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.