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May 5, 2012 | 1:59 p.m. CST
Where has Writer-Director Whit Stillman been for the past 14 years? Probably gathering every B-list celebrity to star in his new quirky comedy, Damsels in Distress.
Just to name a few, you might recognize a couple of these stars from popular TV shows. Before Damsels, Zach Woods was playing the desperate Gabe on The Office, and Aubrey Plaza was playing the dark April Ludgate on Parks and Recreation. The star of the film, Greta Gerwig, you might recognize from Arthur, where she played a very similar quirky girl who captures the heart of the rich boy. And reality-lovers will recognize Analeigh Tipton from America’s Next Top Model.
In this film, Violet (Greta Gerwig) leads a group of girls at her coed school to reach out to cure depression through tap dancing. Violet, Rose (Megalyn Echikunwoke) and Heather (Carrie MacLemore) are quite the feminists. They manage to convince new girl Lily (Analeigh Tipton) that the once all-male Seven Oaks College is known for its body odor.
Instead of going for the most popular guy they can find, Violet has an interesting theory: “The tendancy, very widespread, to always seek someone “cooler” than yourself is always a stretch. Why not instead find someone who’s frankly inferior.”
Keeping in mind that they could better that inferior person, this comedy is comparable to a reverse Mean Girls, where the cool kids are actually “doofi” (the plural of doofus), and the intellectuals are to be admired.
This film presents a refreshing spin on the traditional college kid roles we are all so immune to: Frat boys that are good looking and cruel, smart, pretty girls that are just better than everyone else and the book-doting intellectual who so often is either bullied or ignored by his “superiors.” Instead we have the popular girl Violet and the D.U. frat boys, who are odd to say the least, and the head of the student paper Rick DeWolfe (Zach Woods), whose intellect seems to popularize him. We still have the new girl transitioning from innocent to meanest of them all, but only because she is so desperate for popularity that she drives away everyone around her.
So often we see a film that paints high school or college kids in an awful light. There is, of course, some of that bullying and meanness at every school, but it escalates into Regina George getting hit by a bus. Damsels in Distress is a rather sweet film that portrays a more realistic college scene. The mean girls have a purpose to help prevent suicide. Although their tactics are not all that realistic, at least they stay positive, and it is not all about torturing the “doofis.”