TIFF 2011 Day 4: Damsels in Distress

An unexpected delight. Odds are I wouldn’t have seen this one had its screening time not been swapped with something I was more interested in — watching the petty problems of the beautiful and privileged isn’t something I actively seek out. The film’s introduction does little to dispel this concern, as three gorgeous, impeccably mannered and utterly unlikable girls hunt for a freshman addition to their entourage and begin to impart their worldview, in which they are an admittedly frivolous but entirely necessary force for the betterment of society. The characters are cartoons, and all those they encounter are equally cartoonish, from the fraternity lout who is studying hard to learn his colours (his parents forced him to skip kindergarten, and he’s never quite recovered) to the playboy operator types who do their best to woo the quartet. And yet, writer-director Whit Stillman’s endless philosophizing about snobbery, hypocrisy, class differences and the like actually manage to break down the prejudices against these at first repellant characters. The script is effervescent, finding whimsy in topics like suicide and “non-procreative intercourse,” and the actors are all entirely comfortable with the layers of artifice the script demands. It’s an entirely unrealistic world, but that’s necessary given the film’s obsession with the artificiality of people’s personas, and their almost gleeful unwillingness to break through the surfaces of anyone around them. Ending with two musical numbers is perhaps a stretch, but even given my initial misgivings, I walked out with an unexpected spring in my step.

One Response to “TIFF 2011 Day 4: Damsels in Distress”
  1. After 13 long years, FINALLY another Whit Stillman movie! I can’t wait to see it!

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