Whit Stillman’s Damsels needs little rescuing
It would be belittling to place Damsels in Distress — a fun, dark comedy about three prim girls and their nonplussed friend who crusade against the ‘male barbarism’ at their college — in the ordinary ‘war of the sexes’ genre. It’s a charming, complicated coming–of–age farce (full of deadpan acting, relationship disasters, borderline mental illness, alternate identities, elaborate dance numbers, chivalry, Romans and rainbows) where an ensemble cast highlights every painful, terrible, hopeful aspect of modern boy/girl interactions. The cinematography is sunny, and the dialogue, which parodies the language of frat boys, New England liberal arts students and preppy girls, never fails to amuse. Told in chapters, the plot of this adept satire stagnates when it should rise, but the film (a poker-faced Animal House in a dress) is still a heroic effort, and quite capable of defending itself.