Rating: 1 out of 5 stars
Run Time: 1 hour 39 minutes, Rated PG-13
Starring: Greta Gerwig, Carrie MecLamore, Megalyn Echikunwoke, Analeigh Tipton
Written & Directed by Whit Stillman (Metropolitan, Barcelona, The Last Days of Disco)
There is no saving Damsels in Distress from itself. I’m pretty sure that the filmmaker and writer, Whit Stillman, intended for this to be a quirky and smart comedy, but what was meant as an exercise in deadpan humor comes across as just plain dead.
From the very first moment of the film, the tone is off-step and off-putting. Indy darling Greta Gerwig and her two friends (played by Carrie MacLemore and Megalyn Echikunwoke) set out to revolutionize the campus of fictional Seven Oaks College, a place where every college stereotype seemingly exists. These damsels believe in old-fashioned feminism mixed with a belief that they must find suitable male partners that are inferior, as this is the only way that the women can help them. When fresh meat Lily arrives on campus (the charming but lost Analeigh Tipton), the trio of women pounce at the opportunity to teach Lily – and the audience – about their hilariously eccentric beliefs toward life, dance and relationships.
Except none of it is funny. There is a smarmy know-it-all air to the entire film that permeates through the screen, warding off any would-be interested audience members like the plague. There is nothing worse than an uncool film strutting around like it’s the Fonz.
Greta Gerwig is the snobbish center of the film, and we are supposed to believe that her intentions are good and charitable. Isn’t it funny or ironic how she sees life? Not to me. Worst of all, none of these characters change over the course of the film, resulting in a monotony only matched be the acerbic dialogue.
There are no real people at Seven Oaks, and therefore nothing to cling to or care about. The frat boys of Seven Oaks make John Belushi’s Animal House guys look like Rhodes Scholars. Indeed, if the women are looking for inferior men to save, they should look no further than the exhausted clichés that flow from the pen of Whit Stillman.
Just when things couldn’t possibly get any worse, the girls create a new dance craze called the “Sambola,” and wouldn’t you know, the film ends with a huge dance number that I guess is supposed to leave us feeling happy. What it did instead was convince me that this film is for nobody really, a glimpse at an alien world featuring extraneously dull creatures. For that reason, it should be thought of more as sci-fi than comedy.
The only redeeming quality I could find was actress Carrie MacLemore, making her feature-film debut here as one of Gerwig’s sidekicks. She was sexy, funny, and seemed to have the charm and skill to be a real actor. Maybe one day she’ll get to play a real part.
It’s acceptable to portray a know-it-all on film, but ground her in reality please. These damsels may have been in distress, but audience members may categorize their experience watching Damsels in Distress as torment.
Opens locally on Friday, May 4th, 2012
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