Damsels in Distress

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(2011) ★★★★

Film4: PREMIERE Monday 10 August, 11.10pm

An atmosphere of male barbarism predominates at Seven Oaks University. But Greta Gerwig – her giddy optimism masking mild depression – is going to change all that with coffee and doughnuts and dance lessons at the campus Suicide Prevention Center. Dancing to the tune of a 1937 Fred Astaire film, A Damsel in Distress, writer-director Whit Stillman proves again that he’s a man wildly out of his time. His first film, Metropolitan, went against the grain of urban indies and this urbane college comedy – his first film since 1998’s Last Days of Disco – is a facetious blend of National Lampoon’s Animal House and Alexander Payne’s Election. Like Jane Austen, Stillman’s a behavioural satirist at heart. And, like Austen, he likes his characters. The cast is terrific. Greta Gerwig grasps a role worthy of her quixotic talents while Megalyn Echikunwoke affects an outrageously pretentious English accent as one of her not-so-mean-girl associates. For a comedy about suicide it’s deliberately arch and undeniably amusing, and it doesn’t shirk the big questions: what is the plural of doofus? A frivolous treatment of depression, it’s the exact opposite of Lars von Trier’s Melancholia. Von Trier goes for the end of the world. Stillman aims for the end of the rainbow.

Certificate: 12

Duration: 99min

IMDB – Damsels in Distress

TMDB – Damsels in Distress

Rotten Tomatoes – Damsels in Distress