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Category:    Home > Reviews > Comedy > Relationships > Women > College > Psychology > Drama > Musical > Damsels In Distress (2012/Sony Blu-ray)/Girl In Progress (2012/Lionsgate DVD)

Damsels In Distress (2012/Sony Blu-ray)/Girl In Progress (2012/Lionsgate DVD)


Picture: B-/C+     Sound: B/C+     Extras: B-/C-     Films: C+/C



Here are two recent tales of women trying to find what they want in life, even if the scripts were not up to the goals.



It has been 12 years since Whit Stillman made a motion picture, but he is finally back with Damsels In Distress (2012), which returns us to the territory of Stillman’s world of numbed-by-money-and-status young adults who are not certain what they will do with their life and no matter how articulate they are, seem at least partly emotionally crippled by all the intellect and safe environments they exist in.


Those unfamiliar with his earlier work will want to check out our recent coverage of Criterion’s releases of his film Metropolitan and Last Days Of Disco at this link:





This time, we are at a co-ed college where Violet (Greta Gerwig) is trying to make something out of her life outside of school with a few personal projects including saving people from suicide, getting men to be cleaner and introducing a potential new dance craze.  Her female friends have extended smart-talks about life and more so than usual in a Stillman film, but young men are not far behind and eventually they become more and more a part of the narrative.  Will anyone find happiness?  Will anyone graduate?  Does anyone care or know how to care?


Though this is in Stillman’s style, the script rambles too much, becomes detached, somewhat formulaic and so abstract at times that he looses his past sense of visual and personal density resulting in what starts to play more like a bad Woody Allen knock-off than a Stillman work.  The cast is good, likable and makes sense, meshing well, but too many times, for instance, someone says they are something or will do something, then changes their mind and gives up.  That wears thin quickly.


Then this gets sidetracked by ideas of the Hollywood Musical including the nick-name of one of the characters, Violet teaching tap dancing as therapy when we do not get the usual ironic distance to consider this act its own expression of psychosis and this even leads to out-of-nowhere musical numbers that breakup an already troubled narrative.  It is as if Stillman is trying to catch up from being away for so long and tries to stuff as many ideas as he can into one release.  Too bad this does not work out.


Extras include amusing outtakes, Deleted Scenes, feature length audio commentary track by Stillman & Cast, Cast/Crew Q&A and a Behind The Scenes featurette.



Patricia Riggen has her own story of womanhood and with a female director, you would expect Girl In Progress (2012) to succeed where Stillman failed, but the script is just a formulaic story of mother/daughter trouble as mother meets a man and daughter meets the world.  That they are Hispanic is different and that they are well drawn out characters helps, with the always likable Eva Mendez and Cierra Ramirez in those respective roles.  I was even very happy with Matthew Modine as the love interest, but Riggen plays it too safe and this ultimately plays like a TV movie that could have been so much more.  Too bad, because it started out well.  A trailer is the only extra.



The 1080p 1.85 X 1 digital High Definition image transfer on Distress is an HD shoot and for Stillman being such a film-oriented director, the limits of that HD hurt this visually throughout without the density, darkness and visual mood his previous films were able to set.  Color is not bad, but we get some minor soft edges and motion blur.  Too bad.  The anamorphically enhanced 2.35 X 1 image on Girl is even softer, but color consistency saves the playback quality from being worse, but expect even more motion blur.


The DTS-HD MA (Master Audio) 5.1 lossless mix on Distress is impressive throughout with fine location recording throughout, a consistent soundfield, a balanced mix and music that does not overtake the other sound elements.  Rarely does this sound less than warm or consistent.  The lossy Dolby Digital 5.1 on Girl has limited surrounds and is too much towards the front channels and center speaker to really work, but it is well-recorded enough otherwise.



-   Nicholas Sheffo


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