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
two recent tales of women trying to find what they want in life, even if the
scripts were not up to the goals.
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.
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:
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
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
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.
include amusing outtakes, Deleted Scenes, feature length audio commentary track
by Stillman & Cast, Cast/Crew Q&A and a Behind The Scenes featurette.
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.
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
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