This film is a brilliant talkfest, with the decline of the New York WASP social setting a major point. It's set on a couple weeks during the Christmas season, with Tom Townsend being invited to a party, much by chance, by Nick and his friends. He doesn't "belong", but everyone likes him, some more than others. He does seem rather odd, with his socialist ideas, and his anti-party attitude. What develops is an odd relationship between Tom and Nick, as well as between Tom and a girl named Audrey.
Christopher Eigmann, as Nick, is a stand out in this cast. He is cynical, pessimistic, yet probably the smartest one in the group. He spouts of dialogue with conviction and care.
What makes this film work is the slight sadness we feel at the disintegration of this class, without having ever been part of it.
Some people will find it boring. It doesn't have the prerequisite number of explosions for the action fans, and not much does happen. But the way this film is executed, where dialogue is the key, makes this film one of the ten best of 1990.
Whit Stillman's movies are dialogue driven, which is not everyone's cup of tea. This is the first of a trilogy, all of which take a slice of life of young people coming of age, but in the cusp of a dying culture, with a new order and new responsibilities baring down on them. Here it's the prep and prom culture of New York's Upper East Side, sometime in the 70's. The participants dutifully go through the rights of Christmas Balls and 'orgy' week, act sophisticated, and generally do things and say things which are expected of them. An outsider, Tom, with radical social and intellectual ideas, enters their midst and becomes a catalyst of change here as a romance develops with Audrey. Tom, idealistic, insensitive and naive is embraced by Audrey, emotionally more mature but more vulnerable, accepting his sometimes preposterous social and literary speculation as a sign of substance in comparison to the increasingly jaded and cynical world of her preppy friends. A friendship develops also between Tom and Nick, the most cynical and pessimistic, but also the most aware and responsible, of the group. The conversations are lively and filled with insights into character and maturity. Nothing much happens in this film, but the intricate interplay of characters, dialogue and ambiance make for a fascinating and penetrating look at these young people's lives. It unfolds like a ballet. This is a fine film which doesn't rely on angst or melodrama-- and maintains a humor, poignancy and charm which makes it a rare achievement for the genre. Stillman's other two films in the trilogy are also highly recommended.
Centering on the lives of wealthy, well-educated young women "coming out" as debutantes and on the equally wealthy, well-educated young men who attend deb parties as the girls' escorts, Whit Stillman's feature directing debut sparkles with incredible dialogue that always wavers between savage wit and heartfelt poignancy. Few who have seen the picture will forget its hilarious dissections of New York social classes, its elegant sense of vocabulary, or its caustic self-awareness. The thing I enjoy the most about Metropolitan (and the two subsequent films Stillman has made), however, is the verisimilitude with which the characters are rendered. I grew up far from the money and privilege of Metropolitan's inhabitants, but I could so easily relate to their fears, desires, and insecurities -- because Stillman never forgets to keep these kids human.
A wonderful, marvelous, funny movie that I watch at least once a year. A true gem-the writing is great, the cast is perfect, and the arch, somewhat affected performances more than do the trick-that's who these people are! Arch, affected, wanna be know it all rich kid snobs whose currency in life is their intellect and class standing. The fact that the action takes place in a few small apartments only heightens the genius of this film-these locations represent the small world in which these young people's lives intersect, in how they dole out their verbiage, how much belonging to a small group of people can dictate the every day thoughts of each member of the gang. The kids have not yet lived enough to be fully forming the opinions they insist upon shoving down each others throats, and the comedy comes from their own inexperience and total lack of thinking other wise. This is like a high brow Breakfast Club, smarter and much more fun for those of us not into stereotype titillation. With out a doubt on of my favorites.
I saw "Metropolitan" a couple of months ago, was fairly impressed with it on its own talky, cerebral terms, and took it back to the video store. Since then, it's grown on me to the point where I have to place its script up there with the best of Chekhov and "The Big Chill." Concerning the Manhattan prep and deb season of some unspecified year past, "Metropolitan" transports your mind into a social order that exists just beyond our consciousness: where young socialites discuss Fourier without conviction, Jane Austen without having read her work, and love without never having really been in it. It's sweet, smart and touching all at the same time. The characters are flawed and doomed -- though, as one character notes, not doomed to failure, but just doomed to a normal, boring lifestyle -- and we can't help but love them for it. Go to Blockbuster and rent it tonight; if you can't find it there, go to Amazon, order it, and allow 1-2 weeks for delivery. It's that good. This was Whit Stillman's first of three similarly themed films; the second, "Barcelona," is subpar, but "The Last Days of Disco" closes the trilogy with a delicious return to form.
This movie is very close to my heart. Every time I watch it, I lose touch with any bitterness and cynicism that may reside within me. It turns me into a complete sap. I just love every character. I love the scene with Tom and Charlie in the bar talking with the older version of themselves. I love when they find the panties on the lawn of Rick Von Sloneker's beach house. Although this and Stillman's other films are often described as 'Woody Allen-lite', I think they have more heart than Allen's films.
I read somewhere that Whit Stillman said he was going to stop making films about these sort of people after 'The Last Days Of Disco'. I pray it isn't so. Then again, a Whit Stillman action film is something I would definitely pay money to see.
The film is compelling not because of a riveting story, special effects, or manufactured suspense, but because of sharply written characters whose personalities drive the story, rather than vice versa, extensive knowledge of its subject, and beautifully written dialogue.
The dialogue, by the way, is great not only for its intelligence and wit, but also because it instantly identifies a proudly unique writer. We can tell Mamet, because of his fractured phrases and rhythmic line readings. We know Smith because of his rapid-fire, fiery and profane writing, as well as his sensitivity. Tarantino is recognizable because of his pop-culture references. Whit Stillman writes characters who talk, often defiantly, in complete sentences, and say exactly what they mean, whether they're expressing their emotions, or shooting to kill.
Whit Stillman was nominated for an Academy Award for his screenplay for "Metropolitan" in 1991, and with "Barcelona" and "The Last Days of Disco", he's on a winning streak.
I can say this film has staying power as I've seen it about half a dozen times in the 12 years since it came out; the most recent occasion was a week ago, and it still holds up, like a great play. It's all in the dialogue and acting: Stillman's idea of an action scene is someone opening a champagne bottle a little over-enthusiastically.
The characters are beautifully drawn, none of them perfect, none of them without some redeeming features. They seem very believable to an outsider from England. The dialogue is a never-ending delight, full of great one-liners, yes, but also some equally cherishable, marvellously pompous sermonising and theorising from these slightly preposterous yet strangely loveable people (particularly Charlie Black). It's not exactly a comedy, but I laughed out loud a lot more than I have in some films that have been trying desperately hard to make me titter.
For me the great mystery is this: whatever happened to this fine young cast?? Edward Clements has done virtually nothing since this film, ditto Carolyn Farina (apart from a small part in Age of Innocence); likewise Eigeman and Nichols, although the former seems to have racked up a few more credits, and the latter was in Boiler Room, although I didn't realise it was him until the credits rolled.
If you need action and plot, this film probably isn't for you. But anyone else can dive in and and enjoy a genuinely independent film that shows what can be done on limited resources. This film is worth more in my heart than the combined works of Joel Schumacher, Don Simpson and their tiresome, overblown ilk.
Brilliantly written. Stillman's first in his trilogy, this sets the standard for the offbeat banter and dialogue of the two films that followed, "Barcelona," and "The Last Days of Disco." Surprisingly great acting, I think, as well--from a cast of, at the time at least, relative no names. As talkfests go, this is a keeper.
METROPOLITAN has really aged well - I first saw this when it was released, and watching again a few days ago, it really stands up as something unique. Episodic and without much real plot - the only real forward motion in the film is to be found in the ending, which feels a little contrived, and is my only real gripe with this film.
At my first viewing, I didn't really want to like these characters, who all seem from another world - rich, young and good looking, carrying on through elaborate, banal, pseudo-intellectual conversations with a deadly confidence about their place in the world. But over the course of the film it becomes apparent that their secure perch in the upper echelons of the American elite isn't 100% set in stone, as an outsider is able to penetrate this rarefied universe, and manages to hold his own quite well, arousing suspicions (and battling shame over his own proletarian roots, and his battle between his own free-thinking idealism and his aggressive social climbing ambitions), but also making genuine friends among the cute young blue-bloods. Of course he isn't as smart as he thinks he is, and neither is anyone else in here, and they all know it even when behaving otherwise, which greatly humanizes these otherwise not-exactly-pleasant characters. On the strength of the dialog, METROPOLITAN has become something of a cult classic, and deservedly so.
In a strange way, METROPOLITAN is almost a companion piece to the surreal and disturbing documentary GREY GARDENS - both are centered upon characters from the well-bred, wealthy elite of American old-$ society. As METROPOLITAN insinuated that the security, intellect, status and wealth of its' characters isn't as rock-solid as the characters would like everyone to think, GREY GARDENS illustrates, in lurid detail just how psychologically destabilizing a precipitous fall from such a lofty, but artificial world would be - you could easily see an aged variant of one of METROPOLITAN's character's ending up like the Edies from GREY GARDENS.
The probable best from the very non-prolific Stilman, I strongly recommend.
After reviewing some of the comments written by other contributors I felt I needed to clarify some issues raised.
This was an independently produced film made with relatively unknown actors and a limited budget.
That being said, the writing is a cut above most films put out to the public and the art direction (utilizing real apartments and settings) captures nicely the buffered world of New York City's Upper East Side.
The acting style though it may appear to be arch and affected actually captures quite well the voice patterns and intonations of those people it portrays.
The film is truly a small gem. The audience gets a glimpse into the lives of a privileged set of college aged "preppy" Manhattan-ites. Lots of fun music helps keep the scenes jaunty and most of the actors are well cast.
The film while intellectual in bent, plays most of the scenes decidedly tongue in cheek which keeps the movie from feeling pretentious.
The movie is a baby Hannah and Her Sisters if you will. I also enjoyed the director/writer's two other films to date, Barcelona and The Last Days of Disco.
This movie glistens like a piece of old Belleek. Whether in the subtle gold of an off the shoulder evening gown, or in the vast expanse of a deep, plush, ivory colored carpet, nearly every frame shimmers with champagne like iridescence.
And gold is an apt visual metaphor, particularly when juxtaposed against the black satin of a tuxedo lapel or the wintry Manhattan night scape, for a world seemingly vanishing right before our eyes--a world too sleek, too soigné, too genteel to survive the steam roller of galloping blue-jeaned egalitarianism.
That the denizens of this vanishing breed, as depicted in the film, are themselves, insecure late adolescents, make its departure all the more poignant.
"This is probably the last Deb season..." one of them observes resignedly, "...because of the stock market, the economy, Everything..." Yes, everything...the huge smothering subject that hovers all around the plot itself and from which its characters are only temporarily insulated.
In particular, the focus here is on a group of privileged Eastern Seaboard collegians enjoying the Christmas holidays in a series of Park Avenue, "after dance parties," in which they loll about and ruefully anticipate the disappearance of their youth, their success, and their kind.
That they are one at the same time cerebral, immature, literate, prankish, frightened, polished, well educated but vulnerable and inexperienced, puts them well outside the troglodyte teens that inhabit the deconstructionist zoo in most post 1970 films, (with the exception of a unfortunate and mis-placed "strip poker" sequence which violates the picture's otherwise overall mood.)
Indeed, they seem to exist outside their own time, belonging rather to that group Cecil Beaton dubbed "the smart young things" from the 1920's, in his "The Glass of Fashion." Certainly, one imagines them far more comfortable with Ivor Novello than Mick Jagger. And like many "smart sets" they seem rather a closed corporation.
Until that is, into their number unexpectedly arrives a young man of reduced circumstances, Tom Townsend, (Edward Clements) who by virtue of his sincerity and intelligence, is invited to "sup at their table--on a borrowed pass" so to speak. His romantic misadventures with the beguiling Audrey Rouget(Carolyn Farina)forms the cynosure of the charmingly fragile plot.
Audrey and Tom stand out from the pack, in their earnestess and integrity, though it is assuredly Nick, (Christopher Eigeman) their figurehead and chief quip master who is the groups' un-elected leader. As interpreted by Mr. Eigeman, Nick is the embodiment of the cocktail fueled, cigarette wielding bon vivant--trenchant, self absorbed, far from virtuous, and with a ready verbal arrow that never misses its target. He is George Sander's heir presumptive.
Nick's observations are worth the whole price of admission as they say, whether it be bemoaning the Protestant Reformation, the social climbing Surrealists, or the scarcity of detachable collars.
Since the film's short, bouffant,cocktail dresses and automobiles unmistakably place the film in very late modernity--the Reagan era in fact, and long after the Ray Anthony's Orchestra, top hatted milieu it depicts, we cannot fail to miss the film's core observation--the parallel evanescence of the groups' own social connections, as placed against the simultaneous collapse of civilized life as we once knew it.
As the Christmas season ends, so do the nightly gatherings, and each character is forced to come to terms with impermanence--their own and everything else's. In a melancholy bar scene, an older man warns the youngsters of disappointment ahead, "I'm not destitute but...it's all so mediocre."
That Producer/Director Whit Stillman manages to fuse the personal with the sociological in such and intriguing and entrancing way is a testament to the penetration of his vision.
And, lest we miss the point, he includes a cunning shot of a significant book left on bedside table--none other than Spengler's "Decline of the West."
I though I could familiarize myself with Whit Stillman's oeuvre easily over the course of a long weekend. I was wrong. After foraging in three video stores and a library, I had only a copy of Metropolitan to show for it, which was initially unfortunate for me--I had been gunning for The Last Day of Disco (that's right: let's blame Yo La Tengo on this pursuit of mine). I'm not so sure my only finding Metropolitan was such bad luck: It's a fantastic film and, because I've watched it four times since Thursday, I probably would have had to return Last Days of Disco or Barcelona to the video store before watching them anyway.
Nominated for a writing academy award, Metropolitan is a literate and witty film--a comedy of manners not unlike those penned by Wycherly or Wilde--that leaves its audience with a cadre of rich kids during the débutante season one New York winter. Precocious and pretentious and sometimes arrogant, these college-aged lads and lasses are nevertheless incredibly likable and real. They speak of Trilling and Tolstoy and the urban haute- bourgeoisie; they philosophize; they gossip. In other words, they behave like my friends and I did during our undergraduate years (the difference being, of course, these kids are actually part of the urban haute bourgeoisie; my friends and I were plotting their overthrow).
They also fall in love. In a way, there's nothing new in the central affaire d'amour. Audrey loves Tom; Tom loves Serena; Serena doesn't appear to love anyone. It's a triangle whose hypotenuse and legs we all know well, yet Stillman imbues it with a freshness through deft wordplay and real feeling for his characters. As I said, we have all seen this story many times before, but we have not seen it done through words. Tom wins Audrey with wit, intelligence, and a daunting vocabulary; Audrey piques Tom's interest with her adulation of Austen. They fall in love, ultimately, through their conversations, which is, after all, how we all fall in love. There's no meet-cute here and no physical passion. It's not unlike Before Sunrise in that respect. Moreover, Tom and Audrey are really very wonderful people (though Tom has several faults).
I'm making an ensemble piece sound like a love story. Though the tale of Tom and Audrey holds center stage, in terms of the narrative, there are others to encounter and enjoy. Charlie philosophizes about the decline and fall of the UHB and pines for ideals that fell out of fashion after World War I; Nick despises titled aristocracy, believing them to be the scum of the earth; and Rick, a baron, is incredibly slimy, giving credence to Nick's assertion. There are also the women, who, unfortunately, do not leave much of an impression (aside from Audrey, of course).
Metropolitan is also blessed with one of the most realistic representations of New York I've encountered. Like Taxi Driver or After Hours or Manhattan, Metropolitan makes its audience feel like it is walking the streets of the city. It doesn't rely on cheap establishing shots of notable buildings. I really only know the City from the ground and this film's exterior milieu is one I know from my travels. Metropolitan's interiors are also interesting, especially Tom's family's apartment, which is cramped and claustrophobic, befitting his middle class background.
Overall, this film, an exploration of human, group mentality and love, is a very warm, charming gem.
Metropolitan reminds me of my own young adulthood in and around New York in the late 70s and early 80s. Maybe that's why it speaks to me so much. The dialogue is real, as are the characters, and the cinematography is beautiful. New York really does look like that during Christmas. I have seen this movie countless times, and still find something new with each viewing. I bought the screenplay and am looking forward to comparing it with the version on screen. I missed Barcelona, but Last Days of Disco is another example of Whit Stillman's brilliance. I look forward to his next effort.
I saw this movie about ten years ago now and it is still on my mind. The quiet cinematography places it somewhere between film noir and a movie like 'Hanna and her Sisters,' and maybe even with a subdued atmosphere version of "The Game" (Michael Douglas).
Most people who've lived in a bigger city and went to college and aspired to do more with their lives when young adults will be absorbed by this film. One can relate to one (or more) of the characters, but for me it was removed just enough from my past that I could look at it historically, like a version of what I had been through. It is open to interpretation by the viewer as it goes along, or should I say open to identification with the situation and characters. I was the poor guy in the movie. This is really a psychological drama, with a cruel twist at the end.
The movie was strangely captivating and yet the viewer doesn't know where it's going to go next. This is not because of the setting---it's not some high-adventure action movie---but because of the situational and psychological build-up. The harsh reality scene at the end told it like it is and made what happened in the body of the movie so tragic.
This is a story of youth that has been told in other ways, with very different details but similar psychological plot of deception, friendships, and dealing with the world and one's place in it, a plot here that is tragically quite real to many young men in America today and is under-recognized in movies. In fact this movie is one-of-a-kind as far as I know. It is more of a tragic version of the coming-of-adulthood story in this particular slice of Americana.
I find myself recommending this film to young men who I know as a lesson in life when they appear to be undergoing the same kind of difficulties with relationships and their social life. It provides a needed perspective but not until the end, which drives the point home even more realistically after a lengthy set-up. A quietly stunning film.
What a very different way to look at people...or, what a different group of characters to focus a movie on would be putting it better. Stillman took the snobby 'debutants' of upper Manhattan and made a movie about what they talk about. I personally found 2 kinds of humor in this movie...I laughed with the characters, and laughed at them. Can a group be this funny and be serious? It was very intelligent the way this movie had me listening, listening, laughing...quick cut to another scene and start over again. I have to admit that the acting was something of a humor in itself, as was the frayed ending, but all in all a very enjoyable movie.
I wish I could say more about it, but for some reason watching this, 'Barcelona', and 'Last Days of Disco' has left me a little wordless...I wouldn't be surprised to find that every word in the Webster's Dictionary was used between the three. But kudos to Stillman for doing it right.
I guess I have seen three or four hundred 'first films' of young American directors in the last couple of decades. None has given me such a sense of euphoria that Metropolitan did. It stands in a very high position in that much neglected and un-nameable genre that presents us with a bunch of totally unlovable characters and then proceeds to make us love them.
That may have started with La Regle du Jeu, but Stillman handles this so well, he should not blush at the reference.
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.
"Metropolitan" is a film that hearkens back to an era of old money and tradition, reminiscent of the Gilded Age of the late 19th Century in America. It was a time when men in white bows and tales led girls in pristine, white dresses to their cotillions in ballrooms in gilded hotels like the Plaza in New York where some of this film's scenes take place. The film is a sociological examination of what happens in Park Avenue grand pied-à terres, with after hours parties frequented by the American royalty or upper class. The characters are somewhat hollow, but intellectual in their discussions of 19th century novels and literary critics. These are the children of the very rich, the haute bourgeoisie who attended such hallowed institutions as the Chapin School and Miss Porter's School (Farmington). The characters are fairly well played by unknown actors and actually, I found them to be one dimensional but quite convincing.
Carolyn Farina who plays the demure Audrey Rouget is very sweet and you care about her, at least I did. She is self-deprecating and cute and plays this part to the hilt. Her "Rat Pack" of pals like her, though often she fades into the woodwork, as she is very quiet and somewhat shy. Chris Eigeman, who plays the "tiresome" and overbearing Nick Smith is at times, quite entertaining with his hilarious hyper critical attitude and cynicism about those who surround him. Eigeman plays this role quite well and though you don't really like him, he is so obnoxious which makes him fun to watch. His talk of how "detachable collars" on tuxedos and his pretentious wearing of top hats look quite out of place in this early 1990's film. I like the Jane character and the Sally Fowler character played by Dylan Hundley. These two characters exemplify upper class attitudes by their tastes and speech and are in keeping with how preppy, privileged, upper class American girls behave, at least on the East Coast.
Not much happens plotwise in the film. You are almost left wondering whether something of any importance is going to unfold, this film doesn't really go anywhere. One wonders if the director had some message in mind, for those who always look for such things in a movie. I think rather than being a great drama film, it is more of a social commentary on a lost era in the modern world. Most people probably couldn't identify with this film, as its characters are far more privileged than the average person and far more worldly and educated as evidenced by their speech and interests. Other than the world of debutante balls and nightly after hours parties, this film doesn't show much happening.
Despite its somewhat dated context and what some may view as dull plot, "Metropolitan" is one of my all time fave films. I guess I like the pretense of it and its refreshingly other era feel with I feel gives it a certain charm and je ne sais quoi as the French say.
I don't know exactly what I was expecting from "Metropolitan," but it was different from whatever notions I had going in.
I describe it as "disarming" because it very artfully resists issuing an invitation to the audience to take a particular stance toward these ostensibly privileged youth. They manage to be sympathetic and human because they are painted very much life-sized.
The film's visual style is much sparser than I expected: their world doesn't look particularly lavish; it's just a backdrop of traditional settings. Part of the spare feeling may be as simple as the film being set in winter: there's little sense of lushness to these young people's lives.
I think I felt a sense of relief (in terms of my own defensiveness about class) that Stillman makes it so clear that these people are no better than anyone else; they merely have some illusions or (surprisingly tentative) perceptions about who they are and about their importance in the world. In retrospect, it's amusing how often they accuse each other of pretentiousness in the film when they're all fairly drab characters, all dressed up because they, in truth, have little clue about what else to do. So, the film doesn't force you to take a stance on them (as to their decadence or nobility) as a class; rather, it lets you see them as (emotionally) struggling humans, pretty much like the rest of us.
This effect is also heightened by the sense that, in their conversations with each other, they're all using oversized vocabularies they haven't quite yet figured out how to master, much as a child playing dress-up stands lost in his or her parents' adult-sized clothing. So, probably, the pivotal reason the characters are sympathetic is that they're clearly trying so hard to sound knowledgeable about their world when they in fact have no idea what they're talking about, and they have really very little idea about the reality of the larger world around them.
So, why did I like the film so much, once my own defenses were down? As is the case with most film genres that are familiar (and Metropolitan does tread the territory of a "young people coming of age" movie), it is the ambiguities (and contradictions) about the characters' true nature that sustains the film and the viewer's interest. You really don't quite know what most of the characters are going to do next or how they'll react to the others. In this sense, it reminds me a bit of how other independent films that rework familiar genres manage to pull it off well: I think of "The Crying Game" as it reworks the "hunted man who's unraveling a mystery" story; or how "American Beauty" reworks the midlife-crisis genre.
Overall, it is a small movie (indeed, a talkfest), and if I'm objective, I would say that it might be hard to take for people who are in the age group of its characters (early twenties). For me, in my late 30s, I found it a really textured evocation of what the last fifteen years of my life have been, and how they've compared to my vague notions long ago of what they would be. Also, if a person has no familiarity with New York, the movie could feel a bit obscure.
Perhaps the most central theme of the film, and one that could have been handled very clumsily but is handled well here, is that none of our positions in the world is really secure. The threats to them may stem from our world changing around us in ways we don't understand, or they could be the risks of being surrounded by people who call to our worst nature (symbolized in the minor character Von Sloneker), or the threats could just result from the emotional baggage within ourselves.
This is a gentle subtle film that makes you feel as though you have spent an evening with charming, intelligent dinner companions. It is basically about a series of parties attended by a group of friends during the Christmas season in New York. The dialogue is incredible and led to screenwriting Oscar nomination for Stillman. I think this is best of his films. He is truly a Hollywood radical because he argues for good old fashioned virtues in his movies like friendship and chastity. What could be more revolutionary in todays entertainment climate. Rent this one if you like interesting characters and snappy banter and you will be treated to some laugh out loud zingers and sweet lover story. A winner all round.
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".
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.
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.
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.