Damsels in Distress (2011) Poster

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10/10
Not a movie for dumb people, it's droll in the best sense of the word
fistamamanbush29 December 2015
Fantastic little gem, and come back film from writer/director Whit Stillman. It's not as ambitious in scope as his previous films, but the writing is as sharp as ever, and all the actresses are phenomenal.

For the uninitiated, this a dialogue driven film. The humor is all deadpan and dry, not to mention quirky as hell. As always Stillman tackles very human issues within the confines of a very specific environment, with very specific characters, most people will never encounter. That's part of what makes his movies so special, that they can be so offbeat yet be anyone can relate to them, if they are open to it.

This is the kind of film that many people will either dismiss as boring, those in this camp I have no use for, or pretentious, those in this camp, I understand, but that's the appeal.

Give it a shot and let the dialogue wash over your, just don't expect a typical plot.
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9/10
Delightful, quirky, intelligent fun
charlie-schlangen9 February 2012
It's clear that some reviewers "got" this film and some didn't. As always, Stillman delivers with marvelous, laugh-out-loud funny dialogue. This is so rare that that that virtue alone sets it apart from the majority of the drivel that passes for conversation in movie scripts these days. You can't tell me that there aren't some one-liners in there that you hear and just *wish* you could have uttered yourself if only you'd had the wit (Whit?).

The characters are all flawed, some lovably so, some not--just like life. You're not meant to like all of them, and it's part of the subtle, social observation of which Stillman is capable that the unlikable characters are not always immediately unlikable. Some characters learn from their mistakes and misperceptions, some do not. Again, like life.

The thing that is so winsome about Stillman's movies is that virtue always triumphs. There is a sweetness to his choice that the good always eclipses the bad. It's almost heart-achingly sweet, because we know that that is not how things usually work out, and yet you find yourself rooting for these flawed, quirky, sometimes idiotic characters to get out of their own way and allow their better natures to win the day. I've wondered for a long time about the central role of dancing in his movies, and maybe it's that when you're dancing, it's hard to do much else, and you become one with music, rhythm, and your dance partner(s). Perhaps that's what he wants for his characters--to use dance as a vehicle to get out of their own way and lead a happier, less complicated, less tortured existence.

My favorite of his movies will always be "Metropolitan," but this is an excellent new addition to his oeuvre. We've been waiting for "the new one" for a while, and now that it's here I find it a sheer delight.
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10/10
It's kind of like
ColbertoReporto14 November 2012
Mean Girls' older sister that went to college, got an awesome biting, dry sense or humor; and got some wicked analytical skills to go along with it. This was just such an adorable and intelligent movie, both extolling the virtues of the undergrad experience while simultaneously panning it. At first, the movie may lose you with its irreverent randomness and quirkiness. Personally, I recommend at least one re-watch, to which it will become more clear and you'll be able to appreciate it more. This movie is one of those movies that has near unlimited replay value so that should be quite easy to do. Although nearly everyone was perfect in their roles, Greta Gerwig as Violet stands out. She's just pseudo deep in a sarcastic spirit that is tough to pull off while acting. The male characters are well done also but play in the background, which is actually kind of refreshing since many movies like this fall victim to sexism, or at least "boy craziness" of the presumably straight female characters. Overall, bravo, brava for this example of a deep, "slow-moving" comedy aimed at us young folk... not many like it these days.
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8/10
Witty, quirky, and funny...and that's just the characters
IDwasTaken1 December 2011
Few films recently have been able to capture my imagination like this one. With the glut of comic book films and remakes, very few people are making original films. I was not expecting much going into this film (I saw it at a festival). In fact I had not planned on seeing it, but it seemed "different" enough to warrant a watch. Well, I went in not knowing what to expect and came out with a big grin. I was happy I gave it a shot and was surprised by the other comment on here.

If you want to see something original, that has some break out actors, and is funny, then check out "Damsels in Distress." Days after I left the screening, I kept thinking back on the funny lines and comically earnest characters. Go in with an open mind and come out with a grin.

IMDb does not allow 8.5 stars, but that's my verdict. This goes into the category of films I'll be watching again once it hits the theaters.
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5/10
Could it be another acquired taste I have not yet fully acquired?
Steve Pulaski26 September 2012
Violet Wister (Greta Gerwig), Rose (Megalyn Echikunwoke), Heather (Carrie MacLemore), and Lily (Analeigh Tipton) have many things in common; they all talk with a smug tone and they attend the liberal arts school Seven Oaks, which seems to exist in its own little world. To be frank, it seems that Damsels in Distress has erected a world all its own, where pop culture doesn't exist and neither do Televisions, automobiles, or anything along the lines of utilities that we've become accustomed to today.

I love films that exist in the screenwriter's head. One of the more recent examples is Wes Anderson's majestic and enthusiastic Moonrise Kingdom, a film that appeared to have its own mindset and, within in it, its own set of characters, laws, rules, and agenda that it wanted to accomplish. Damsels in Distress isn't quite as majestic and enthusiastic. It's rather monotone, uninteresting, and groggy for the most part. What a shame since this is director Whit Stillman's return to film after a thirteen year hiatus.

The storyline concerns those four girls as they go about their lives at this preppy Ivy League school. One of the first things they do, after recruiting Lily, is recreate the school's "suicide prevention center" where they will use aroma therapy, donuts, and coffee in order to reassure students about their place in the world. Why? In the meantime, the girls began to get entangled romantically with men, from the sophisticated Charles (Adam Brody) to the absolute hunk Xavier (also called, "Zavier," played by Hugo Becker). These relationships seem innocuous but prove to be possibly lethal to the girl's unbreakable bond together and this is what, sort of, gets the film on its feet.

Damsels in Distress seems like a satire lost at sea. It's satirizing, or attempting to, Ivy League life and the strange quirks it possesses. The problem is it never fully gets a grip and forms an agenda on what it wants to parody. We get shells of characters who feel robotic and cold, only capable of saying a funny line but incapable of brewing characterization. The satirical element isn't that witty and neither is much of the film. This is more down the line of surrealism than satire.

Stillman greatly reminds me of the quirk-expert I explored earlier this past summer and the man I just mentioned not too long ago; Wes Anderson. Stillman seems to be completely capable of setting up a beautiful long shot, focusing on characters, and intimately capturing life's wonderful eccentricities. But he struggles in the same field Anderson struggled in with his two features, Bottle Rocket and Rushmore, respectively; he focuses so much on look and subtle beauty that he successfully undermines the storyline and the characters within it. Damsels in Distress concludes with a random song-and-dance number almost cementing the fact that there was no conceivable way to completely end this sort of story. It's choppy and inconsistent. But it all looks pretty.

Starring: Greta Gerwig, Adam Brody, Analeigh Tipton, Megalyn Echikunwoke, Carrie MacLemore, Hugo Becker, and Ryan Metcalf. Directed by: Whit Stillman.
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A triumphant return for the great Whit Stillman
Richard Burin21 April 2012
Warning: Spoilers
Whit Stillman is back. The writer-director of Metropolitan, Barcelona and The Last Days of Disco was thought to have retired, his career having not stirred since 1999. But no. Apparently he's just been writing scripts that no-one would fund. Until this one.

Damsels in Distress is a college comedy about a group of girls – all named after flowers – who spot vulnerable new additions to the roster and try to help them, through their Suicide Prevention Centre ("They say with illness, prevention is nine-tenths the cure. With suicide, it's actually ten-tenths.") There's no counselling or medication, just free doughnuts, unlicensed aromatherapy and tap dancing. This being college, and this being Stillman, plenty of the story also regards romantic entanglements – with frat boys, a "playboy-or-operator-type" and a Spanish religious zealot.

The film is brimming over with that unique, hilarious Stillman dialogue we've been missing for the last 13 years: cool people "lacking humanity", confusion over the spelling of the name "Zorro", and references to a time before anyone "started being nice to weird and unpopular kids". He's a wildly subversive writer, with a distinctive and fiercely individual viewpoint, seeing everything from a fresh angle. In Metropolitan his characters criticised "public transport snobs" who wouldn't take taxis, called socialist philosophers "patronising" and pontificated on the discreet, oft-overlooked charm of the bourgeoisie. In Barcelona, the virtues and vices of American imperialism were dissected in typically offbeat fashion. And in The Last Days of Disco, Stillman suggested the death of Bambi's mother was a formative incident for an entire generation that consequently embraced animal rights. It makes you think that Stillman would make one hell of an essayist. He's certainly one hell of a filmmaker. Here he offers an absurdist take on pushy parents and laments the degeneration of homosexual culture, from Wilde to macho posturing.

As always, he gives his characters absurd, unforgettable back stories. In the past we've had a supposedly gifted student fail a crucial exam because a girl kept snapping her bra strap, and the tragic tale of Polly Perkins, which shed light on the many wrongdoings of Metropolitan's heinous Rick von Sloneker. Here there are several, including those of queen bee Violet (Greta Gerwig), slickster Charlie and the blank-faced Thor, who's going to "hit the books really hard" in order to learn his colours. Stillman makes much in his films of affectations and the projected image and there are big lies again here, as Stillman returns to his favourite theme: the search for identity and a purpose in life. These are characters in flux: they change and solidify before our eyes. And then, quite often, they pair off.

It's hard to describe the plot. Really it's the antithesis of formula filmmaking: novelistic and unpredictable, with constant diversions and twists you can't anticipate, as in real life. And in a sense it is like real life, only with better dialogue and a taste for the fantastical. Stillman has always had a delightfully unselfconscious fondness for dancing. His films have had limbo competitions, "bible-dancing", a formal dance and an entire film based around disco, with a climax set to Love Train, in which people shimmy along a train carriage. In Damsels, all Gerwig wants to do in life is help people – and start an international dance craze. Her unskilled jaunt down a dorm room corridor is a highlight, before the film passes into genuine musical territory, exploding into an all-singing, all-dancing extravaganza for its closing five minutes. Fittingly, the number Stillman chooses, Things Are Looking Up, is one of the loveliest from A Damsel in Distress - the 1937 Fred Astaire film. Leaping into musical territory is a filmic trick that can go very badly wrong, but it's done with such sincerity and such a genuine love for the genre that it's a move of complete inspiration.

The cast is largely excellent. Gerwig was a heroine of the "Mumblecore" genre before her break-out performance opposite Ben Stiller in Greenberg. Speaking in that curious way common to all the director's central characters and asked to essentially carry the film in an extremely tricky part, she's absolutely magnetic: juggling conflicting, contrasting character traits from one moment to the next, as her character variously finds and loses herself, helps and hinders others and may be either a life-saver or a joke. Analeigh Tipton plays Lily, who, as a new addition to the group, is forced to wrestle with their peculiarities, whilst negotiating a love life that sees her periodically deceived, confused and asked to have sex in an uncomfortable way. It's another busy part and she's fine in it. It took me a little while to acclimatise to the English Rose (Megalyn Echikunwoke), but she, erm, grew on me increasingly throughout the movie. The fourth member of the group, Heather (Carrie MacLemore), a principle-light dummy, seems a strangely conventional part, at least on first viewing, but MacLemore tackles it with gusto.

The performances from the men aren't as uniformly strong. Adam Brody is good as strategic developer Charlie, and Billy Magnussen makes an amusing idiot, but Ryan Metcalf – as the blue-eyed, fairly unattractive, fairly unintelligent Frank – is a touch inconsistent, and Hugo Becker isn't great as Lily's unconventional Latin lover. Perhaps the best of the bunch is Zach Woods in a cinematic first: the Chris Eigeman character not played by Chris Eigeman.

I like Whit Stillman more than any other modern filmmaker: for his glorious dialogue, challenging, surprising worldview and superbly-drawn characters. On a first viewing, Damsels is a worthy addition to the canon, with the slightly underwhelming digital visuals quickly forgotten thanks to an engrossing, meandering story, superb work from Gerwig and a script that has more great lines than anything I've seen so far this decade. But who watches Whit Stillman films just once? Barbarians, that's who. It's only repeat viewings that will reveal the precise depths of Damsels' myriad charms.

(Even longer review is on the blog.)
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8/10
An Acquired Taste That You May Find to Be Delightful If You're in the Right Mood for It
evanston_dad10 January 2013
"Damsels in Distress" lives in a world utterly of its own making, and you're either going to accept that world or you're not. I was won over and found this film to be a charming, eccentric movie about a group of college girls, and one in particular, who hide their insecurities behind a confident desire to better their fellow students.

Greta Gerwig is the leader of the pack, a somewhat annoying girl who also remains rather winning and appealing thanks to Gerwig's terrific performance. The film reminded me somewhat of another movie released this year, Wes Anderson's "Moonrise Kingdom" (though that's a far better film) in its quirky determination to stick to the rules it erects for itself, but also in its tone and its assembled cast of characters who are all basically good people trying to make sense of a frequently confusing and not always very pleasant world.

"Damsels in Distress" is not going to be to everyone's taste, but, also like "Moonrise Kingdom," if it is to your taste you'll probably be delighted by it.

Grade: A-
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A good-smelling environment is crucial to our well-being
tieman6415 September 2013
Warning: Spoilers
This is a review of "Damsels in Distress" and "The Last Days of Disco", two films by writer/director Whit Stillman.

Released in 2011, "Damsels" stars Greta Gerwig as Violet, the leader of a band of young women. As they have been deeply scarred in the past, the girls invent new personas for themselves and attempt to help other wounded people by embarking on various altruistic endeavours. One of their schemes involve "inventing a new form of dance", in which dance becomes akin to a political movement used to spread "togetherness, love and happiness".

Stillman's godfather, sociologist E Digby Baltzell, authored "Aristocracy and Caste in America" and helped popularise the term "Wasp". Stillman's films, meanwhile, tend to focus on the haute bourgeoisie, though he's more obsessed with questioning the naive assumptions they hold toward responsibility, culpability and leadership. In this regard, his films are preoccupied with characters whose well intentioned good deeds lead to disasters, or seemingly horrible characters who inadvertently help others. The intentions behind deeds are also examined: is altruism really altruism if it's unconsciously rooted in selfishness? Why do good deeds do damage? And why do the noblest of intentions oft lead to unforeseen disasters?

All these questions arise during one subplot in which the girls date boyfriends who are less cool and less intelligent than they are (their intention is to transform the boys into something better). In another subplot, the girls hand out soap to unhygienic male students. Both plans backfire spectacularly, with the soap turned into a weapon/game and the girls' relationships with the guys having less to do with reformation than their own personal insecurities and hangups. The film then ends with our heroes dancing to "Things are looking up", originally sung by Fred Astaire in the 1937 film "A Damsel In Distress".

Stillman was born into a very politically active, radically left-wing family. Many critics tout him as being one of the few "intellectual conservative directors", whilst others see his films as being reactionary responses to his parental upbringing. This is, after all, a guy whose films are often about "vindictiveness and self-centeredness unintentionally benefiting others" and "well-intentioned meddling causing damage", which is of course the credo of many far right groups. But Stillman really embodies a postmodern scepticism regarding both the political left and right. "When you're an egoist, none of the harm you do is intentional," characters in his earlier pictures state. And later: "Today barbarism is cloaked with self-righteousness and moral superiority." Elsewhere he has characters defending conservative values (marriage, monogamy etc) because, though they're simply rooted in "ritualistically enforced behaviour", such behaviour was itself "once deemed unconventional but has been adopted because it works for society". This argument is of course true, but also wrong in many instances. Stillman's films tend to present both sides of the coin.

These contradictions become most apparent in Stillman's "The Last Days of Disco". Set in the mid 1980s, "Disco" centres on a group of articulate urbanites. They're descendants of wealth, but have a hard time making ends meet. This at first seems like an apologia for the upper middle classes, until various mouthpieces in the film mock the "troubles" of our cast, even as Stillman sympathises with them.

The film then watches as the college graduates of the Me Generation set about co-opting disco trends and the totems of the sexual revolution. The "openness" of these social movements, however, quickly gets perverted into an arena of exclusivity, money, rules and regulations. The result is the creation of a false elite: those cool, attractive or pushy enough to get into the clubs and those willing to subject themselves to the club's arbitrary, superficial and capricious rules.

The film then contrasts two characters. One's Charlotte (Kate Beckinsale), who's elegant, sophisticated, and always unintentionally harming others with her needle-like tongue. The other's Alice (Chloë Sevigny), a quietly sensitive woman who has no idea what the sexual revolution means for people like her. Acting free and sexy gets her stigmatised as a whore, whilst acting bookish and intellectual gets her stigmatised a prude. The disco dance floors epitomise this new sexual minefield, where there are no known steps, no clear partners, where attentions constantly shift, where no one touches for long, yet where there seemingly exists no boundaries.

"Control your own destiny. Don't wait for guys to call." Charlotte says, which is your typical Stillman "fact", in that its conservative counterpoint is then shown to be also true. Infinite choice has its own problems and self expression need not be free but a product of influence.

Interestingly, Alice embodies a modernist sensibility. She has standards, values and is constantly judging and categorising. Charlotte embodies a postmodern subjectivity, which, of course, is couched in a aura of "nonjudgementality", in which its deemed okay to insult and criticise because what's said is always just a "silly personal opinion" anyway. Charlotte's lines frequently highlight this contradiction: "People hate being criticised" she says, before complaining that Alice was "too moralistic and judgemental in college". Later Alice sleeps with a character called Tom, who promptly ditches her when Alice follows Charlote's advice to become a sexual predator. "I crave sentient individuals who don't abandon their principles," Tom says, disgusted with the cheapening of romance and relations, whilst, ironically, sticking to modern conventions of "openness" with these lacerating speeches (and it is he who gives her a STD!). "I'm beginning to think," Alice later says, "that maybe the old system of people getting married based on mutual respect and shared aspirations, and slowly, over time, earning each other's love and admiration, worked the best." For Stillman, mores, commitments, values and manners have everything to do with what distinguishes us as human, they're just very fickle, unreliable things.

8/10 - Worth one viewing.
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7/10
A quiet little piece of cinema joy if you let it be!
Hellmant10 October 2012
'DAMSELS IN DISTRESS': Three and a Half Stars (Out of Five)

Quirky teen comedy-drama about three college girls who run a Suicide Prevention Centre and offer words of wisdom and advice to troubled new college students while also trying to deal with their own issues. It was written and directed by Whit Stillman (who also helmed the eccentric comedies 'THE LAST DAYS OF DISCO', 'BARCELONA' and 'METROPOLITAN'). It stars Greta Gerwig, Megalyn Echikunwoke, Carrie MacLemore, Analeigh Tipton and Adam Brody. The movie is pretty aimless and slow paced but it's also always amusingly strange and whimsical.

The story is set at an East Coast college named Seven Oaks where Violet (Gerwig), Rose (Echikunwoke) and Heather (MacLemore) attend. The college has a mostly male dominated tone, despite becoming coed several years earlier, and the women feel forced in to having to deal with brutish and dimwitted guys all the time. They run a Suicide Prevention Centre and are also constantly trying to recruit freshman girls in to their clique to educate them on the ways of the campus (as well as the world). This year's recruit is Lilly (Tipton). Lilly runs in to man troubles right away and the others try to help her deal with them while also dealing with their own.

The movie has no real direction or strong character objective. It just kind of follows these young girls around as they struggle with adapting to life. It's slow and will bore the hell out of some viewers but others will be quite entranced by it (and others somewhere in between). I found the dialogue to be quite witty and funny and I loved all of the performances. I also really enjoy how quirky and in love with individuality the film seems to be. To me that's a great message to send young viewers (if they actually see the film, it might have missed it's target audience). The movie is a quiet little piece of cinema joy if you let it be.

Watch our movie review show 'MOVIE TALK' at: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=olADa6vEcMk
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10/10
Lovely and silly
Damsels in Distress felt to me like antidote, though I have been puzzling over exactly what it's an antidote to, which is a particularly charming trait of the movie.

Violet is the instigator in a group of delicate and vague young ladies attempting to fashion some sort of social nest for themselves via means of a campus suicide prevention centre promoting good vibes. The film is rather curiously out of time and place, like a very long dream.

At the danger of romanticising the past (Violet is keen to point out this pitfall of a fallacy), I've met people who went to university in the sixties and seventies, who had plenty of free time for epiphanies, large grants, and who had companies fighting over them when they graduated. Now universities massively oversupply a demand for thinkers, and they can be scary places to be, because you don't know where work is coming from when the music stops.

Seven Oaks is a campus away from this, a verdant and etherised place without a trace of gadgetry and social media, with comically lowly or merely fanciful levels of ambition and only a fleeting hint of financial constraint (Violet does acknowledge that drinks are expensive). So it's an antidote in that way.

But also I think it suggests that people may want to be more understanding of one another, and that there are natural differences in personalities and perspective, and many ways to live, with La Grande Illusion, a poster of which appears several times being somewhat of a touchstone in this regard (the joke being that the gentleman who owns it is probably the most self-righteous person in the whole movie). Violet is arrogant, but only in the most charming way. Often the most normal, and identifiable characters in the movie turn out to be the most arrogant, because they patronise others in earnest, whereas I think Violet is doing it quixotically, as some sort of elaborate and kindly coping strategy. I find quite often that the most arrogant people in life are fond of calling others arrogant, and the most snobbish are fond of calling others snobs. I think that Whit Stilman enjoys turning received ideas on their head, very much in the manner of Oscar Wilde, "We should treat all trivial things very seriously, and all the serious things of life with sincere and studied triviality".

One of the aspects I found funny and intriguing about the film was the spread of misinformation, for example Violet claims the wrong Strauss popularised the waltz, and also that an individual named Charleston invented the Charleston dance, in the middle of a tutorial, calmly and authoritatively. She goes further and claims that the attribution of the Charleston to the city is a common misconception, which it definitely is not! I think you can see from the number of "citation needed" tags on Wikipedia that there are a lot of people who enjoy making up information, the fiancé of a work colleague actually boasts about having deliberately put a lie on a Wikipedia page about a particular citrus fruit.

I adored the musical numbers that got put in at the end of the film (check out Tsai Ming-liang films if you're looking for more), and I think I found the whole movie delightful. I found a scene where the girls talked to one another in the dark prior to falling asleep particularly touching, it's a pleasure that I haven't experienced for over a decade.
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7/10
Alternative "comedy" not for mainstream sensibilities
valinvancouver9 February 2013
I believe this movie successfully achieves it's goal of satirizing the young college-age intellectual (or asinine, as the case may be) mindset. The main characters ceaselessly spout all manner of opinions, generally in the guise of bettering the world and others, but their presentation is nothing short of self-congratulatory. Like many young adults, they are convinced their thoughts and actions are worthwhile, if not ground-breaking (international dance craze, anyone?).

This movie is definitely not for everyone. You have to be willing to be carried along by it, and I expect many people give up on it due to the absurdity of the characters. What this movies does have to offer is a palpable affection for the human condition and some really excellent performances, particularly by Greta Gerwig in her lead role as Violet.

If you like this movie, check out "Year of the Dog," which is similarly non-mainstream and somewhat edgier/better.
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3/10
Disappointing. Totally disappointing
Laight8 April 2012
Metropolitan, Barcelona, and Last Days of Disco are three great movies. Damsels doesn't come close. What made the others work so well, besides the acting, direction, and sets, was the writing: Stillman managed to create characters who were also caricatures, cartoon figures who were also so real it boggled the mind, how he could balance the thin lines between parody, satire, and life.... Damsels is basically a pale imitation. The writing is flat, the dialog doesn't pop, and all in all, the characters remain caricatures. You don't care about any of them. There's not even a semblance of a plot. And there's a terrible enforced dance ending. It's generally true in movies that aren't musicals that, at the end, if all the director/writer can do is have them get up and dance, something is very wrong. The only thing that saves it at all is Gerwig's performance, which is pitch perfect. The others go nowhere, and no one cares.
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7/10
Monsters in the campus
Alberto Farina10 January 2012
Stillman's first feature in 13 years investigates the merciless social rules within a campus: it's fun, as wittily and entertainingly dialogued as his previous efforts, but way more off-beat and darkly screwballish. It almost plays as an intellectual version of cult favorite "Heathers" (it might be no coincidence if it also revolves around a bunch of co-eds named after flowers), sparing us the B-movieish third act of Michael Lehmann's film. Lots of fun, with a musical twist around the end that might be able to improve the film's chances to cult-ness.

I caught "Damsels in Distress" in Venice, where it was selected out of competition as the closing film for 2011's festival. Audience was quite appreciative, laughing out loud throughout the whole screening.
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3/10
An extremely pretentious and nonsensical screenplay creates a jumbled and ridiculous film; do yourself a favor and stay away from these damsels
chaz-2817 April 2012
Damsels in Distress is perhaps the most pretentious screenplay ever filmed. I imagine there was a more comprehensible first draft and then writer/director Whit Stillman (The Last Days of Disco) pulled the thesaurus off the shelf and went to work. These damsels come across more as ridiculous caricatures than actual flesh and blood characters; nobody could retain any sort of patience around people who talk nonsense the way these girls do.

Lily (Analeigh Tipton) arrives as a new transfer student to Seven Oaks University. During orientation, a group of girls seemingly pick her out at random to join their group; perhaps it is because her name fits the floral naming scheme. Violet (Greta Gerwig) is the leader of the bunch followed by her one-dimensional acolytes, Heather (Carrie MacLemore) and Rose (Megalyn Echikunwoke). Violet talks incessantly about the goals of the group which include finding and improving boys who are not particularly good looking or intelligent and staffing the volunteer Suicide Prevention Center. The answer as to why a somewhat normal Lily would so eagerly say yes to joining up with this gang and rooming with them is not forthcoming, but then again, there would be no film if she did not.

Seven Oaks is not your normal university. Instead of a Greek system, they have Roman Letter Houses. So many students are depressed that they take to jumping off the roof of the education building; unfortunately it is only two stories tall so instead of killing themselves they only maim. As for suicide prevention, the route to recovery is neither mood altering pills or talk therapy, but tap dancing led by an instructor calling himself Freak Astaire (Nick Blaemire). I told you; pretentious beyond belief.

The damsels have incredibly keen senses of smell and frequently sniff soap whenever unhygienic dorm dwellers walk by. They are also exceptionally open and frank about their feelings. Violet thanks Lily for chastising her for being hypocritical about arrogance and routinely references Lily as better looking and skinnier. This sounds duplicitous on Violet's part, but it is not. She really is that open and sincere...and blatantly towards a more psychotic end of the mental spectrum.

There is no particular plot thread or story arc to tie the action in Damsels in Distress together. It is more random episodes and contrived situations to spur more inane commentary about the student population and the subject of depression. There are men in the film who cause bits of conflict within the group such as Fred Packenstacker (Adam Brody) and Xavier (Hugo Becker) who has an unhealthy infatuation with a sexual maneuver best left unsaid. Furthermore, an undercurrent storyline is blatant stupidity on the part of almost all of the males. One guy does not know primary colors and gets extremely upset when he sees a rainbow and another is fixated on his bean ball.

I want to impress upon you potential viewers out there that Damsels in Distress is truly as awful as it sounds. Great Gerwig, who eats up most of the screen time, was excellent in Greenberg but I have no idea what she is doing here playing an undergraduate; she is noticeable way too old for this role. There are a few laughs in the dialogue but it is not worth sitting through the whole mess to find them. Avoid this calamity at all costs.
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8/10
Damsels is a winning, funny film!
james-t-sheridan21 April 2013
Warning: Spoilers
Sometimes a movie can be annoying, pretentious, or merely static. Sometimes a movie gets you on its side quickly, allowing you to forgive any flaws. I can see how some audiences could react to a social comedy like "Damsels in Distress" with its obvious debts to the works of Jane Austen, its nods to the self-obsessed world of academia, and its sun-dappled walks amongst gorgeous columned buildings. I think this film won me over in its first twenty minutes by being strange and deeply funny, so I decided to go along for the ride. I found myself beaming at the end and really recommend it, though I will understand if you dislike it.

Rose (Megalyn Echikunwoke), one of the lead characters in Whit Stillman's new film "Damsels in Distress," warns the women around her about men who send drinks to them at bars: "What you are describing is a 'playboy' or 'operator move.'" The way that she draws out the syllables in the word had me laughing more and more each time she said it. Rose, along with Violet (Greta Gerwig) and Heather (Carrie MacLemore) form a trio committed to Suicide Prevention at Seven Oaks College, and in the first scene they adopt transfer student Lily (Analeigh Tipton), taking her under the wing and bring her into their world. As Violet hilariously reminds Lily, "Have you heard the expression, prevention is nine tenths the cure? Well, in the case of suicide, it's ten tenths the cure." Violet and her friends upend the social order by selecting guys far below them on the social scale to date: "Take a man who hasn't realized his full potential-or doesn't have much yet...Then help him realize it or find more." Their philosophy involves elaborate dance sequences, long walks through campus, and pillow talk conversations where all four leads share a room. In a loose construction of chapters with cute names, the girls address the major issues of the day: dance crazes, 'operator' types, parties, and the like.

I first discovered Whit Stillman films in college where the Film Society showed "Metropolitan" and "Barcelona." I remember the intelligence of his characters, the commitments to studying upper-crust society mores, and the brilliance of Chris Eigeman. "Damsels in Distress" is Gerwig's film, and as Violet she shines and gives very funny line readings. As an idealized, romantic version of college, Stillman constructs Seven Oaks as a site of warring interests, with the Romans (not Greek system) clashing with the elitist newspaper writers for the Daily Complainer being most amusing. Does everything in the film work? No. Tipton is asked to carry far too much of the storyline on her own which muddles the film. No male character is half as interesting as the female ones. Yet the work of Gerwig and Echikunwoke carry the day, and instead of a cool kids in school film like "Mean Girls" or "Heathers," and instead of an acidic attack on college and dating like Neil LaBute's "The Shape of Things," Stillman focuses on a delightfully aloof, well- intentioned bubble of socially privileged and sheltered women with sharp wit, heartfelt emotions, and the ability to country line dance. From fashion to dialogue, the women seem wonderfully out of joint with their time. No one carries a phone or checks email. It is almost a shame that the men have to be included.
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3/10
Terrible
asc856 October 2012
Warning: Spoilers
I saw this film due to the fact that critical reviews were mostly positive, and I saw the trailer on a DVD I was renting, and it looked good. Boy, did I waste my time with this one. I watched it all the way through, although at about the 15 minute mark, I came close to turning it off. A ridiculous story that seemed like one giant inside joke which I was not a part of. The performances were terrible, including Greta Gerwig, Megalyn Echikunwoke, Hugo Becker and Ryan Metcalf. The only positive thing I will say is that assuming she's actually able to act, Carrie MacLemore will have the break-out career from this group of actors and actresses.

I realize user reviews for each movie on IMDb are self-selective, and not representative of what's out there. That is, people who like a certain movie are more likely to write a review for a film that they like rather than if they disliked it or thought it was just average. But I am stunned that as of this writing, I saw only one other person who disliked this film. Don't be fooled by all the positive reviews...you'll thank me by avoiding this one at all costs.
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1/10
One of the all-time worst
billyweeds4 April 2012
I was very much looking forward to this movie, having admired all of Whit Stillman's previous films, especially his latest, the 1998 "The Last Days of Disco." So I was beyond disappointed to discover that "Damsels in Distress" is virtually unwatchable. Is it pretentious? Hard to describe it that way since it doesn't seem to be trying for anything. People sit around or walk around or dance around and chatter in a kind of language that appears to be spawned on an alien planet. Greta Gerwig, whom I have liked in a couple of other movies, is completely lost and inept spouting the idiot dialogue she's given, and the problem extends to the entire cast. I laughed out loud exactly once. Most of the time I cringed and groaned. The movie is absolutely awful and a must to avoid unless you have been losing sleep and need to catch up. No, scratch that. Insomnia is preferable to this debacle.
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7/10
An amusing indie picteure
rowmorg10 March 2016
Greta Gerwig's unique style is perfect for her role as Heather in this excellent little flick. She sets a moralistic tone and clearly intends to reduce the rate of suicides in her college, which she says are all caused by boys. Boys also stink, and later she adopts a cheap soap which helped her to deal with losing Frank's (incoherent) love. Sadly, none of the boys care. As we learn about Heathers misconceived love for Frank (who is an idiot), we learn that she changed her identity as a child, when she was called Emily Tweeter. She wrestles with suicide, and is saved by the savour of her motel's free soap. The dialogue throughout is excellent. I did not stop laughing. The ending is even more ridiculous as the whole cast does a "Freak" Astaire musical dance.
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2/10
A spectacularly bad return
p-stepien6 January 2013
New student Heather (Carrie MacLemore) enters liberal arts school with high sensibility and goals. Quickly noted by a group of smug conceited self-appointed societal critics Violet Wister (Greta Gerwig), Rose (Megalyn Echikunwoke) and Lily (Analeigh Tipton) she soon becomes accepted as part of their intricate operations. Always taking their cerebral self-awareness to the point of absurdity they exist in some self-created universe, where they attempt to break apart conventions and break down every behaviour to its bare necessity. Treating dorm inhabitants as underprivileged and in need of special care, opening a 'suicide prevention centre' focused on step dancing and handing out doughnuts, or attempting to create a world-wide dance craze, the group thrives on the absurd. The movie follows this inexplicable grouping by creating for them their own awkward reality of student life, far apart from the norm, instead placed somewhere in some sort of "Cruel Intentions" limbo, but without the cruelty or having any intentions, sprinkled with a touch of Wes Anderson alternate reality.

Born in the head of Whit Stillman, "Damsels in Distress" is his supposed big comeback after 13 years of creative hell. Apparently for him such a long divide from filmmaking largely incapacitated his abilities to deliver a flowing narrative, instead focusing on figments of audacious quirkiness, not a far cry from the cult "Rushmore". Overbearing with dry humour delivered under languishing tirades made by characters, Stillman seems like the fabricator of a long inside joke, to which only he is privy. Cutting apart the pieces of dialogue does guarantee finding some pretty wry inspiring writing, but the overall cumbersome triviality delivered with a monotone fashion hardly infuses interest. Much like in any Wes Anderson universe the reality is molded by characters living a seemingly disparate set of laws and rules, but here they are much less coherent. Basically anyone disliking Anderson is bound to revolt against "Damsels in Distress", but even those akin with his sensibility and focus on eccentricity are not guaranteed satisfaction in this groggy and obscured satire. Fronted by distinctly cold characters "Damsels in Distress" has no charm, instead permeating with a sense of frigid pointlessness of its choppy narrative.
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8/10
Nostalgic for me
jmcg0290818 October 2013
I'm 72. This was a nostalgia movie for me, bringing back memories of the smart and funny and arch women from various elite colleges in the NY-New England area. Yes, people used to talk like this. We preferred a variety of humorous styles, but the arch, self-ironic, pseudo- pretentious style of this movie was a favorite.

The title of the university - Seven Oaks - suggests the Seven Sisters, seven intellectually and socially elite all women's colleges that were "sisters" to the Ivy League universities. The presentation of the men suggests Dartmouth.

In a way this is an inversion of the "Taming of the Shrew." The women set out to tame, civilize and domesticate the crude men. Instead both humanize each other. The men's sensibilities and perceptions are refined. The women become less defensive and pretentious and less afraid of expressing their affectionate side.

The men I knew, however, were equally intelligent and wryly ironic and self-mocking. But cruder forms of humor and behavior were also appreciated.

Smart young people really did used to try to "rewrite" lives, their own and those they knew. These efforts were resisted and subverted in various ways but the effort went on. Smart people can be very wrong in their perceptions of themselves and others. But, as this movie, points out, they can learn.

Part of the charm of this movie is that it pokes affectionate fun at the "improvers" but actually shows their efforts succeeding, in somewhat unexpected ways. People eventually get the quirky humanity of themselves and others right.

P.S. You did not need to be from a privileged family in those days to fall into rarified world of the liberal arts college. Poor boys could go to college on partial and state scholarships and summer work was normally sufficient to cover the other expenses. It was normal to graduate debt free. That freedom from debt liberated the young to "waste time" on "useless" learning, bold adventures, and experiments with self-identity. the time to be pragmatic and career oriented could come later
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7/10
Distressed Damsels.
morrison-dylan-fan20 July 2013
Warning: Spoilers
With having greatly enjoyed seeing Greta Gerwig reveal herself as "the queen of Mumblecore" in the delightful movie Lola Vs,I was thrilled to recently receive another Gerwig Mumblecore title from a very kind friend,which led to me excitingly getting ready to see Gerwig become a "damsel" in distress.

The plot:

Being the only new person to enrol in the college during its mid semester,new student Lily finds herself alone and without any friends at all.Deciding to try and become an accepted member of one of the many "sub-groups" that are based around the college campus,Lily soon notices a self-important looking,all-girl group based on the campus,who claim to be a gang that is attempting to help other students from suffering feelings of suicide or depression,by showing them all how they can each express their true feelings,by dancing.

Getting granted entry into the group by leading member Violet,Lily soon finds her original image of the gang being a bunch of idiots to slowly disappear,as Violet and the rest of the group reveal their native,but well meaning ideas to improve moral on the campus.

View on the film:

Whilst the decision to set the movie in the middle of the college period,does lead to the character's in writer/director Whit Stillman's screenplay to not feel as fully formed as they could have been,due to Stillman deciding to only share the bare minimal information about the character's background lives,Stillman makes up for the lack of depth in the character's,by giving the college and its inhabitants an infectious,off-beat atmosphere.

Along with making the bouncing dialogue hilariously blunt and to the point,Stillman matches the strong dialogue by giving the movie a thick Black Comedy streak,which goes from the gang having to check that people are actually feeling suicidal,due to a donuts company telling the women that they are limited to giving free donuts only to those who are genuinely suicidal,to the main centre piece of the college being the most useless suicide bridge ever built,which is "Too low for anyone to kill themselves by jumping off",but is too high in stopping the students from not suffering from injured knees.

Expressing the character's feeling in a rather subtle manner,Stillman and cinematography Doug Emmett cleverly use a mix of very light yellow and extremely dark blue colours to show Violet and the gangs changing moods,that along with a terrific ensemble performance from the whole gang,which goes from a warm hearted Greata Gerwig to a wickedly sly Megalyn Echikunwoke,makes this group of damsels one that is defiantly worth distressing over.
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7/10
That other college movie
kosmasp17 June 2013
Of course in Germany they changed the title into "Algebra in Love". Which kind of is something that is in the movie too, but of course the original title is way better. Although I guess it might be confusing for some who don't have a clue what they are watching too. It just states what situation the women in the movie are. But in a different way than some would imagine.

Gerwig is great in her offbeat role, but the support cast is helping too. It's a tough theme and script to pull off (as can be seen in some commentaries here on IMDb too), but while it won't reach everyone, I think it will reach enough people who will like/love it.
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6/10
Quietly Subversive With Weird Offshoots
museumofdave17 February 2013
I found this perfectly gauged trifle a delight, a deadpan satire which deliberately keeps its targets muted, the four main characters not unlike something one might find in an 18th Century drawing room, chatting about inconsequentials, but in their own way attempting to drag some significance from a trivial life. How refreshing to see a film with young twenty-somethings not having to express themselves with solely with four-letter words or the dreaded "awesome" because they lack imagination; these folks actually have vocabularies! While no masterpiece by any means, this is a gentle look at maturation, a lightly barbed look at young women that keeps its claws drawn in
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1/10
Abysmal, 2011's worst film
Dave Thomas28 December 2011
Painful, self-consciously quirky 'comedy' with no plot, failing to tell the story of several idiotic, unlikeable characters and their attempts to find love. One of the 5 worst films I've been unfortunate enough to encounter, and I've seen Sextette and Terror of Tiny Town (look them up and realise the full depths that Damsels In Distress reaches). This isn't even bad in the sense of The Room, where at least the results are laughable - quite the opposite, despite this allegedly being a comedy. The cast is awful, but special mention must go to Greta Gerwig as Violet. On the strength of this un-performance, we can only hope she's never cast in anything else. Save yourselves! Avoid this movie at all costs! Spend your time and money doing something more pleasant, like having a root canal.
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4/10
Pretentious, ignorant, arrogant... and that's just the characters
Igenlode Wordsmith30 October 2011
I'm not sure why this film was selected as a special 'Members' Reward' screening for the London Film Festival, as it is very, very American -- probably much funnier for those familiar with the culture represented. As it was, the buzz among the audience after the end of the show was not enthusiastic.

For my own part, I'm afraid comedies of social embarrassment make me acutely uncomfortable, and I dislike even more situations in which pretentious, arrogant, ignorant people make fools of themselves by exposing themselves in public: the argument where one girl insists that Xavier must be spelt with a 'zee' (and then her queen-bee friend overrides her with an even more pretentiously ignorant explanation) is a prime example of what really raised my hackles in this film. It's just not the sort of thing I like at all; I don't think there's a sympathetic character left by the end, and meanwhile we're supposed to be spending our time laughing at these cliques and freaks sneering at each other. I prefer my films more sweet-natured than this.

Because I was cringing so much I felt that the picture also went on far too long; views of those who were enjoying it may vary.
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