Friday, April 13, 2012

 

Damsels in Distress

Damsels in Distress When Violet picks up the word "Prevention" from the ground and places it in between the sign "Suicide Center," she articulately explains her noble ambition to a new damsel:
"We're also trying to make a difference in people's lives. And one way to do that is to prevent them from killing themselves... Have you ever heard the expression, 'Prevention is nine-tenths the cure?' Well, in the case of suicide, it's actually ten-tenths."

That is just one of the countless hilarious scenes in writer/director Whit Stillman's outright funny comedy "Damsels in Distress" (USA 2011 | 99 min.).

The film opens with the arrival of a new innocent looking student Lily (Analeigh Tipton) at Seven Oaks, a fictional college on the East Coast. Lily is immediately eyed by a trio of damsels. She is recruited to join their mission to revolutionize campus life by helping depressed students with a tap dancing program.

The eloquent Violet (Greta Gerwig) is the leader of the trio. Her two roommates Rose (Megalyn Echikunwoke) and Heather (Carrie MacLemore) help out at her every step like Violet's coordinated left and right hands. They mentor Lily to survive and thrive in a new environment that is crowded with dumb frat boys like Frank (Ryan Metcalf) and Thor (Billy Magnussen), as well as sleek opportunists like Fred (Adam Brody) and Xavier (Hugo Becker).

The result? A laugh out loud amusement from start to finish.

Megalyn Echikunwoke, Carrie MacLemore, Greta Gerwig and Analeigh Tipton in Damsels in Distress The witty, quirky, funny dialogue stands out as the most enjoyable aspect of the film, thanks to Whit Stillman's superb writing. The effective delivery of these lines by a terrific cast doubles the pleasure.

From time to time, the film reminds me some of the lines in Todd Solondz's "Happiness," in which the characters also speak from their hearts, often in a matter-of-fact calming tone, but with a maximum effect to the audience.

Those lines become extremely funny when absurdity in each line is expressed with absolute sincerity. You sense that these characters totally believe in it. And it gets even better and funnier when you realize that there is actually some degree of logic behind each opinion voiced.

These amusing characters almost always have a unique viewpoint about human social behavior. They observe their surroundings from a very different angle and perspective. Therefore, they reach conclusions that you are probably least expecting.

This is how Violet claims that she likes losers, and gives her reasoning:

"Take Frank, my friend — he's not some cool, handsome, 'studly' macho-guy. No, not at all — I can't bear guys like that! Frank's sort of a sad-sack really, wouldn't you say? ... Do you know what's the major problem in contemporary social life? The tendency, very widespread, to always seek someone 'cooler' than yourself — always a stretch, often a big stretch. Why not instead find someone who's frankly inferior?"

So, she did.

"Damsels in Distress," a Sony Pictures Classics release, opens on Friday, April 13, 2012 at Bay Area theaters.


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