It’s time to catch up on the past week’s reviews of Damsels in Distress. In no particular order, and paying unnecessarily close attention to the reviews’ ratings…At Toronto.com, Peter Howell gives the movie 2.5 out of 4:
…a second viewing of Damsels, after seeing it last year at TIFF, convinces me that what Stillman would really rather do, even if he doesn’t realize it, is to make a musical.
All his emphasis on dance, including several choreographed scenes and the climactic creation of a new Latin step called the Sambola, suggests Stillman would rather be a reborn Stanley Donen than a more literate Kevin Smith.
Sean Burns at Philadelphia Weekly gives the film a B+, saying:
Damsels in Distress is often chaotic, photographed with bizarre accents on candy colors, glowing, un-natural side-lighting and seemingly edited with a meat cleaver. Stillman has never lost his weird propensity for abruptly fading out of a scene in mid-conversation, with awkward title cards goosing along the passage of time. Lacking a third act altogether, the movie leaps mid-conflict into happily-ever-after territory, a structural shambles.
And yet I still loved it, sometimes not just in spite of its flaws but because of them. This is one fine mess of a movie, lurching here and there with nothing but affection and affectation.
Yet another rating scheme, this time with Katherine Monk giving Damsels 3 out of 5 at the Vancouver Sun:
Sure, it often looks like a post-modernist experiment where nothing looks like it’s supposed to, and sometimes the writing seems to lead nowhere, but that may be the whole point of this film about young women in search of epic meaning: The more you attempt to assign value to something, the less meaningful it becomes.
It’s back to a four-star-system now, with Colin Covert at the Star Tribune giving the film 3 out of 4:
Stillman’s efforts at broad comedy are pretty stiff. … Such creaky gibes feel out of place in the overall scheme of the film, which is about the casting off of one’s self-invented persona to become authentic.
When the various romantic knots are untied, the cast reunites in a buoyantly artificial musical finale. Stillman even diagrams the steps if you want to dance along.
In a sea of mean-spirited comedies, how wonderful to find one that openheartedly endorses happiness.
Next, it’s another 3 out of 4 from Steven Rea at Philly.com:
As Damsels shambles merrily along, Stillman does show a new what-the-heck kind of playfulness. (Detractors could argue that it’s a new kind of desperation.) There are sight gags …, and there are musical numbers, too…
On the surface, Damsels in Distress hardly seems to relate to what’s taking place on campuses today, in the real world. Beneath the surface, perhaps, Stillman’s small, sprightly film kicks around serious stuff about women and men, about social pecking orders and the pursuit of a dream. He kicks it around, but not very seriously.
Half a star less from Wesley Morris at Boston.com, giving the film 2.5 out of 4:
…this a fun group of actors to watch, although it often seems that Stillman is unsure of what to do with them. Damsels in Distress is Stillman in a literal mode that doesn’t suit his elegance. The four leads, for instance, are named after flowers. The characters watch Francois Truffaut and study Evelyn Waugh, but the movie’s true sisters are Heathers and Clueless and Mean Girls, satires with sharper claws.
Yet there’s a poignancy in Violet and her friends’ commitment to the preservation of nearly extinct ways of being young. These are women who seemed raised on Louisa May Alcott and might have been aspirationally besotted with Jane Austen. But you sense tragedy looming. They’re hurtling, inexorably, toward Tennessee Williams.
Over to the UK now, with Stella Papamichael at Digital Spy only giving a 2 out of 5:
…this isn’t the type of film that asks for emotional investment. Stillman presents the supporting players like cardboard cut-outs arranged for target practice in an endless assault of glib humour. It’s funny for a while, but eventually it begins to grate. Megalyn Echikunwoke has only one joke – pretending she’s British and deeming every boy an “operator” — and kills that fairly quickly.
The overriding problem is that the satire has no clear aim. Apparently, Stillman is having a dig at people who believe they are superior by taking a superior approach to them.
I’m pretty sure that’s very much not what Stillman’s doing, judging by all his interviews. Anyway, finally it’s 3 out of 5, given by Jonathan Crocker at Lovefilm:
What makes Stillman’s film work is that, despite its quirky absurdisms and upper-class caricatures, there’s a kindness to his film that we just don’t see in modern teen movies. It really cares for its characters — and so do we. At the movie’s heart is a curiously affecting performance from indie heroine Greta Gerwig, who shapes Violet into a strange, complex and adorable enigma.
And that’s all for now. I’ve probably missed some, so, as ever, post a comment if you’ve seen something worth sharing.