'Damsels in Distress' offers different kind of chick flick

May 3, 2012 

The damsels in Damsels in Distress are only in distress sometimes. More often than not they’re the cause of someone else’s distress.

Greta Gerwig’s Violet and her roommates are out to fight low-life mediocrity wherever it is found on the Seven Oaks college campus; to correct — by their standards — behavior and attitudes.

-- Local show times, theaters, trailer.

In other words, while running the campus suicide prevention program, their focus is to save unfocused college males. That means plenty of girly gossip and a manipulative move here or there to help poor unfortunate males living in the alphabet houses. In the case of campus of Seven Oaks, the letters are Roman, not Greek.

Not that you’ll care.

Gerwig (Arthur) and her three co-stars babble through writer/director Whit Stillman’s excellent, though sometimes overly chatty, script. Gerwig, a little known but exceptional actress, is the focal point of a series of crises faced by her posse.

Does “posse” fit here? Maybe not.

Gerwig is superb, as are her also mostly unknown co-stars. My favorite — and one I think you’ll see more of in the future — is Analeigh Tipton. She does Lily, the newest member of the group and the one who continually questions Violet’s motives. Tall, lanky and with real girl-next-door looks, Tipton steals the movie.

Stillman’s (The Last Days of Disco) movie has the flavor of Sex and the City but leaves out the heavy emphasis on sex, clothing and materialism. Using clever and often witty commentary, the group addresses college-age adult issues such as dating, social status, intelligence, betrayal and — of course — love.

Early on it’s hard to keep track of the dialogue and get used to the almost non-stop patter. Once you settle into the film’s pace and delivery style, the movie grows on you.

Where Damsels in Distress falters is in places where Stillman’s story loses focus. And it does it often, wandering to and fro and making Damsels in Distress distressful in an unanticipated way — to the viewer.

Mr. Movie rating: 3 1/2 stars

Rated PG-13 for mature themes. It is playing at the Carmike 12.

5 stars to 4 1/2 stars: Must see on the big screen
4 stars to 3 1/2 stars: Good film, see it if it's your type of movie.
3 stars to 2 1/2 stars: Wait until it comes out on video.
2 stars to 1 star: Don't bother.
0 stars: Speaks for itself.

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