like the most natural phrase in the world.
Another familiar face from Stillman's movies is Taylor Nichols, who plays Charlie Black, who when we first see him is stumbling through an explanation of why he believes in God and you do, too, even if you don't know it, and later on offers his own alternative definition of the preppie elite as the Urban Haute Bourgeoisie, i.e. the UHB. "Is our language so impoverished that we have to resort to acronyms of French phrases?" a woman asks.
Charlie's more of a preppie snob in his dislike for Tom, though as Tom trifles mildly with the affections of a woman in their circle, Audrey Rouget (Carolyn Farina), we understand Charlie's attitude. The movie is most fun as a platform for Eigeman and Nichols' pithy one-liners, and there are many great ones, but the complex relationship between Audrey and Tom is what gives the movie its plot and much of its interest.
It's bizarre how Clements and Farina vanished from the movie scene right after making their accomplished twin debuts. Farina, with her fetching dark eyes and wry, timid smile reminds one of Molly Ringwald at her pre-"Pretty In Pink" peak. Clements is good as a character that guards himself closely, with a scholarly front that falls apart fast.
Pressed on why he doesn't like Jane Austen's "Mansfield Park," Tom admits he hasn't read it, just that he doesn't like it from reading critical essays about it by Lionel Trilling: "I don't read novels. I prefer good literary criticism - that way you get both the novelists' ideas and the critics' thinking." "Metropolitan" is full of quotes like that, the product of young people who think they know more than they do but aren't quite bad beneath their smugness. It's not a film of great depth or revelation; Stillman isn't so interested in dissecting his creations as he is in giving them room to express their ideas, goofy and grand. His first film does exactly that, pulling off the twin feat of having cinematic fun and giving a preppie an even break.
In Manhattan, a group of upper class young people has come home from
college for the debutante ball season. Everybody is in formal wear and
discussing various things. Every night, they gather to go to a ball and
hang out at various apartments. Middle class Tom Townsend, a fan of
Charles Fourier's socialism, is pulled into the group. Audrey Rouget is
the sweet one who likes Tom. Nick Smith is the nihilistic leader.
Charlie Black is the brainy one. Tom is still obsessed with his ex
Serena Slocum. He is an outsider growing up around but not in the
social scene. He lives in poverty by comparison.
Chris Eigeman is great. Everybody else does a reasonable job for a young cast of amateurs. Filmmaker Whit Stillman captures a lot of truth in these insecure characters. There is a great certainty in their idealism and the emptiness of their ideas. It is only the end when Tom actually comes to grips with real feelings about Audrey. It's just such an unique indie.
I didn't see this movie until the end of 2013, and I didn't watch it
from start to finish until 2014. However its 1990 production date
doesn't make the film stale.
The plot is a refreshing look at young adults. It's not clear if their on break or fresh graduates but either way this film really spoke to my 21 year old heart.
I would compare this to the Breakfast club because of how the kids bond, but this film is for a preppier set.
There are a few things that weren't clear like what their school status was. Also when they first meet Tom in the beginning I'm not sure why they are all at the same event. Its not even clear what kind of event it is. Despite the few flaws the film is a masterpiece and it captures NYC so well. If your stuck in Connecticut like me it will make you want to grab the nearest train there.
Made on a low budget of $210, 000, Whit Stillman's debut Metropolitan
was one of the surprise independent hits of the early 1990s - wracking
in an Oscar nomination for screen writing and four million dollars at
the box office. The film concerns Tom Townsend, a smart, upwardly
mobile young man, as he falls in with a group of preppy Manhattanites
and experiences difficulty navigating his romantic life. Metropolitan
is a funny and poignant comedy of manners, skewering themes of youth,
class, and the battle of the sexes while providing ample laughs.
The film follows Tom Townsend (Edward Clements), a first year college student home for Christmas who finds himself falling in with a crowd of wealthy and educated young "haute bourgeoisie". As he becomes more involved with the group, Tom becomes the love interest of débutante Audrey Rouget (Carolyn Faina), but remains oblivious to her feelings because of a hang-up on ex-girlfriend Serena Slocumb. As this plot line provides a source of ongoing tension throughout the film, Stillman brings us into a world of upper class balls, where well-dressed young people drink fine wine and talk about everything from the differences between men and women to the ideas of French philosopher Charles Fourier.
The one criticism I can think to level at Metropolitan is the lack of ambitious cinematography from Stillman and DOP John Thomas, but then I think better and revoke that criticism, because the cinematography does what cinematography should do: service the needs of the script. And what a fine script! Metropolitan succeeds because Stillman is first and foremost a great writer, a man with a preternatural skill for dialogue who is able to shed insight into his themes of youth, sex, and class while making us laugh. Praise should also be heaped on Metropolitan's cast of fine thespians, particularly Chris Eigeman - who charms as Tom's cynically funny friend, Nick.
In conclusion, Metropolitan is one of the great American independent movies of the 1990's. For fans of Woody Allen and Denys Arcard, it is sure to delight. Metropolitan continues in that tradition of upper-class sex comedy drama, but offers something fresh and idiosyncratic to the mix - announcing Stillman as a singular film talent and laying the groundwork for later (and equally interesting) films like Barcelona (1994), The Last Days of Disco (1998), and Damsels in Distress (2011).
Metropolitan-*** (out of 4): Though it can be slightly dull and meandering, there is no denying the originality of Stillman's highly personal slice of upper class life. As intellectual and sophisticated as it is, it manages to avoid pretentiousness and we begin to see true pain and angst in these high-brow people who discuss Karl Marx and Luis Bunuel at their gatherings. However, there are negatives. Clements' character never seemed to click and develop like he should. Though I will say Eigeman and Nichols gave great performances as the intellectuals in the Upper Class NYC. It's definitely an original, definitely a milestone in independent film, and definitely a wonderful little intellectual gem of a screenplay. It may not be for everyone, but it certainly is worthwhile for those who like New York comedies.
This is a comic gem, an utterly charming diversion, a cunningly-wrought
fable and a stealth classic that seems to have wandered out of a more
sophisticated era of film.
Some time in the recent past a group of young upper-crust Manhattanites attend debutante balls and gather afterwards to party, philosophize, gossip, bitch and fall in love. If that capsule description sounds unappealing, watch ten minutes and see if you aren't addicted.
Of the four most important characters, three are adorably, refreshingly innocent, idealistic, striving to be virtuous - and the fourth is simply the greatest snob-fop-wasp acid-tongued cynic in cinema since the heyday of George Sanders and Clifton Webb, but still has a code of honour.
Other reviewers have already invoked comparisons to Woody Allen and Jane Austen and I can't readily think of anything more apt. Perhaps a funnier, anglo Eric Rohmer? In modern cinema Whit Stillman's dialogue is only rivalled by Allen's. It is elegant, witty and intelligent; almost every other line ended up printed on my brain, and dozens of them float up from time to time to make me laugh out loud again years later. The film is more than just a talkfest, though: on repeat viewing it proves to have the momentum and taut plotting of a stage play, and a morality play at that. He has a remarkable knack of crafting both scenes and lines that seem merely comic at first but which prove - sometimes only after watching or rewatching the film, sometimes only when one has grown wiser oneself - to contain a steely moral.
The ensemble of unknowns are talented and appealing. I'm mystified that some of them have done little on film since, and like to think that after working on something as good as this they simply turned down all lesser scripts out of disdain. In particular, the charismatic Chris Eigeman makes Stillman look twice the genius he undoubtedly he is every time he speaks.
If you enjoy this, Stillman's 'Barcelona' and 'The Last Days of Disco' are also wonderful.
*** This review may contain spoilers ***
A strange movie, full of conversations about crushes and philosophy and
the assessment of others. The dozen or so people we meet are all pretty
rich and preppy Manhattanites. Metropolitans, you might say. Or, as one
of THEM says, UHBs -- for urban haute bourgeoisie. Except for Tom
(Edward Clements) who is accidentally swept up in the round of
after-parties during the débutante season.
Tom is in a position similar to that of Nick Carraway in "The Great Gatsby." He's smart and educated and he has a little money, or at least his father does, but he's alien to this lifestyle. The others try to help him out. Instead of renting his tuxedo, he can simply buy one second hand from the same costumier. And he really SHOULD have a fashionably black overcoat instead of wearing that Columbo-type raincoat, even if, as he insists, "it has a lining." Everybody talks a lot. They don't smoke dope or get drunk, except for one of the more fatuous of the group who vomits in the bathroom sink and fails to deliver an important message.
There are some remarks that were over my head. "That's not Manhattan, that's Southampton." Well, I know both places, except that from my perspective they weren't that much different.
If you excise the sophisticated conversation and boil what's left down to Basic English, you probably won't find much difference between these UHBs and the people who jostle you on the subway. But there is as much diversity among them as there is among the rest of us. One or two of them are to the upper-middle-class what Stanley Kowalski is to the workers of America. Still, they're just as mixed up as we are -- always falling in love with the wrong person, uncertain of how they're perceived. The one almost-constantly-visible distinction is that, for them, social class and breeding are what sociologists call a "primary trait." It's what defines them. They are obsessed with class in a way that the rest of us simply are not. We take our miserables lives, our out-of-date clothes, the cockroaches, for granted. They take their goyim naches very seriously.
In this, they reminded me of a class of geniuses I once had an opportunity to observe in college. Here they are, a dozen trembling ectomorphs, teen agers, deep into integral calculus and pimples -- and the worst thing they can call each other in an argument is "stupid." When the layout of the movie became clear I had a sense of impending doom. Nothing but talk and intrigue. But it managed to hold my interest throughout. If I was never gripped, neither was I bored. Maybe a background in cultural anthropology helps.
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