I talked my husband into seeing "Damsels in Distress," reminding him that we had liked two of Stillman's earlier films, "Metropolitan," and "Barcelona." Even though Stillman has a conservative worldview, and, well, I don't, I appreciated his ability to skewer a certain liberal smugness and condenscension toward "conventional" people (who, of course, turn out to be more complex and interesting than one might expect). Reviews led me to think "Damsels in Distress" mined a similar vein, but it turned out to feel like a bad parody of his earlier movies. Everything was just a little too absurd, a little too intensely banal, a little too stilted, so that it seemed breathtakingly stupid, rather than slyly clever and humane. I suspect a long break from directing has bad effects--recent work by Terence Malick, once among my favorite directors, has also become a parody of his earlier films. I'm afraid film directing isn't like swimming or riding a bike. One can actually forget how to do it--or how to do it well.
In short this is a college story of four women, but anything but typical. Three of them take in the new girl with the goal of helping her improve in an elitist way. The three have some odd ideas. They run a suicide prevention center and use tap dancing as therapy. The story is all about the men they become involved with. It is quirky enough to make you feel it has potential, but its more odd and cute than anything else.
This is an art house film full of intellect but devoid of direction. Despite some clever dialog it rambles and gives you the impression it is going somewhere but never does. Its almost as if the writer had a good idea and felt that was enough to sustain this film without looking for a real plot. It has its moments and opportunities but most are squandered. Four people next to me actually got up and left mid way. I kept hoping that it would find its pace and suddenly come together and surprise me, but alas no. Its an interesting and unusual film and quite different, but it could have been so much more.
This movie is good and ridiculous. It's about a group of overly chatty, nerdy socialites who spend their days defending morons, typically guys, who can't think for themselves and need to be saved. This is a movie that's high on concept. There's not traditional storyline and I found that some of the tangents worked and others didn't. However, it was creative enough to keep me interested.