Damsels In Distress


Damsels in Distress is director Whit Stillman’s first directorial outing since 1998’s The Last Days of Disco and is a comedy of manners which removes Grease from it’s 1950’s setting to the present day  re-fashioning it through the lens of David Lynch. It is essentially an enjoyable cleverly crafted film but it occasionally  trips itself up on its own kookiness. It is ultimately lifted up by several strong performances,in particular the central role of Violet by Greta Gerwig and the object of her desires Charlie/ Fred by Adam Brody. There are unfortunately several performances that don’t quite cut it such as Megalyn Echinkunwoke as Rose and Hugo Decker as Xavier who both make valiant but misguided attempts at accents –English and French respectively- with Decker’s Francais coming off worst consisting, as it does, of mangled vowels and mispronunciation resulting in something closer to South African as opposed to anything French. Apart from this the film rolls along gathering its own pace and managing several genuinely funny moments along the way as well as some thoughtful insights as to the power of dance in combating depression.

The drama centres around a group of four girls who whilst running a suicide prevention centre in their university campus, try to discover what causes depression leading to suicidal thoughts and the way such feelings can be fought by introducing the therapeutic qualities of dance, in particular dance of the tap variety. Along the way they also try to rid the male fraternity of their B.O. problem whilst also dealing with the convoluted intricacies of their own love lives. It is here that another of the films flaws emerges as it has its gaze fixed so firmly on the teenage girls market-albeit ironically- that it may render anyone outside this group resilient to its charms and consign it to the chick-flick genre.

To dismiss it outright would be a mistake however as Stillman and his cast have constructed a film that should appeal to all genres and it is never anything other than exquisite to watch. The cinematography and stylings capture a contemporary fifties retro look which show the universal nature of its subject matter and how the boy/girl dichotomy of high school dramas has not changed radically over the last fifty years. Overt kookiness and two awful accents aside Damsels in Distress is not an altogether bad movie and has some interesting perceptions and well crafted comedy sequences at its core.

Damsels in Distress is showing at The Cameo , Home Street  Edinburgh.

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