Look, let me preface this by saying that 1) I went to an East Coast liberal arts college 2) I really dislike films where they just say “oui” and “non” back and forth and 3) it pretty naturally follows that Whit Stillman is my favorite director. If you haven’t seen his work, and you enjoy watching WASPy, literate young people sit around in evening clothes and make witty conversation with each other, you need to go home and watch Metropolitan, The Last Days of Disco and Barcelona right now. It’s okay if you’re at your job. You can quit your job.
The most appealing thing about the people in Whit Stillman films is that they have the kind of conversations that you like to imagine that, at some point in your life, you were witty and charming and distanced enough from reality to have. I remember watching Metropolitan in college and all I wanted to do was banter back and forth like a member of the Sally Fowler Rat Pack. So. Here is a clip from his new, highly anticipated movie Damsels in Distress:
To contrast, because you were too lazy to quit your job, here is a clip from Metropolitan with some of the best scenes of dialogue:
Here’s the thing – I can’t help feeling that the girls in Damsels in Distress are kids in college who just spent the entire weekend watching Whit Stillman movies and are now trying to talk the way people in his films do. I can believe that Tom in Metropolitan would sit around in a dinner jacket talking about agrarian socialism, but I just can’t believe that – without being under the influence of a weekend spent drinking wine coolers and watching Barcelona – any 19 year old girl would decry her boyfriend as “not being conventionally good looking, which I actually prefer.” But then, that is something that a group of WASPy, soft spoken girls at a liberal arts college would have done with almost 100% certainty. And they do sound precisely the way human beings sound when they try to pretend they’re in a Whit Stillman movie.
Which is to say that this movie is more realistic, which makes it seem infinitely less realistic.
All of which is worrisome.