Movie: Damsels in Distress
My Rating: 3 stars
Valentine’s Day is coming. And, what better way to prepare than to watch a movie about socially-clumsy singles, bumbling their way through life, in search of true love? This movie is perfect for the season. Greta Gerwig plays Violet, the leader of a band of busy-body, college girls dedicated to doing “social work” on campus. That is, they engineer the social interactions of “needy” peers in order to bolster their self-confidence and general attractiveness. The girls take a special interest depressed students, including in the recently-dumped, and the chronically unlucky in love. They stage anachronistic dance parties to get people out of their heads about what it means to socialize. And, they introduce these sad students to people who are far worse off than them in order to bolster self-esteem.
So, who are these people who are worthy of extra pity, you ask? Why, the gentle, feeble souls enrolled in the university’s fraternity system, of course! Our do-gooding girls have a soft spot in their hearts for those, poor lummoxes. And, this is one of the most hilarious running gags in the film. It treats these fraternity brothers as a special class of childlike morons, who must be protected from the harsh realities of the outside world. They must be housed, fed, and clothed. They must be given periodic, planned social events, and treated with lenient kindness, because these simple-minded boys aren’t capable of making their own decisions. Violet’s group of social workers feel like they’re doing the frat bros a favor by introducing them to nice, young ladies to talk to. And, they’re helping their depressed sisters by showing them people who are truly worthy of their sympathy. But, of course, it’s not just Violet’s targets who are misguided. She and her henchwomen are pretty tone-deaf themselves. And, their obliviousness defines the deadpan comedy of the film.
So, just about every character in this story is a little dumb. But, who wasn’t a little dumb in college? It’s one of life’s luxuries—having the freedom to make all kinds of low-consequence mistakes for a few years in a controlled environment. And, one of the funniest things about stupid people is just how certain of themselves they are. It’s comedy on legs! The best part is that you don’t even have to prompt these characters. Just sit back in silence with a box of popcorn, and let the magic unfold in front of you. These types are masters of their own destruction. And, that’s what this movie is about. We get to watch groups of very confident dullards, who take themselves very seriously, bungling up their love lives, and those of everyone around them for a little while until they eventually get things right. This is a comedy, so we know it’s all going to work out in the end. Plus, this movie has the added benefit of making you feel a little bit superior as you watch these silly kids wallowing in disasters of their own creating. (A little ironic, no?) So a perfect pick for Valentine’s day!