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Damsels in Distress: A mild disappointment from Walt Stillman

A scene from Walt Stillman's "Damsels in Distress"


2.5 out of 4 stars


Directed by Whit Stillman (USA)

For fans of Whit Stillman, it's been a long 13-year wait since his last film in the Metropolitan/ Barcelona/ Last Days of Disco trilogy. Alas, for this fan of Whit Stillman, great expectations are now met with mild disappointment. Witty, literate and precisely observed, each of those earlier films was a comedy of manners. This is a mannered comedy, more stylized and theatrical, almost surreal at times, and less accommodating to his trademark brand of razor-sharp dialogue. Led by Greta Gerwig, the damsels are a quartet of undergrads in a privileged East Coast university; the distress is the fashionable depression that surrounds and occasionally engulfs them. Not to worry, though – it's all played as a clever lark, complete with song and dance and a different brand of wit, the quixotic kind that sparkles one moment but strains badly the next. The setting is a present that feels like the past – but, for admirers of that now distant trilogy, not quite enough like the past.

Sept. 13, 6 p.m., Elgin; Sept. 14, 9:15 a.m., Scotiabank 4

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Film critic

Rick Groen is a film critic for The Globe and Mail. More

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