Damsels in Distress (2012) Review

Damsels in Distressis a Rubik’s Cube of education and emotion. At the center of the story is Violet and how she and her group of friends experience and cope with the harsh dating truths of campus reality.

Focused and assertive, Greta Gerwig is Violet. She has set her head and heart on inventing an international dance craze. When a transfer student is welcomed into her circle of friends, it is revealed just how steadfast she must remain to her goals if she is ever to hope to see them realized. Rounding out the core group of Damsels is the principled Rose and sexy Heather. Megalyn Echikunwoke is Rose. She and Violet have the longest standing friendship of the three. Along with the support of Heather, newcomer Carrie MacLemore, Violet and Rose aim to dance their way through the troubles of Seven Oaks into a life of their own designs. The friends welcome Lily, Annaleigh Tipton, into their group and take on the semester to try their hands at love. Hugo Becker as Xavier and Adam Brody as Charlie, give the women a proverbial run for their money as love ends, begins, is questioned and defined.

Whit Stillman has written and directed an homage of sorts to the contemporary feminist and the antiquated pursuit of a happy relationship. Religion, ethics and moral values are put into play and to the test by way of relative involvement and overall relevance. Stillman’s work has a tendency to echo scenarios from his life and Damsels in Distress is a nod to his American northeast, upper-middleclass education.

The entire film is shot within New York City limits at Sailor’s Snug Harbor on the north shore of Staten Island. This is of geographical note and a marvel for audiences as the architecture is authentic to 19th century structure and conducive to the impact of fraternity life on a university campus. Also found on the 83 acres of land are a cultural center and the botanical garden throughout which the entire final scene is shot.

From the dorms to the classroom, Damsels in Distress addresses the concerns and whims of young adults. Subject matter is exceptionally mature even when spoken language is delicate and body language remains ladylike. There is much old fashioned ado and precociousness to stimulate inquisitive ‘tweens, but this film is best enjoyed by the college-ready and those seasoned by the nuances of human nature.

Audiences who appreciate the sincerity and coy mockery of the banal well-to-do, will laugh out loud at the pleasant manner of disagreement amongst friends. There is an unveiled wonderment, purposely blatant as the flaw in each individual is revealed and ultimately accepted within the core of Violet’s group.

Damsels in Distress reveals the inner machinations and outer turmoil of a young co-ed who believes she has identified the world and its logic and the friends who remain loyal to her. They dish morbidity and love alongside tap dancing and donuts. The humor is dry and well-suited to audiences who seek an anti-romcom. This is a film for the girls…and the boys who love them.