Barcelona (1994). Dir: Whit Stillman. Players: Taylor Nichols, Chris Eigeman, Tushka Bergen, Mira Sorvino. 101 min. June 18
Whit Stillman’s second film is very much in keeping with his Metropolitan (1990). The dry, deadpan humor is the same. The obsession with a kind of lifestyle and world view that had ceased to exist before the characters even knew it first hand is still there. In fact, two of the main actors — Taylor Nichold and Chris Eigemen — are also in Metropolitan. The biggest change is the Barcelona location, and while that gives the film a more expansive feeling than the insular one provided by Manhattan in Metropolitan, It makes little difference, since our heroes — Ted Boynton (Taylor Nichols) and his cousin Fred (Chris Eigeman) — carry their insularity with them. In a sense, you can view them as the over-priviliged preppies from Metropolitan thrust into the real world — their somewhat arrogant, outmoded notions still providing their basic guidelines. Ted is a representative for a US firm, while Fred — who drops in on him unannounced and takes up residence — is a Navy officer in Barcelona to do some PR work on the locals as concerns an upcoming deluge of American sailors. It seems to occur to no one that Fred — supercilious and defensive — is probably the worst possible choice for such an assignment. It doesn’t help that the locals have some extremely cliched and negative ideas of Americans — something that Fred’s basic arrogance can only worsen. In the real world, this would be a recipe for disaster, but in Stillman’s world it mostly (mostly, mind you) leads to comedy. Stillman is clearly aware that these boys are too satisfied with themselves, too wrapped up in their ideas and sense of entitlement, but Stillman allows himself to like them, while letting them condemn themselves. It makes for an entertaining, enjoyable experience — one that can lead to some surprisingly deep discussions after the fact.