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Damsels in Distress – Opens April 6th


I had the opportunity of attending the movie premiere of Damsels in Distress. Fun experience, but well, here’s the review:

There is social commentary in the form of exaggerated characters, and there is overkill. Damsels in Distress leans and falls towards the latter category. Each and every person – except one – is such an exaggerated version of a stereotype that the movie loses focus on its own goals and escapes the audience fairly quickly.

Grade:

As mentioned, Damsels has trouble figuring out its own identity, which makes explaining the plot a bit of an ordeal. The bare bones of it is three girls, led by Violet (Greta Gerwig) on the Seven Oaks campus set out to rid the student body of ignorance, poor hygiene and the widespread depression. One of Violet’s main practices is running the Suicide Prevention Center by using dance as a cure for depression. There are also unnecessarily moronic fraternity boys – one doesn’t know the colors due to skipping Kindergarten – obnoxious journalists and “playboy operators” to round out the male stereotypes. Analeigh Tipton and Adam Brody also star in this offbeat comedy.

The entire film is, in a sense, mocking everything about society. Violet uses genuine inflection to mask her scathing and judgmental passive aggression, which is entertaining at first, but wears you down very quickly. The film is set in present day, but has a 60s or even 50s feel to it that is only reinforced by the almost Stepford-ian styles of Violet and her crew. You are never able to fully grasp the point of the film. At no point was I left with a satisfied “Ah!” moment of realization.

The dark comedic focus on suicide among college students begins with a side-story introduction, but becomes a central plot point that brings the mood down almost forcing the depression onto the audience. Damsels tries to add a musical and dance performance aspect to the story to give it a broader appeal. The operative word here being “tries”. Violet’s attempt to start an international dance craze is valiant and a rather interesting facet of Damsels, but is widely ignored for the majority of the film to make way for trivial love stories – some of which end (begin) with minimal explanation. The soundtrack, while solid and entertaining, does not match the film whatsoever. At one point Violet is walking in the rain after a very depressing moment in her life and a lighthearted jingle is flowing in the background fit for someone walking through flowers in a meadow. Moments like these are plentiful throughout and bring you away from the scene at hand, which is disappointing considering the visuals of the film are actually quite beautiful.

Analeigh Tipton as sophomore transfer Lily provides the only sense of stability throughout the film. As we meet more and more Seven Oaks students you begin to wonder why Lily transferred there. Aubrey Plaza has a cameo that is almost completely unnecessary and mirrors every other role she has previously done and apart from Tipton and to a lesser extent Gerwig, no one makes any lasting impression on the audience – someone tell Adam Brody to never lip-sync ever again by the way.

Damsels could be considered an intellectual satire considering the vocabulary level and social insights attacked. Unfortunately, if you actually listen to what they’re saying it results in a pile of gibberish trying to sound smart. It is released in theaters on April 6, but I’d suggest waiting or avoiding it altogether.

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