After listening to Ed Driscoll's interview with the movie's screenwriter and director, Whit Stillman, I took the missus out to see Damsels in Distress this evening. The film is a low-budget indie, and it shows--sometimes the sound isn't quite right, and there are scenes that could have been better lit. But the movie, about a group of girls attempting to do good in college--they spend time running a suicide prevention center, where, they have found, tap-dancing represents wonderful therapy--is charming and funny. And in the lead character, Violet, played by Greta Gerwig, it presents one of the sweetest, most effective, and intelligent--Gerwig always underplays just underplays her lines--portrayals I've seen in months.
Since Rob and I have been kicking around the idea of member reviews--of films, books, television programs, and even (why not?) museum exhibitions--here's a Sunday evening experiment. Below, an email from my friend Joe Malchow, who enjoyed Damsels in Distress as much as did my wife and I. If you haven't seen the movie, Joe's comments might mean nothing at all to you. But if you have--well, why not read what Joe says, then add a comment of your own? A movie as skillful, evocative and enjoyable as Damsels in Distress represents a lovely topic for a Ricochet discussion, don't you suppose?
Wasn't Damsels in Distress clever? Strange but clever.
I do not know what your theory of the film was, but the two or three hours after viewing rewarded some thought.
I think the entire film is -- and its bright, waxy colors suggest as much -- the world as viewed by Violet. At first blush the film is about the beauty of a forceful personality. Violet's cohort are all flowers; they follow her; when she changes dress, they do. When Violet disappears for Motel 4, it is literally the entire college that goes searching for her. The rest of the girls hardly exist: one is picked up at the bar with a conversation of "hey," "hey," "hey." Another has been inventing her voice -- she isn't English, she is a blank slate which has attracted stronger content from the environment. Of course, the strongest is Violet -- always Violet. Her constant brightness, her deeply held theories which can change at a moment (when Lilly threatens to peel off from the group, and accuses Violet of being harsh, Violet accepts the charge immediately and vows to change) but which, whatever they are, are decisively and convincingly lived. But the story isn't really about the force of personality, as lovely as Violet's is. It is about whypersonalities like Violet's are infectious and good. It's about grace. Violet has grace. The soap is the manifestation of grace. Violet finds the soap at a dingy hotel. She loves that the hotel thought so much to provide good soap. But it isn't really great soap: just soap. But it's grace. She refers to the soap as a gift. It is freely given: the only gift in the film. Everyone, even the crusty construction workers, react to the soap. The suicide prevention house reorients its operation: now it's about packaging the soap and dispensing it to the school. At first the soap makes no difference, because it is wrapped up -- they toss it around. But eventually it has an effect. Violent sees a graceful world, and it is because she is graceful herself that she has such an effect upon the rest of the students.Best,Joe
Damsels in Distress, a movie about grace. That's what Joe Malchow makes of it.You?