Another ‘Damsels in Distress’ roundup

A few more Damsels in Distress-related articles have been trickling in…

Carrie MacLemore and Billy Magnussen
Damsels in Distress: Carrie MacLemore and Billy Magnussen

Worth a read is an interesting take on the morality suggested in the movie, from Christopher S. Morrissey at the Catholic World Report:

Stillman never condescends to any of his characters, even the types whom most people prefer to see as unlikable. Hence my suspicion that what Stillman is up to with Thor is not just broad comedy. Rather, Thor’s inability to distinguish primary colors is symbolic of today’s glaring lack of decorous relations between young men and women, whether in the form of dancing or courtship. I think most critics miss this symbolic dimension (which, in Thor’s instance, would amount to a cultural reclamation of the more quotidian “rainbow” symbolism), even though it is undeniably present (arguably as a deliberate product of Stillman’s literary sensitivities). But they miss it because Stillman steadfastly refuses to engage in conventional moralizing when it comes to his characters. Instead, in the most gentle of ways, Stillman makes his comically positive suggestions about how our culture could aspire to so much more.

Thanks to Steve Malone for spotting that.

Cape Cod Times has a brief interview with Stillman and a review of the film, both by Tim Miller. In the interview he talks about the challenge that remains after a film is finished:

“It’s a little bit hard to get people to see the point of the film,” he says, adding that he’s “really surprised that it’s such a hard sell.”

There’s word of mouth, but, as he points out, “The question these days is: Can you be on screen long enough for people to come see it?”

Another challenge, he adds, is getting people to appreciate a film with an emphasis on character development and comedy, and not necessarily on plot.

“I’m a little against plot,” he says. “I don’t want to read a book just to see how it will come out.”

At Uptown, Kenton Smith seems to feel sorry for the movie’s characters:

It’s not that these young women lack intelligence. Rather, it’s that they misuse their intelligence, torturously overthinking everything to remain confident of their intelligence. They’re funny, but underneath we see the agonizing self-doubt that perpetually tunnels away at the back of their minds.

And it’s also finally unclear what Stillman thinks about his characters, which come from the same stock as those of previous films including Metropolitan (1990) and The Last Days of Disco (1998). As the movie progresses, it almost seems that in the end, he regards these young people as lovable innocents, when we can see they are fundamentally unhappy youth hopefully destined for therapy.

Finally, Natalie Elliott at Oxford American takes a long look at “the best female characters to be found in Whit Stillman’s body of work as we know it”. Her picks, which come with clips, are: Metropolitan’s Audrey Rouget; Barcelona’s Montserrat; The Last Days of Disco’s Alice Kinnon and Charlotte Pingress; and, of course, Damsels’ Violet Wister.