|(Left to Right) Carrie MacLemore, Analeigh Tipton, Megalyn Echinunwoke, and Greta Gerwig|
*** out of ****
Whit Stillman has never been as focused on the strength of a story as he is on the entertainment of dialogue. Damsels in Distress is no exception, yet is doesn't seem as intellectually alienating as his other work. Some critic said that this is the most accessible of his films but I haven't seen The Last Days of Disco, so I can't really confirm that. I do know that his first two films, Metropolitan and Barcelona are unapologetically eccentric in their character's knowledge of class and social theory. Stillman likes young characters who are steeped in an intense obsession with lifestyle and behavior through higher education and makes comedy out of how their understanding of such things is simply theoretical.
This movie focuses on Violet, played by the charming Greta Gerwig, a college undergrad at a liberal arts campus who has unusual preoccupations. She has two devoted followers who help her with the campus's Suicide Prevention Center and take other girls under their guidance to save them from the pitfalls of college social life that can lead to despair. Violet's caution is directed in very atypical ways. Strangely she seems to embrace the concept of finding a boyfriend who is unambitious and lacks vision. She recommends finding one of these young men at a fraternity. Her justification behind this is the kind of comic absurd rationalization that is the driving force of Stillman comedies.
The dry humor continues through other characters such as the new transfer student (Analeigh Tipton) who is torn between two unusual men. Another bizarre addition is an idiot frat boy who never learned to identify colors. Fun talk. No slapstick. But there is dance.
Here's a review from The AV Club.