Damsels in Distress
Directed by: Whit Stillman
Cast: Greta Gerwig, Analeigh Tipton, Adam Brody
Running Time: 1 hr 40 mins
Release Date: April 13, 2012
PLOT: A comedy about a group of college coeds (led by Gerwig) who try to save their fellow students from being sad and smelling bad, despite the fact that they could use some help themselves.
WHO’S IT FOR?: Damsels in Distress is for those who like their comedies very dry, especially films that amuse themselves most of all.
A dark and snarky comedy with lots of sunlight and a couple of tap dance sequences, Damsels in Distress is a bizarre commentary that doesn’t just talk about college, or frictions between the opposite sex. With the arcs of its title characters, (and male characters “Their Distress,” as they are hilariously billed in the beginning), Damsels in Distress acutely touches upon a whole span of subjects, including organized religion, the potential of higher education, suicide, self-identity, dancing, and of course, large posteriors. Each and every bit of this story is put through writer/director Stillman’s funnel of irony, and then understated in the process. If you’re scratching your head, you get the point. Damsels in Distress is an odd, thoughtful creature, and a very funny one at that.
The leader of this movie is undeniably Gerwig, who sets the pace and tone for the film with her character Violet (who leads the Stepford coeds in their bizarre adventures). Violet is a solid and believable fit for the actress’ super dry and incredibly quirky presence. Even more so than we’ve seen her do in many roles before, Gerwig flatlines her dialogue delivery so intensely that its badness has to be intentional, (it just has to!) Such a deadpan character wouldn’t work without Damsel’s love for the unusual, and it certainly wouldn’t fit for many actors other than Gerwig.
Aside from Gerwig, Damsels features a collection of young actors who are well in tune with the movies dryness, and play into the ridiculousness of their characters. For example, former heart throb Adam Brody plays a goofy version of the playboy, with questionable intentions but a ridiculous game plan to woo women (primarily, the Damsels).
Standing out from the rest is Analeigh Tipton, who plays the newest “Damsel” Lily as if she were the audience’s perspective embedded into the film’s on-screen bubble campus. With a vulnerable presence, she doesn’t bring any of her own bizarreness, but instead is brainwashed into having some of her own.
The humor of this movie is incredibly dry, with a great amount of the laughs coming from characters completely missing out on the obvious. To give an example here would be to ruin a good joke, especially since such guffaws require the specific mood that this movie is entrenched in. The script’s jokes can be found in all of the small details of the movie’s larger picture of college life. Inside and out, however, Damsels in Distress is colored by the special self-amusement that makes Damsels so unique and comically compelling.
FINAL SCORE: 7/10