Monday, October 8, 2012

Summer Movie Roundup 3

One of the most anticipated films of the summer for me was Damsels in Distress, marking the return of director Whit Stillman after a really long layoff (his last release was The Last Days of Disco way back in 1998).  His first two movies, Metropolitan and especially Barcelona are big favorites, as original as anything I saw on the big screen back in the nineties.  Stillman's work is almost as stylized as Wes Anderson's, though almost exclusively verbal while Anderson's idiosyncrasies extend to his visuals as well.  Stillman seems particularly enamored of the near obsessive values embraced by young people on the cusp of adulthood-- values they've only recently figured out how to articulate, but which prove less than ideal as protection against the complexities of growing up.  All of his films center on individuals whose moral certitude is close to absolute at the start (e.g. Greta Gerwig's Violet in Damsels), but is considerably battered by the end of the film.  What comes across quite strongly is that Stillman admires such idealism, and strives to demonstrate that much of it will survive (and deserves to survive) the trials he puts those characters through as his stories unfold. That he can tell such stories with great humor (all of his movies are clearly comedies) and heart is a real skill.  If Damsels in Distress seems somewhat lesser than his earlier work, its still preferable to most current films.  Maybe I just miss Chris Eigeman, who played central roles in all three of Stillman's previous films (generally as a somewhat amoral counterpart to the main character), and was quite funny in all of them.  There's no real comparable character in Damsels, which removes some of the edge.  Even so, it's an entertaining film that I'm looking forward to seeing again sometime.  It would not surprise me at all if my opinion only goes up on repeat viewings.

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