An A to Zed Cliched Review
AN OUNCE OF PREVENTION IS WORTH A POUND OF CURE
Violet, our lead damsel, and her friends daily face an onslaught of indifference and outrage as they seek to change the world, one heartbroken near-suicide after another. The suicide jokes repeatedly brought to my mind the much darker, less consistently good, high school documentary, Heathers. Okay, maybe Heathers isn't a doc, but it seemed realistic and not at all over-the-top to me at the time.
Damsels emphasizes preventative measures. A hot shower with a good bar of soap will transform barbarous morons. A dance sensation will make the world a better place. Listening to others will temper our own speech.
Fortunately, in Damsels, we get an ounce of prevention AND a pound of cure. There's a moment when a minor character achieves a break-through in determined self-education that brought me to tears. I controlled myself to little more than a misting lest Ben notice and take a photo and post it to FB.
BEAUTY IS IN THE EYE OF THE BEHOLDER
Brandon identified frat boys as maybe the most despicable of all despicable people groups.
Damsels achieves something rare by making the frat boy lovable without making him desirable or cool at all.
Throughout Damsels, we're presented with a perspective of love. Grace Glasses, if we want to push Jason's metaphor. We see idiotic behavior and misguided behavior and lurches toward real connections and we see it all sympathetically.
As a matter of fact, the only person/group that possibly fits into any sort of hated villain role is the journalist. I'm not entirely sure what to do with this so I'll pass it over for now.
CALL A SPADE A SPADE
Identity is a strong theme present in Damsels. More specifically, what is examined is the continuing construction and deconstruction and reconstruction of identity that happens throughout a lifetime.
Each of the characters exhibits different degrees of self-awareness and self-deception and other-awareness and other-awareness.
DON'T DO ANYTHING I WOULDN'T DO
Damsels explores the ways in which we give advice to one another and model behavior. Violet's answer to the charge of hypocrisy leveled against her is a defiant assertion that we must be bold in our judgments.
EVERYTHING BUT THE KITCHEN SINK
There are so many threads in this film woven around one another that it becomes difficult to hold on to the last word spoken as a new conversation has begun. Still, everything holds together. I'd argue that we even get the kitchen sink in the end.
The mathematics of love can cover both playing it safe and taking wild chances. There is no certainty in romance.
GLUTTON FOR PUNISHMENT
There are several moments when the damsels dwell in distress. They won't give it up. Staying distressed becomes a way of avoiding the possibility of future distress.
HAVE THE LAST LAUGH
The end of the film is glorious, but the climax that precedes the denouement is one of the most beautiful moments I've ever seen on film. Stillman gently mocks his characters, but he never scorns them. The ridiculous is redeemed and renewed and all of life looks miraculous.
IF I'VE SAID IT ONCE, I'VE SAID IT A THOUSAND TIMES
Stillman's writing is excellent and, as Ben already wrote, Gerwig's performance is perfect. The rest of the cast holds their own.
Here's as good a place as any to point out how the artificiality of the language and dialogue serves to establish a heightened realism instead of a grotesque parody. The four couples who walked out probably disagreed. Then again, they probably prided themselves on sitting all the way through Tree of Life. This movie is, instead, doggedly unimportant and a glorious "waste of time."
JOINED AT THE HIP
While the film explores individual identity, it also explores life in community, specifically that bizarre never-never land of college life. Private and social lives collide and the friendships that persist through shifting identities and allegiances are to be valued.
I'm just repeating myself now. This gimmick is harder than I thought it'd be.
LOOK INTO YOUR HEART
So, really, most of the time, introspection is stupid. Stop knowing yourself and know others. Don't look into your heart. Look around you. That moron has a heart, too. That doofus over there is named Christopher.
MY STOMACH IS TIED UP IN KNOTS
Yet introspection persists and the stomach gets involved.
NAKED AS THE DAY YOU WERE BORN
I just wanted to make the quick point that Damsels covers all sorts of sexual ground, from love and loss and maneuvering between the sexes to diverse forms of sexual activity. And all we see is some lip smacking and some flashes of leg during a dance routine. We never once have to see Lena Dunham naked. I'm only bringing this up because in the past I've argued that depicting a sex act is probably the laziest and least interesting way to explore sexuality. There are so many parallels between Damsels and Girls. I insist that Damsels is more interesting and more honest at every narrative turn.
ONE MAN'S GARBAGE IS ANOTHER MAN'S TREASURE
A multiperspectivalism is at work in Damsels that pulls together the cosmos, in an admittedly microcosmic way, in ways that more expansive projects have failed to do for me. It encompasses all virtues and forgives all vices. It's hard not to love the whole world after seeing Damsels.
PUT THAT IN YOUR PIPE AND SMOKE IT
The movie generated plenty of good conversation for the drive home and continues to satisfy me as I reflect on it.
QUICKER THAN A NEW YORK MINUTE
Damsels zips right along. I don't think there's a wasted moment.
Chris just wrote about Eisenstein's rhythm and the way in which Eisenstein's editing has a musical flow to it. It's more subtle (most of the time) in Damsels, but the timing is always just right. Besides the editing, the way in which Stillman uses music in this film is better than almost anything else I've seen in the past two years.
ROME WASN'T BUILT IN A DAY
No, it wasn't.
SILENCE IS GOLDEN
Except when it's not. Many of the best elements of this movie are aural delights.
THAT WHICH DOES NOT KILL YOU MAKES YOU STRONGER.
But, jumping off a two story building will probably only break your legs.
USELESS AS TITS ON A BOAR HOG
That's how this post will be remembered.
VARIETY IS THE SPICE OF LIFE
I'm in this thing until the bitter end.
WE'LL CROSS THAT BRIDGE WHEN WE COME TO IT
In this context, obviously referring to the letter X
X MARKS THE SPOT
The spot in this post way past which you all stopped reading.
YOU CAN'T MAKE A SILK PURSE OUT OF A SOW'S EAR
And you can't make a readable film review out of this demented hodgepodge.
ZIGGED WHEN HE SHOULD HAVE ZAGGED
Well, Stillman zigs in all of the right places and zags when appropriate. I know that I'm gushing about the film. I can't help it. Damsels was a joy to experience. You should all get out and see it, then come back here and tell me how cliched and hackneyed my response to it is.