Monday, April 23, 2012

Collegiate Catastrophe

Damsels in Distress       WWW Score: 65%

I'm not quite sure where to begin, 'Damsels in Distress' is one of the most bizarre experiences I've had in a movie theater - ever. Not bizarre in an interesting, edgy or clever way, bizarre as in straight-up baffling.

It's part 'Heathers' and part that journalistically-prohibited three-letter acronym that roughly translates to: "What The (Blank)"? Director Whit Stillman hasn't been behind a camera in 13 years and it's time to toss the old adage out, you can forget how to ride a bike.

Set at a cartoonish East Coast college named Seven Oaks, the damsels here are a trio of women lead by Violet (Greta Gerwig, virtually indistinguishable from her role in 'Greenberg'), an oddly-warped coed whose mission in life is to save fellow students from suicidal danger by way of tap dancing. Yes, it's that "eccentric".

The trio becomes a quartet with the addition of Lily (Analeigh Tipton, the babysitter from 'Crazy Stupid Love'), a new transfer and sole student on campus with a reasonably normal outlook on life. But being normal is made rather difficult in a "learning environment" that features a student paper named 'The Daily Complainer' and a fraternity system consisting of Roman letters rather than the customary Greek.

Nothing is traditional at Seven Oaks and while the concept initially carries a level of whimsicality and provides an occasional laugh, it soon becomes flat-out annoying with Gerwig's near comatose line readings. They're meant to be intellectually ironic but after repeatedly exposure you'll want to put on a pair of tap shoes yourself.

While it's somewhat apparent what Stillman was attempting to accomplish, a slightly less whacked-out approach would have sufficed. 'Damsels' plays as a quirky farce but to the point of near embarrassment for everyone involved.

How's this for demonstration, one of the campus organizations is cheekily named the 'Anal Love Association'. Seriously Whit?

Save that for your next film 13 years from now starring Dane Cook.