Mark Metcalf
NEW! Moving Pictures

“Damsels in Distress”

By - May 4th, 2012 09:27 am

Damsels in Distress, from left: Megalyn Echikunwoke as Rose, Carrie MacLemore as Heather, Greta Gerwig as Violet, and Analeigh Tipton as Lily. (Sony Pictures Classics)

Frivolous. Fanciful. Gay. Graceful. Whimsical. Lighthearted. Fairy tale-like. Quixotic.

I went to the thesaurus for most of that. How else to describe Whit Stillman’s latest work, Damsels In Distress? Another word from the thesaurus was “unimportant.”

It is difficult to deny Damsels in Distress applause for ingenuity, for writing, for the steadfastness with which the actors deny passion in their delivery. But it is ultimately a confection, a bubble, a bauble and so frothy in its appearance that it is questionable whether it is worth the time. It is working so hard to maintain this complexion that it becomes tiring to watch.

Greta Gerwig, who plays Violet, the leader of the trio of coeds that form the center of the film, deadpans her way through every life-changing moment. She has been the darling of what are called “mumblecore” films. Mumblecore is defined as: “a genre of low-budget movie using non-professionals to depict post-college or early adult existence.” I tend to think mumblecore got going as a direct response to the slick, empty Hollywood treatment of almost everything. These films are deliberately awkward and clumsy, and aggressively naturalistic. They would almost like you to believe that they don’t even exist. There’s something passive-aggressive about the entire genre.

Damsels In Distress looks like money, and the self-consciously elevated language raises it out of the mumblecore arena, but it still seems dedicated to an amateurish, non-committal style of acting that saps it of any real energy or appeal.

The film opens Friday, May 4th, at the Oriental Theatre on Farwell.

Categories: Arts & Culture, Movies

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