Damsel (2018) Poster

(I) (2018)

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Absurdist take on the old west experience.
TxMike3 November 2018
My wife and I watched this at home on DVD from our public library. I wanted to see it mainly for the actors, knowing little about the actual story.

It was written and directed by the Zellner brothers, and each has a featured role in the movie. The basic story is a man, Robert Pattinson as Samuel, heads west to find his damsel who he thinks has been kidnapped. He plans to rescue her and ask her to marry him. The damsel is Mia Wasikowska as Penelope.

The opening scene sets the tone, David Zellner plays a man new to the west, fascinated by the prospect of meeting real Indians, and waits for the stagecoach with an old pioneer (Robert Forster) who is tired and headed east. The stagecoach doesn't show up but the old man gives away his belongings including a tattered bible, so the new man takes on the name Parson Henry.

There is no advantage in describing the story in greater detail, suffice to say Samuel has a total misunderstanding of the situation and it doesn't turn out well for him. When the movie was over we were both a bit puzzled as to why this particular story was put to film and what the filmmakers were really trying to accomplish.

I cannot recommend it to anyone I know.
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Unusual western Warning: Spoilers
I'm well into my 70's and it seemed as though half the movies of my youth were westerns. So i'm tired of the typical approach. Who has something new for me?

Well, the Zellers deliver a comedic western that kept me involved the whole way through. Starting with an unusual looking character arriving in a rowboat with a crate holding a miniature palomino horse. He shows up in a town full of characters that make him seem almost normal.

It turns out he's there to meet a "preacher" and to find and marry the girl of his dreams. In the film intro we see him dancing with this girl. Well, it's been a couple years since his contact with her and his focus is such that he hasn't considered the girl might not be of like mind. When that turns out to be the case, it turns out he's become so obsessed with this marriage he's become downright delusional. Things, to put it mildly, don't go his way.

The Zellers seem to have a deft touch with delusional characters. In Kumiko, The Treasure Hunter, Kumiko is beautifully portrayed with great empathy. Here, our "hero" is shown to be equally possessed, and while both characters meet their demise, I felt great empathy for both. Unlike Kumiko, our "hero" finds out what he wants will not be his. Even though he had no reasonable expectation of success, I still felt empathy for him.

The "Damsel" was played straight by Mia Wasikowska with no humor coming directly from her, and you can't blame her. I was reminded of the Coen Brothers True Grit and the way Hailee Steinfeld played Mattie Ross -- all business (even though her wicked sarcasm did elicit a few laughs). It created a great contrast to the rest of the not-so-usual characters.

I saw this film at The Baltimore Film Festival and can't wait to see it again. I know there were a number of funny spots and sight gags I missed the first time through. I also appreciated it for the Zellers' breaking of traditional western genre molds. While not as high on my list as the Coen's True Grit or Fred Schepisi's Barbarosa, Damsel is a worth addition to my "oddball western" list. It's also a worthy follower to the wonderful Kumiko. I'm going to keep my eye on the Zellers and can't wait for their next film!
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A tragic farce.
buyamonkey22 March 2018
Warning: Spoilers
There are very few farces made these days, so people aren't very used to the exaggerated and non-realistic elements of this genre. It's the same reason some of the Coen Brother movies don't connect with mainstream audiences. This time it's the Zellner Brothers, and they double down on the unusual genre elements by making it a farcical western. But if you're down for some off-beat cinema, what the Zellner's do here is pretty fantastic.

As farces do, the story here takes some pretty drastic bait and switch turns as it sets up Pattinson's character as the traditional western hero - yet still gives you signs that all is not right with this guy. Indeed, he's a very bad man. And things get very tragic and slightly disturbing when he meets his love - the damsel who is not in distress until he shows up.

I'll refrain from further spoilers, but I feel like people react to farces like the directors or writers don't know what they're doing. They do. And this one is a good one in that it packs more than one tragic punch by the end. The characters in this movie long to be part of something they can't and being part of. And it being the ruthless wild west, even if they get a moment's peace, it can be quickly taken away by violent men.

I think this one might have legs as a bit of a cult movie, hopefully. It's not for everyone but that's all right. Looking forward to what else these original and imaginative filmmakers will come up with.
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The most dreadfully boring movie I've ever seen
ezepeda-821-96778526 July 2018
I work at a small independent theater and almost want to actively discourage people from seeing this. I understand that time and energy went into this but it was just such a waste of time.
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Why Bother With This Movie?
Moviereeeels129 May 2019
... there is no good reason to spend time with this movie, yes great scenery, great acting, the two leads are great, but the story is slow, boring and empty. I felt that a group of friend made a movie for themselves and all i was there for is to give them my money and get nothing in return!
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What IS it with these awful "neo-westerns?"
mymangodfrey2 July 2018
Are film schools and institutes like Sundance and AFI giving young filmmakers some sort of mandatory class on "revisionist westerns?" I get the feeling that every grant-supported filmmaker is in some sort of race to make the world's most boring "lyrical reimagining of the west." The Ballad of Lefty Brown seemed like the nadir for this genre, but Damsel just said "hold my beer."

This may be the world's first Twitter Western. It seems to have been made for the limited purpose of being praised on blogs and in Facebook by milquetoast NPR liberals: the kind who can't tell the difference between Naomi Klein and Gina Haspel. The movie is polite enough, at least, to essentially tell you exactly what to say in your laudatory blog post or tweet; the subtext is essentially the text.

Damsel squanders beautiful photography, an evocative score, and a dream cast on hours of tedium, terrible attempts at absurdist comedy with sub-Mad-Magazine daffiness ("You are convicted of skullduggery, skullthuggery, and skullbuggery"), and cringe-inducing audience pandering. (Does it count as a spoiler if I tell you that all white men are rapists and racists?)

Before the big twist a third of the way in, the movie is tiring but bearable (like Meek's Cutoff but with bad jokes and great music). The twist adds five minutes of surprises and interest - and then the next hour or so is essentially the filmmakers running out the clock, hoping to drag this pile to feature length.

When your movie makes The Little Hours and Your Highness look like Bicycle Thieves and Rashomon, you're not on your way into the canon.
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Good concept, non-Coen, non-Brooks wit.
jdesando12 July 2018
"The Old West is not a certain place in a certain time; it's a state of mind. It's whatever you want it to be. -" Tom Mix

I should have liked the Zellner brothers' Western comedy, Damsel, much better than I did. It has elements of Mel Brooks and the Coen brothers when they mine the satire of a genre very long in the tooth. The difference: writing.

Brooks with his inspired goofiness (Blazing Saddles) and the Coens with their light-hearted larceny (Raising Arizona), have characters using language much smarter than they are, whereas The Zellners' lines are deadpan but dull even though they use elevated diction as the Coens so often do. Using contemporary lingo like "win win" and "real deal" doesn't titillate as it should. In addition, Zellners' language lacks strong affinity with bigger issues.

Samuel (Robert Pattinson), a rich pioneer, engages a sham preacher, Henry (David Zellner), to officiate at Samuel's wedding to Penelope (Mia Wasikowska). In their journey with a miniature horse, gift to Penelope (not the waiting Penelope of the Odyssey), the two must deal with their naiveté and the vagaries of raw Western staples like rot-gut whiskey, duplicitous Indians, and bad campfire ballads (Samuel's ballad to Penelope, called My Honeybun, is a weak companion to Brooks' notorious campfire scene)

While this set-up is rich fodder for satire, most of the jokes fall as flat as Penelope's affect and as dry as the joke about a fool in a barrel being strung up for no obvious reasons. Westerns are ripe for satire, but the flat line here comes not from the fine performances but the tepid minimalist script and uninspired cinematography.

Wasikowska is marvelous as the independent and bitter love interest, Pattinson showing once again that he is much more than a teen heart-throb. The Zellners have the right motif about loneliness; they just need to beef up the languid language and droll action.
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Failed comedic farse
brillig-26 July 2018
Warning: Spoilers
I went into the theater having not even watched a trailer, so I didn't know what to expect. One of the first scenes showed two men waiting for stage coaches going in opposite directions in a landscape that was hot, dry, and windless (although there was wind whistling in the background). Perhaps that wind noise should have been a hint to me that the movie was supposed to be a farce.

The movie fails as a western. Unfortunately, it also fails as a farce. A farce is supposed to have humor. I didn't laugh or even smile once during the movie. I didn't hear anyone else in the theater laughing either.

Were there any redeeming qualities to the movie? Sure: picturesque cinematography and a nice dance scene.

Don't read further if you intend to see the movie. What follows is spoilers of some of the intended farcical elements. In my opinion, they all fell flat.

Were there farcical moments? Yes: the saloon pianist is Landon Weeks (watch some youtube videos of him for better entertainment), the miniature horse carried a load: a bird cage containing a chicken, a laughing man dressed in a barrel hanged on the gallows (still in his barrel), a man shot from behind in the head while urinating continues urinating after falling backward, bent double-barreled shotgun effectively used as a threat, Bible pages being used for hygiene, man shot through chest with arrow falls on dynamite plunger thus exploding himself....

I found none of these funny or amusing. This movie was easily the worst movie of the year so far for me.
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Hack millennial subversion attempt
damselsucks11 July 2018
What a piece of crap. I've seen movies that were worse, but few that I deeply wanted to leave early more or that pissed me off as much. It has *some* merit (beautifully shot, a couple amusing moments). But ultimately: millennial garbage par excellence. These two brothers wrote and directed it, and they clearly think they are the Coen brothers with a hint of Wes Anderson for whimsy. What's more, they stole their take on male hope-projection onto a beautiful women from a much better film: There's Something About Mary.

In attempting to subvert masculine cowboy tropes, they made a hack film of a different sort: one that is accepted because it panders to popular opinion among people who go to the renovated art house movie theater in the part of town they gentrified with their trust fund bucks. It isn't that the opinion is wrong or uninteresting in and of itself, it's just relayed in this film in such a hack, lazy, glib, boring way by people certain they're more clever than they are.

It would have taken an amazing female lead to overcome the middle-school quality writing and all-too woke directing; their naturalistic take on zany Wes Anderson-movie dialogue was excruciating in certain scenes and I could have easily believed a teenager wrote it. But what was committed to film was one of the worst performances I've ever seen by an actor. To believe this woman was capable of starring in this or any picture is a strong indication you're as irrationally obsessed with her as the film's characters.

The result of all of this is a movie only certain people could enjoy: privileged white young women who can't get enough of having their shallow politics pandered to and the men who subconsciously know they must share the same opinions if they want a social life, so they self-righteously and vociferously do: in other words, woke drama queens who will their victimhood while boasting their empowerment and their male allies (tm)/hangers on.

Great movies don't pander. They make people find unlikely surrogates. True subversion requires excellence and subtlety this film doesn't come close to touching as it bashes its hack message into the faces of too many grateful to be bludgeoned with their own ideas. It doesn't even require pretentious art house claptrap to attempt to subvert. Blockbusters like The Hunger Games--a film where the damsel is literally a cute, cake-baking boy who is saved by the ass-kicking heroine--do much more to change expectations and advance gender relations. That's in no small part because that movie is well crafted. It's a good movie to a broad audience (no pun intended). Damsel preaches sloppily to its own choir of loathsome millennial hipsters. I'd be just as pissed off watching a Kurt Cameron loves Jesus movie that pandered to evangelicals, and I'd be pissed for for the same exact reason. However, what's really troubling is the thought that this is the future of media post #MeToo. Indeed, that's scarier than Hereditary.
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Pretentious Western... trying to be edgy
clarkmick3327 June 2019
This film should have been a short film and it may have been good... but it felt drawn out to its full film length .... at first the dialogue was interesting and whimsical but then became pretentious and obvious .... there were parts when the actors seemed in character with a western accent and ye olde vocabulary and there were others where they seemed to make no effort at all just throwing out modern slang and slander like dropping f bombs... it just threw you out of the movie. The twist I could see a mile off..... however all the actors felt like they just came "on set" clothing looking fresh. Some of the dialogue between the characters goes no where.... which is you feel at the end of the film .... just gone none where.
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not interesting
yamahapic5 June 2019
The acting of each artist is ok but the story is boring, not interesting. it is a waste of time
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All right western comedy
Alexander_Blanchett17 February 2018
It was all right but nothing to write home about. Surprisingly funny at times tho. Robert Pattinson gives a solid enough performance, I did not expect that he can do comedy but in that film he did it better than the dramatic scenes that he dramatically overacted. The concept itself was good on paper but the Zellner bros failed with the execution at times. David Zellner gives a very solid performance in the film, possibly the best of the film. Mia Wasikowska was also fine but there were scenes she overacted as well. The soundtrack was pretty good and I liked the general look of the film, not only the cinematography but also the production design was good, although the film apparently had a limited budget. Its still nothing I would desire to watch again any time soon as it did not do anything inspiring (except maybe the narrative, which was at times a bit unexpected) . It had also some cute moments.
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Method to the madness.
LifeVsArt12 May 2018
This is not your grandfather's western. For those who have seen the Zellner's "Kumiko, the Treasure Hunter" you will recognize their unique sensibility but find even that won't prepare you for the monumental turnaround taken in this strange, absurdist, feminist comedy/drama. Avoid spoilers at all cost, just go in with whatever expectation you may have and allow the Zellners to take you on a wild ride that, along the way, has a lot of slapstick but also some very substantial ideas on the relationship between the sexes - reality vs illusion, etc. The acting is topnotch. Robert Pattinson acquits himself wonderfully in this farcical frontier - he has a real comedic sense that is tapped in his loony over-the-top Romantic character. Mia Wasikowska is a total powerhouse as Penelope, expressing so much with her face and body - she takes the movie by the throat and rides it off into the surreal sunset. Wasikowska is the beating heart of a movie that has both zany episodes and surprising pathos. The more distance I get from "Damsel" the more I think about it and the more I realize there is a definite method to the Zellner's madness. This is a bold film that takes great risks - we need more movies like this that don't settle for playing it safe.
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Comedic (North)Western
beorhhouse12 September 2018
Much funnier than I imagined it would be. All actors play amazing, well-rounded characters. There is loads of cursing and quite a bit of blood, but overall this film is a cross between the outrageous humor of My Name Is Nobody and the dead seriousness of The Long Riders. This is not one of those "Westerns" where everything is re-imagined into a porno flick (taking us back to the 70s with The Great Scout and Cathouse Thursday) or an unbelievable bloodbath (Django Unchained). This is how the West really was--filled with mumbling, bumbling, stumbling real people--most of them nefarious--trying to conquer a vast space of land without community, love for nature or God, and the law of the heart.
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Difficult Watch
larrys34 October 2018
With very deliberate pacing and dark humor that seldom works effectively, this movie just added up to a difficult watch for me. Robert Pattinson and Mia Wasikowska are fine actors but they can only do so much with this flat script. Save yourself the trek.
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Gentzen27 October 2018
When all there is to a movie is an academic exercise in "deconstructing" the genre, without either a point to make, a story to tell, or formal innovation as a means to convey non-typical narratives via the western genre. When a spectator can see the attempt at wit and the tinkering with "cliches" coming up hours before they happen (and you can't even find that they make some sort of new sense). When the movie leaves even well-meant (and by no means unsophisticated) spectators bemused and pondering what the point was to it all. Then your movie will have the same fate that tons and tons of cultural studies papers are destined for, following a brief spell of mandatory plaudits by the cabal crowd: passing to oblivion without any effect. Distress, rather than Damsel, should have been the title here.
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blynetter17 March 2018
This is the only film we walked out on at SXSW. There is nothing funny in this film. Someone told me it was supposed be a feminist version of a western. If true, all women should be insulted by it.
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A Weird Western tale that kept getting weirder, but better.
subxerogravity25 June 2018
Warning: Spoilers
Perfect for Robert Patterson who is a weird looking guy when not playing a vampire which best fits his face. Of course I only say that cause that was the first time I herd of the dude.

I had a feeling that the damsel was an ironically titled movie and I was right. The synopsis tales a story of a good Christian boy out to save his fiance, and Patterson played this role so perfectly that it somewhat put a fault in the plot. I knew something was coming.

Not a too over the top twist but the low key bizarre done was perfect.
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Pointless feminist propaganda held up by exceptional technical prowess
mtrusk9 July 2018
This is "subversionist western" at its least emotional. There's a very good movie somewhere in this script, but the Zellners arent wise enough to execute to their full potential here. The cinematography, score, and acting (especially from David Zellner who channels the best of Woody Harrelson to combine it with a wimpier persona) all shoot well above par, making watching Damsel rather enjoyable. There are isolated moments that approach near perfection, but unlike better Westerns there is not the tonal confidence to glue the rest together. The Zellners set up rather intriguing backstories for the characters only to never explain them and squander the runtime on a three-quarters-baked attempt at cranking up a Coen brothers blend of comedy. It's usually very funny and well meaning, but I can't quite shake the feeling that this movie would have done better without repeated depictions of how strong the lone female character is against a slew of weak-minded males. The message is fine, but the time spent on it and the hammer over the head tone is apalling at times. It feels like they ran out of things to write about in the middle of the second act. In the end this movie gives you a lot to chew on but not much to really sink your teeth into.
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A Real Treat
socratesadamo21 January 2019
DAMSEL is a new kind of western by the Zellner brothers, who I have been a fan of since their film KUMIKO a few years ago. This one stars Robert Pattinson, who I didn't used to like although I changed my mind after seeing GOOD TIME.

This film is just as good as either of those, with its own thing going on. It's fun and different, a new kind of western for a new generation along the same lines of others such as SLOW WEST and THE BALLAD OF BUSTER SCRUGGS. Highly recommend.
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Do you love Marmite?
jql_longhurst22 August 2018
If you want John Wayne, or Unforgiven, steer clear. If you want a peppermint toothpaste of a Western, that has great casting and intelligent quirks, you'll love it. I loved this movie.
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My kind of western
pahvou10 January 2019
I really enjoyed this movie. I love movies with great dialog and this one is full of it. The characters are also priceless. I'm not going into the movie any further in a effort to avoid any spoilers, but I have to add this movie has one of the greatest endings of all time.
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Damsel (2018)
rockman1825 July 2018
Praise be for independent films. This probably isn't something that will be on many people's radars because its not exactly popular. I saw this a few weeks back and actually forgot to write a review so here goes. I haven't seen anything from David Zellner although I have wanted to watch Kumiko, the Treasure Hunter since forever. After watching Damsel I've got to say this is actually a really sharply funny and interesting take on a western.

The film starts off being about a man who brings a present (a miniature horse) for his lover. He also hires a drunk pastor to officiate their wedding. When he does travel the land to visit her he realizes that things may not be so straight forward. Now we get a film that covers death, love, and random occurrences that happen on the characters' journey in the West. The film stars Robert Pattinson, Mia Wasikowska, and David Zellner (the director of the film).

Went in not really knowing what to expect, which is actually a great thing because you don't have any expectations. I found points of this film to be extremely entertaining. Its a funny western. The characters, their actions, and consequences are humorous. The film also pulls no punches as there are plenty of surprises in plot along the way. You can't really judge Pattinson on Twilight fame because he was fantastic in Good Time and shows that he has a knack to be a funny dope in Damsel. Mia Wasikowska is one of my favorite actresses today and I think she's absolutely excellent in everything and she is quality here as a foul mouthed, independent, gun wielding damsel in this film.

I do like most western's but its not often I can see a uniquely entertaining and funny one. That is the case here and I love how the film wasn't afraid to take risks with its characters and the events in the film. Its fresh and pretty fantastic. I'm close to giving this film an 8/10, but I think I need to give it a re-watch before giving it that seal of approval. I really need to get on watching Kumiko now.

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Damsel in Distress??¿¿
westsideschl30 September 2018
Many may not know, but one of the very classical (meaning really old) themes in "Westerns" (and other period dramas I suppose, e.g. Middle Ages & earlier knights) is the stereotypical manly male off to rescue the fair lady (damsel). Which if you think of it, is rather sexist.

The first sign of odd in this 1870s movie is the sheltered bus (i.e. stage) stop (made of left over timbers) in the middle, and I mean middle, of a Utah or Arizona desert. Nothing but red rock in all directions. Sitting in this bus stop are two strangers chatting & waiting for their ride (stage coach). How they got there - who knows. The next scene is just as odd - one of the travelers who is now in his Union suit (i.e. red long johns) walk-wanders off into the sunset framed by red sandstone. So, I am beginning to think this is no ordinary Western. Continuing the strange is a strange mini-horse arriving out of nowhere in a rowboat in what appears to be a desolate shoreline. And so it continues, and continues, until I eventually figure could this be a parody with a sardonic burlesque look at not only the Western, but the continuing male view of women being incapable of taking care of themselves. Anyway, towards the end, one highlight was a Native American speaking nearly grammatically/phonetically perfect English as the script, again, plays with his stereotype.

Some minor goofs, maybe: Clothes suddenly clean; an eaten chicken w/four leg bones. The not goofs; Repeating rifle can hold up to 17 shots; terms like "technically", "neophyte" "et cetera", "butterscotch" are terms used for many decades prior.
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waist of time
arjost20 April 2019
Worst film i seen this century. I think its the worst film i ever seen .. well maybe the blair witch project .................................................................................................................................................................................................................
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