Thursday, April 4, 2013

D is for Damsels in Distress


USA, 2011
Running Length: 99 minutes
Cast: Greta Gerwig, Adam Brody, Analeigh Tipton, Megalyn Echikunwoke
Director:  Whit Stillman
Screenplay: Whit Stillman
Cinematography: Doug Emmett

I knew going into this film that there was a 50-50 chance of me liking it.  I hated Stillman’s last film, The Last Days of Disco, but liked his first, Metropolitan.  This one left me more bemused than feeling either like or dislike for it.

Set at a fictitious college called Seven Oaks, the film centres on a group of girls whose sole ambition is to make the school a nicer place.  In their pretty floral dresses, they stand out amidst the casual jeans-clad students.  They are extremely vocal too, unafraid of voicing opinions that will be considered unpopular.

Their ideas for making college a better place are ridiculously na├»ve.  At a suicide prevention center they hand out doughnuts and encourage depressed students to tap dance.  They go to parties with the intention of picking up boys who are their social and academic inferiors because those boys need help more than the popular ones.

And the boys…  Oh my, are they doofuses (or is that doufi?).  Most endearing is Thor, the young man who has made it to college without ever knowing his colors (hey, I did say they were doufi, right?).

The dialogue is oddly paced and would sound stilted if not for the conviction the actors say it with, which could actually be said about everything in this film from the characters to the plot. 

The person I saw this with commented afterward that the girls were like the comic relief characters that pop up in other movies to do something funny then fade into the background again, and this is an apt description.  By putting these secondary characters in the foreground, and basing the entire film around them, Stillman has made something that’s quirky, unique and not quite as absorbing or as interesting as it could be.

I didn’t love it, but I didn’t hate it either.  I just didn’t think it really worked.


  1. You see some of the most interesting movies... I tend to like quirky, so I may have to look this one up. :)

  2. I like the idea of using a typical secondary character as the lead, but it rarely works. There's a reason the formula has worked so well for so long. :)

  3. I was curious about this film mostly because I know Megalyn Echikunwoke, a lovely young lady who was a star in my son's high school drama program. It would be nice to see her again. Thanks for writing about unusual films. For this challenge, I'm sticking to the films and people I myself know from the Roger Corman world. Do join me sometime at