starring Greta Gerwig, Adam Brody, Analeigh Tipton, Megan Echikunwoke
written and directed by Whit Stillman
Damsels in Distress is a hard movie to sink your teeth into--a stick of gum soaked in brine. Whit Stillman's first effort since 1998's The Last Days of Disco, it's a light-headed fantasia that's committed to its gonzo vision, best expressed by a character who calls her favourite soap scent "very precise." Very precise, indeed: Less wealthy than Metropolitan's socialites, Damsels' cadre of female sophomores breathe even more rarefied air. Though each actress works her peculiar cadence into these pronouncements to uncanny effect, they seem possessed by their creator even more than is typical for Stillman's characters, genteelly handling accusations of hypocrisy with defenses like, "We are all flawed. Must that render us mute to the flaws of others?" Stillman's rigorously formal dialogue is always a trial-by-fire for actors--easily passed in Last Days by Kate Beckinsale, for example, but stumbled over by Matt Keesler, who looks embarrassed to identify as a "loyal adherent to the disco movement"--but something's different this time. Always accused of being hermetic but usually too enamoured with other people's ephemera (e.g., collections of Scrooge McDuck memorabilia) for that to be true, this time he's properly set up shop in the projection booth at the back of his mind.