‘Damsels In Distress’ DVD Review: Not Enough Distress

katieholland October 8, 2012 0
‘Damsels In Distress’ DVD Review: Not Enough Distress
  • Endearing Cast
  • Adam Brody
  • Costumes
  • Soundtrack
  • Plot
Director: Whit Stillman
Producers: Whit Stillman, Charlie Dibe
Actors: Greta Gerwig, Adam Brody, Analeigh Tipton
Writer: Whit Stillman
Editing: Andrew Hafitz
Music: Mark Suozzo
Cinematography: Doug Emmett

Quirky and full of wit, Damsels in Distress is somewhat of a romance but unlike any I’ve ever seen. The main focus of this Whit Stillman film isn’t necessarily of intimacy and heartfelt emotions, but more about the idea of a relationship with a lot of comical bits in between the love.

The film stars Adam Brody, one of my absolute favorite actors in Hollywood, as Charlie Walker (or is it Fred Packenstacker?). This charmer has a few secrets that he keeps from his co-stars, which happen to be the lovely Greta Gerwig as Violet and the bubbly Analeigh Tipton as Lily. Some of the conversations the girls have are so skewed and condescending (a fact that even they acknowledge) that I couldn’t help but laugh. On a whole, Damsels in Distress features some great dialogue and very cool music that makes you wanna Sambola!

Lily, a transfer student, finds herself in the middle of a heavily male dominated Seven Oaks College. The same college where she meets the other damsels: Violet, Heather, and Rose, who makes it her mission to help out those in need. After showing Lily around campus, they discover that she has yet to be assigned a room. Together the damsels come to the decision to let her crash in their room for a while.

Soon after she is introduced to the Suicide Prevention Center and the damsels’ incessant desire to fix the depression that seems to plague so many of the students on campus. As means of controlling their relationships and ensuring to never get hurt, the girls date boys whose standards are generally lower than what they’d usually date. That is until one of them gets their heart broken, and then it’s a rush to alter their ideals. Capturing the arrogance associated with private colleges, the smart and witty dialogue doesn’t fully make up for the lack of a strong storyline.

The Good

An Endearing Cast

With a plot that lacks, the redeeming qualities of this movie are key. One of those qualities being an excellent cast whom makes us love them even though we sort of hate them at the same time.

Greta Gerwig, best known for her roles in indie flicks like Greenberg and Lola Versus, truly embodies that of a socialite with a strange set of ideals. Even with her condescending attitude, you can’t help but like her. At a point you even start to feel bad for this girl.

Adam Brody

The girls’ antics hold the attention most of the film as several of the boys aren’t portrayed too highly, except for Adam Brody’s character, Fred Packenstacker.

Brody has been one of my favorites ever since Grind and The O.C. He continues to amaze me as he takes on more interesting and challenging roles. Seeing his name on the bill drew me in. Besides some hilarious antics from several of the other gentlemen, he’s the only male character with substance. At first he is introduced as a love interest for Lily. Then the tables turn and you’ll never guess who he ends up with.


dropcap]A[/dropcap]s to what year the story takes place, well, that’s anyone’s guess. You could assume that writer Whit Stillman set the story in present day, but judging by the way everyone talks, behaves, and most importantly, dresses, Damsels in Distress could have been set in the 1950s.

Ciera Wells, lead designer for Damsel, created a lovely wardrobe that aided in the creation of the girls’ airy personalities. In fact, once Lily’s been invited in, one of the first things the Damsels do for Lily is take her to a party. But first they make her over. As the clothing proved a vital role in the movie, Wells played a major part in making this a success.

The Soundtrack

Mark Suozzo put together this original soundtrack that added the perfect amount of retro flair. Having generally only worked on documentary soundtracks, Suozzo’s compositions and musical selections brought a realistic feel to the campus.

By not using any popular artists, albeit one Sinatra tune, he added to the mystery of the story’s time period. The music and the plot gel together effortlessly due in part to Suozzo working on all three of Stillman’s previous movies.

The Bad

A Weak Plot

If it hadn’t been for the beautiful costumes, great scenery, and our leading ladies, this movie would have failed.

Stillman was lucky to have such a talented bunch working for him because the plot lacked direction and focus. With themes ranging from depression to relationships, all the action went nowhere as Stillman left his audience with a plot and characters that stayed constant till the very end.

When describing Damsels in Distress to a friend I had difficulty, at first, deciphering the major plot line from the subplots. This was due in part to the fact that Damsels’ center plot line wasn’t introduced until much later, which led to the subplots leading the film instead of the main plot.

Each piece is fun and quirky, but there’s hardly anything left to take away by the end. Although I will say that some anal play, a boy who doesn’t know his colors, and a bit of male bashing will keep you occupied.

Overall Rating: 2.5 Stars

Buy It, Rent It, or Skip It?

You could do without seeing this one, although cute it may be. Unless you’re a fan of obscure art films, Damsels in Distress will probably bore you, which is a shame because it has a lot going for it, but the pieces aren’t put together quite right. Also, if your love for Adam Brody runs as deep as mine, you’ll be able to tolerate the film.

While entertaining, there just wasn’t enough substance to watch Damsels more than once or even recommend to my friends. Greta Gerwig and Adam Brody delivered nice performances, but without a strong base a structure cannot stand. The basic storyline did not come through boldly enough to make this a worthwhile movie.

‘Damsels in Distress’ Movie Trailer