Here we go with the next batch of reviews of Damsels in Distress…
At the Daily Trojan, Laura Burdine loves the film:
Though Stillman’s screenplay undoubtedly brings brilliance and sophistication to the film — as an homage to the power of words — the cinematography and music bring the story to life.
The light and lively soundtrack lends a whimsical quality, while the feminine and airy color palette brings an ethereal feel to the piece, almost as if the picture were enhanced by one of Instagram’s trademark photo effects.
Stephen Hill at Bone-Idle gives it five out of five:
Damsels in Distress is a truly triumphant comeback for its director. Chock full of incredible performances and witty dialogue, it is one of the funniest and most intelligent films to be released this year. An instant classic.
James Bowman has probably the only review of Damsels that features a verse of a medieval student song that’s apparently alluded to at the start of the film:
Iuvenes dum sumus;
Post iucundam iuventutem,
Post molestam senectutem
Nos habebit humus.
[Let us therefore rejoice,
While we are young;
After our joyous youth,
After an irksome old age,
The earth will have us.]
For reasons that aren’t immediately obvious, the Chicago Tribune had two reviews of Damsels on the same day. One is by Matt Pais, giving the film four out of four:
Stillman’s rounded up excellent actresses (MacLemore in particular stands out as sweet, dopey Heather) to create multi-dimensional characters who can turn something seemingly moronic into food for thought. … Social examination almost never feels this lively, funny and insightful. Worth seeing twice (at least), Damsels represents nothing less than a great movie about a goofy world—an articulate swoon of smarts posing as stupidity.
The other review is by Michael Phillips who gives the movie three stars out of an unspecified number, and doesn’t reveal much of an opinion about it. He likes Greta Gerwig though:
Gerwig is a wonderful paradox on screen: a big, strapping blonde who never, ever muscles a scene in her direction, her feather-light touch doing wonders with Stillman’s most candied banter, turning it into something like actual human speech. Any time an audience (or many critics) encounter dialogue that sounds “written,” you can smell the negative rebound coming a mile off.
However, Ian Freer at Empire gives the film four out of five:
Gilded by a giddy Greta Gerwig, Damsels In Distress is a sharp, daffy, eccentric delight. Stillman may be an acquired taste, but no-one else is making films like this. Cherish it.
On the other hand, Braulio Ramirez at the Daily Californian isn’t keen at all:
The distressing thing about the script is that it never trusts Gerwig to single-handedly carry the movie, as she’s forced to share the spotlight with Tipton. The movie thus lies at a peculiar juncture within his usual level of quality. The killer dialogue and offbeat characters are still there, but the world of Seven Oaks is too disconnected from modern-day viewers. Unlike his previous films, which are rooted in realism, Damsels is anachronistic and alienating.
I may be biased, and everyone has different tastes, but it does sound a bit like Ramirez has missed something fundamental about Stillman’s world. Mick LaSalle at SFGate might agree with some points though, despite really wanting to like the movie:
See this, and you will find that there is something about this film that refuses to be watched. It’s very strange. You can almost say it simulates an experience of brain injury in the audience: Nothing adheres, nothing connects. It’s just nonstop cuteness, poses and emptiness — with nothing logically following from one moment to the next. It would be exaggerating to call it torture, and yet why split hairs?
This is a film by a director giving in to the impulse to mock himself, a director who might have been the American Eric Rohmer, but instead has become an uptown Hal Hartley, minus the conviction. Certainly, Stillman has a better movie in him than this wretched mess, something from the heart, without the smirking. That’s the Whit Stillman movie I want to see.
Ouch. I appear to have hit a seam of negative reviews here, with Tricia Olszewski at Washington City Paper saying:
Stillman’s return to the screen after 14 years qualifies as a disappointment—because its characters are unrecognizable to those of us inhabiting the real world, and because, despite its mounds and mounds of dialogue, it ultimately doesn’t have a sticking thought in its pretty head.
And, one more… Matt Fagerholm at Hollywood Chicago finds the first third of the film “laugh-out-loud funny” but isn’t a fan overall:
Gerwig’s performance is nearly worth the price of admission alone, but even her immense likability can’t transcend the shortcomings of this script. It’s been 14 years since Stillman made his last feature film, and I’m confident that he’ll have better films in his future. Yet some viewers can only take so much hyper-stylized preciousness before they’re driven to ask the waiter for the check while excusing themselves with Woody Allen’s old line, “I’m due back on planet Earth.”
After all that, we need a positive review to finish on, so here’s Peter Suderman at the Washington Times, who definitely likes the film:
Mr. Stillman … has gone goofy, and seems to be enjoying it. In interviews, the director has indicated that his previous films constituted a trilogy built in part out of autobiographical elements. Now, freed from some of his youthful dour impulses, he appears to be experimenting with a heightened comic affect. The experiment is not entirely successful: Tonally and structurally, the film is often uneven. Nor, ultimately, is it as memorable as his earlier work.
Even so, it is consistently funny, utterly charming, and literate in a way that’s rare for Hollywood. Mr. Stillman has not made a movie that quite matches his earlier work, but he once again has made a movie that only he could make.