Oh reviewing. It’s like fighting an uphill battle. Sometimes I feel like I am hitting myself over the head with a hammer, typing through the haze of pretty birdies flying around me.
When I announced on Twitter that Indie director Whit Stillman’s Damsels in Distress was one of the funniest, most delightful films that I had seen in years I was met with one of two responses.
The first and usual response I call ‘set-to-automatic’, with people looking blankly at me saying ‘Que?’ In the cartoon that is my life, these viewers are the tomcats from Tom & Jerry. They run around smashing themselves in the face with a tray of nachos, mindless repeating ‘I can’t wait for Transformers 4 ‘.
The second kind – the viewers who know film but find themselves constantly disappointed, reacted along the lines of ‘That film was terrible – I prefer The Last Days of Disco – who does this aging Indie hipster Stillman think he is?’ This group remind me of the housekeeper in Tom & Jerry, the one who shouts ‘THOMAS!” They try to sweep away the mayhem while intoning ‘It’s all about Prometheus darlings’.
I have nothing against the high-brow or the low-brow of cinema. We need both. But we also need voices proclaiming more than just what we’re fed by advertising campaigns blinding us with repetitive TV spots and free posters.
You might have already guessed it – I see myself as little Jerry. I’m a small mouse with my own separate mission to introduce viewers to films that they would never consider before, but might, just might, if I squeak loudly enough: consider, view and even enjoy.
And boy do I pick the films to champion. Damsels in Distress has not been advertised at all and is currently being shown at precisely one cinema in London. It’s a hard sell. But… IT IS BRILLIANT – FUNNY, HEART WARMING, APPEALING TO BOTH SEXES AND A FEEL-GOOD MOVIE FOR 2012.
(Did anyone hear me? Squeak up if you did).
Damsels in Distress concerns new student Lily (Analeigh Tipton) who transfers to a small elitist New England University. Taken in by a trio of offspring rejects from Dawson’s Creek and the Plastics headed up by the annoying Violet (Greta Gerwig of Greenberg), Lily is faced with idiot frat-boys, dance and doughnuts as a medium to stop suicide, and an introduction to the Cathars via the love that dare not speak its name.
Along the way Lily and Violet meet Adam Brody’s Charlie who might be the path to their salvation – or he might just be trying to get them drunk.
This film, like Brick and Clueless before it, has a language all of its own, a clever pastiche on all the college stereotypes. Paying as much homage to Animal House as it does American Pie – Stillman’s witty knack for dialogue and surrealism casts a spell over keg parties and stoner chic, all with a pastel sheen and a cartoonish style.
To say more would be to spoil the experience. Damsels in Distress is random. It might seem girly, but it was the males in my audience who were laughing the loudest, and the male characters are great at the slapstick.
Naysayers will say it’s arch, that some of the humour might be a touch too clever for its own good, but this little mouse is going to paraphrase Jed Bartlet from the West Wing – it’s not my job to appeal to the lowest common denominator (of film-goer), it’s my job to raise it.
Damsels in Distress is unique and funny. Go and see it. A little mouse told you to.