Star rating – 8/10
Director Whit Stillman has not made a film since 1998’s The Last Days of Disco, and dancing again features prominently is his extremely funny campus tale Damsels in Distress. It’s quirky and very charming, even if it doesn’t exactly keep its momentum going entirely throughout.
It is refreshingly not full of Hollywood A listers, the cast brilliantly led by Greta Gerwig as Violet, who organises a small group of American college girls into trying to save potentially suicidal fellow students. The young women who gather around her are acerbically judgemental, as they set out to attract boys who are not good looking or cool. The action seems to be set in present day, but there are oddly no sign of any social networking going on.
And there are some very, very funny scenes, particularly one involving doughnuts. As the film unwinds, it becomes obvious that Violet is fundamentally unhappy and as damaged as she thinks the people she is trying to help are. Stillman manages to create characters who are both comedic and repellent , and with whom his audience can’t help but empathise with too.
The dancing is fabulous, and is becoming a Stillman trademark feature. This is an uplifting oddity of a film which is a delight to watch.