DVD Review: Damsels in Distress

STUDIO: Sony | DIRECTOR: Whit Stillman | CAST: Greta Gerwig, Carrie MacLemore, Megalyn Echikunwoke, Analeigh Tipton, Adam Brody, Hugo Becker
BLU-RAY & DVD RELEASE DATE: 9/25/2012 | PRICE: DVD $30.99, Blu-ray $35.99
BONUSES: commentary, featurettes
SPECS: PG-13 | 99 min. | Comedy | 1.85:1 widescreen | Dolby Digital 5.1/DTS-HD Master Audio 5.1 | English, French and Spanish subtitles

RATINGS (out of 5 dishes): Movie | Audio | Video | Overall

The first film from writer-director Whit Stillman since 1998’s The Last Days of Disco, Damsels in Distress harkens back to his earlier efforts Barcelona and Metropolitan as it presents a sophisticated comedy about privileged young people dealing with situations they are not prepared for in an upper-crust setting.

Damsels in DistressThis time is a hoity-toity East Coast college where Violet (Greta Gerwig, Arthur) heads a group of coeds who volunteer at the campus’s suicide prevention center. With help from Rose (Megalyn Echikunwoke, TV’s CSI: Miami), Heather (Carrie McLemore, TV’s Gossip Girl) and transfer student Lily (Analeigh Tipton, The Green Hornet), Violet dispenses unusual ways for troubled students to overcome their problems, like dancing and taking better care of their personal hygiene when they feel depressed. At the same time, the students encounter situations involving members of the opposite sex and usually complicate them even further with their goofy logic.

Those familiar with Stillman’s previous work pretty much know what to expect here, although this episodic, dryly low-key social satire never goes as far as you want it to and ends on a truly bizarre note with an elaborate dance number. It plays like a sort of “Not-So Mean Girls Lite,” but the characters aren’t all that strong or compelling. All of the performers, however, bring their “A” game to the proceedings especially the always interesting and oddly alluring Gerwig.

The extras are led by a chatty commentary with Stillman and his amiable cast which covers many aspects of the film’s production, Stillman’s goals and the performers’ impressions of the material. There’s also a half-hour-long Q&A session with the the same crew that covers much of the same material, as well as a bunch of well-to-be-deleted scenes.

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About Irv

Irv Slifkin has been reviewing movies since before he got kicked off of his high school radio station for panning The Towering Inferno in 1974. He has written the books VideoHound’s Groovy Movies: Far-Out Films of the Psychedelic Era and Filmadelphia: A Celebration of a City’s Movies, and has contributed film reportage and reviews to such outlets as Entertainment Weekly, The Hollywood Reporter, Video Business magazine and National Public Radio.