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Damsels In Distress

Damsels in Distress

Released 27 April 2012
Director Whit Stillman

Carrie MacLemore, Aubrey Plaza, Greta Gerwig, Adam Brody, Megalyn Echikunwoke, Analeigh Tipton, Ryan Metcalf
Writer(s) Whit Stillman
Producer(s) Whit Stillman
Origin United States
Running Time 99 minutes
Genre Comedy
Rating 15A

Close Encounters of the Nerd Kind.

Have you ever wondered what would happen if Shakespeare and Wes Anderson ever contrived to make a movie inspired by Dawson’s Creek? Me neither. If such a collaboration were ever to happen Damsels in Distress might just be the result, albeit a slightly disappointing one, considering how brilliant those two are, especially Shakespeare. It is, paradoxically, a jaunty film, which is concerned frequently with depression and suicide. Bright, with neatly constructed sets, it is pleasing to the eye, but more importantly gives the old brain a right good tickle with its dense, rich and amusing dialogue.

The film is set in Seven Oaks University, a west coast American campus. It opens with three prissy girls befriending a new inductee, Lily. The group see their mission as helping students who are depressed or suicidal, while also feminising what they consider to be the loutish culture of the college. This premise ensures many darkly humorous situations, with the attempt at starting an international dance craze (a la The Macarena) to combat depression being particularly amusing. There are also a number of intertwined love triangles which provide much of the plot.

Being a comedic film with multiple female characters, it could, superficially at least, be compared to Bridesmaids, another feature with women in the lead roles. But while I found Bridesmaids to be a poor man’s version of other comedies and not actually that funny, this is a charming and playful film that delights in its geekiness and enjoyment of words and, in my opinion, is a lot funnier.

Greta Gerwig, playing the lead character, Violet, will be a revelation to those who aren’t familiar with her already. Violet is reminiscent of a character in a Shakespearean play with her monologues and frequent musings on life. A writer/ director in her own right, Gerwig manages to nail the, on the one hand, superficial ‘Clueless’ feel of the film, while also bringing undeniable pathos to the role. It helps, of course, that writer/director Whit Stillman, has delivered a script that is philosophical and profound, while never feeling preachy or dry because of the often silly (in a good way) brand of humour. He is not without fault however. If the Rose character, played by Megalyn Echikunwoke, was simply making up the numbers, it would be forgivable, but she is deeply irritating. Running jokes, by definition, should have legs but her ‘operator’ joke is so lame it barely crosses the starting line before one wishes it to be put down.

So in conclusion, I could imagine Damsels in Distress annoying some people with its nerdy wordplay, lack of tension and drama and its subversion of normal cinematic conventions. For what it’s worth though, I found it to be a fresh, darkly funny, off-kilter movie but also philosophical and at times quite moving. If you like quirky, indie movies then I think you should go and see this film.

- Eoin Murphy