Damsels In Distress Movie Review

Funny, fizzy and packed with astute observations, this endearing film can't help but make us smile. It's perhaps overly mannered and obtuse, but anyone looking for originality in the cinema won't be able to resist it.

Lily (Tipton) transfers to a rather pathetic New England university, where she's immediately adopted by the obsessive-compulsive Violet (Gerwig) who, with cohorts Rose and Heather (Echikunwoke and MacLemore), runs a centre for the rather large number of suicidal students. Lily starts dating two guys - charmer Charlie (Brody) and seducer Xavier (Becker) - just as Violet catches her dim-bulb boyfriend Frank (Metcalfe) snogging one of the depressed girls (Fitzgerald). And things start to get increasingly complicated for everyone.

The central question is whether it's possible to overcome self-involvement and engage properly as friends or lovers. This plays out in ways that are frequently surreal, with dialog and situations that leave us shaking our heads in bemusement at filmmaker Stillman's audacity. It also feels like a Woody Allen comedy, with amusingly cerebral humour, a story told in blackout sketches and even a few moments in which the characters break into song and dance.

Because not only is tap-dancing a great remedy for depression, but Violet believes the best way to make a mark in the world is to create an international dance craze.

The terrific cast has a ball with the askance dialog and wacky personality touches. They're all slightly cartoonish, with Gerwig leading the charge. Her matter-of-fact line delivery is simply hilarious, mainly since what she's saying is usually a bit nuts (she hates the acrid smell of boys, so considers her visits to the frat house to be "social work"). Around her, everyone has the ability to surprise us with the way they approach the complexities of friendship and romance.

Stillman's smart, funny dialog gleefully subverts hackneyed cliches with dry wit. The essential point is that all of us are flawed, but it's our intentions that count. Sometimes the smartest, most charming people have the worst intentions. And sometimes it just helps to listen to other people's idiotic problems. Or at least to find something that smells nice. As the film cuts through its characters' deluded self-righteousness, it gets increasingly crazed. But it's also a real delight.


Damsels In Distress Rating

" Good "

Rating: 12, 2012


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