Damsels in Distress


Generally favorable reviews - based on 33 Critics

Critic score distribution:
  1. Positive: 21 out of 33
  2. Negative: 1 out of 33

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Critic Reviews

  1. Reviewed by: Noel Murray
    Apr 1, 2012
    Even though I'm not sure I understand what Stillman was going for minute-to-minute, I was swept away by how original Damsels is, and how funny.
  2. Reviewed by: Andrew O'Hehir
    Apr 5, 2012
    Damsels in Distress is deliberately and purposefully irrelevant; its irrelevance is its strength. It's zany-in-quotation-marks and also flat-out zany. I laughed until I cried, and you may too (if you don't find it pointless and teeth-grindingly irritating). Either way, Whit Stillman is back at last, bringing his peculiar brand of counterprogramming refreshment to our jaded age.
  3. Reviewed by: Farran Smith Nehme
    Apr 6, 2012
    Damsels contains much that's familiar to fans of previous Stillman films such as 1990's "Metropolitan": looping jokes that build on one another, allusions to art and literature, characters who are proudly out of step with the times.
  4. Reviewed by: Peter Travers
    Apr 5, 2012
    Welcome Damsels in Distress, an exhilarating gift of a comedy about college, the female intellect, the limitless male ego, inventing a new dance, and suicide prevention.
  5. Reviewed by: Miriam Bale
    Apr 3, 2012
    The clash of styles in Damsels in Distress is bewildering and then disarming.
  6. Reviewed by: Peter Rainer
    Apr 6, 2012
    In its own superannuated preppy way, Stillman's comic universe is as singular as Woody Allen's.
  7. Reviewed by: Jeannette Catsoulis
    Apr 6, 2012
    Even were it not so delightful, Damsels in Distress, set at a fictional upper-crust college, would deserve a watch for its dialogue alone.
  8. Reviewed by: Xan Brooks
    Apr 5, 2012
    If it's possible for a picture to be at once ideal and imperfect, then Damsels fits the bill.
  9. Reviewed by: Keith Uhlich
    Apr 3, 2012
    Too many movies come to us as preordained cult objects - this is the real deal.
  10. Reviewed by: Rene Rodriguez
    Apr 27, 2012
    The performances are all terrific - Stillman gets his actors to latch onto his absurdist vibe, then gives them wonderfully rich dialogue to play with.
  11. Reviewed by: Michael Phillips
    Apr 12, 2012
    The film treats depression and despair and young love with just enough gravity so the movie doesn't float away completely.
  12. Reviewed by: Roger Ebert
    Apr 11, 2012
    Stillman writes his own dialogue, and is a master of clever double-reverse wit.
  13. 75
    This is a mannered comedy, more stylized and theatrical, almost surreal at times, and less accommodating to his trademark brand of razor-sharp dialogue.
  14. Reviewed by: A.O. Scott
    Apr 5, 2012
    Even if it did not have other charms, this peculiar, uneven campus comedy would be worth seeing for the delightful felicity of its dialogue.
  15. Reviewed by: Mary Pols
    Apr 5, 2012
    It all sounds absurd and simplistic, but I dare you to watch the joyful delirium of the big dance number, set to an old Fred Astaire tune called "Things Are Looking Up," and not to feel an unexpected sense of rosiness. This movie may contain endorphins.
  16. Reviewed by: Eric Hynes
    Apr 3, 2012
    The thing that Damsels and its damsels value above all else - outside of well-timed, well-phrased, slyly deployed witticisms (Stillman hasn't lost a step) - is sure to rankle mavericks on both sides of the aisle. Forget the economy - it's about conformity, stupid.
  17. The New Yorker
    Reviewed by: Anthony Lane
    Apr 2, 2012
    Given the earnest mayhem that prevails at your local multiplex, there is surely a place for a lightly mocking modernist with a growing distaste for the modern. [9 April 2012, p.84]
  18. 70
    Stillman's comeback comedy Damsels in Distress is wobbly and borderline twee, but it deepens as it goes along and becomes rich.
  19. Reviewed by: Leslie Felperin
    Apr 1, 2012
    Stillman proves he still knows how to write crackling, articulate dialogue for quirky preppie characters whom he loves laughing at as much as with.
  20. Reviewed by: Neil Young
    Apr 1, 2012
    Highbrow campus-comedy from long-lost Whit Stillman is a flawed but frequently hilarious comeback.
  21. Reviewed by: Wesley Morris
    Apr 19, 2012
    These are women who seemed raised on Louisa May Alcott and might have been aspirationally besotted with Jane Austen. But you sense tragedy looming. They're hurtling, inexorably, toward Tennessee Williams.
  22. Reviewed by: Matt Mueller
    Apr 19, 2012
    A mixed return for Stillman, Damsels is so whimsically out of step it's like a time-travel comedy without the time travel. Fortunately, Gerwig and some dazzling dialogue save his blushes.
  23. Reviewed by: Joe Neumaier
    Apr 5, 2012
    Just as precise and self-consciously precious as predicted. Which doesn't mean it hasn't got moments of charming wit buried under all its archness.
  24. Reviewed by: Stephanie Zacharek
    Apr 3, 2012
    How much you enjoy Damsels will depend on your tolerance for Stillman's particular brand of duct-taped Sperry Topsider whimsy. It's a comedy! It's a musical! It's a trip down memory lane to revisit the blissful confusion of our - or someone's - college years!
  25. 60
    While the scenario has all the smirking charm of Stillman's earlier movies, the sobering realities of off-campus life are never even alluded to, and the humor of insularity eventually becomes stifling.
  26. Reviewed by: Lisa Schwarzbaum
    Apr 4, 2012
    Gerwig can't make her character come alive, though, and neither can Adam Brody as one of their neediest male cases. In the midst of the froufrou, lovely, stalklike Analeigh Tipton (Crazy, Stupid, Love) is delightful as a student who enjoys being normal and living in this century.
  27. Reviewed by: Joe Williams
    May 4, 2012
    Damsels in Distress is shockingly tone-deaf. Stillman is still capable of a few amusing quips, but his storytelling is sophomoric.
  28. Reviewed by: Marjorie Baumgarten
    Apr 25, 2012
    Stillman inserts chapter headings and written asides into the proceedings, but none of it helps explain what is before us. The authorial voice in Damsels in Distress lacks definition.
  29. Reviewed by: Bill Goodykoontz
    Apr 19, 2012
    Welcome back, Whit Stillman -- with Damsels in Distress, the hipper-than-thou club is back in session.
  30. Reviewed by: Ann Hornaday
    Apr 12, 2012
    A movie sure to reward the filmmaker's most die-hard fans, while doing little to quiet critics who found his work self-conscious to the point of insufferability.
  31. Reviewed by: Claudia Puig
    Apr 5, 2012
    These are hardly damsels, but the distress will be felt by audiences watching the collection of non sequiturs, twee remarks and tangential vignettes that is Damsels in Distress.
  32. Reviewed by: Sam Adams
    Apr 5, 2012
    Stillman too often substitutes pith for insight, until even that is drowned out by the sound of him chortling into his sleeve.
  33. Reviewed by: Mick LaSalle
    Apr 13, 2012
    You can almost say it simulates an experience of brain injury in the audience: Nothing adheres, nothing connects. It's just nonstop cuteness, poses and emptiness - with nothing logically following from one moment to the next. It would be exaggerating to call it torture, and yet why split hairs?
User Score

Mixed or average reviews- based on 35 Ratings

User score distribution:
  1. Positive: 6 out of 15
  2. Negative: 6 out of 15
  1. Apr 17, 2012
    Damsels in Distress is perhaps the most pretentious screenplay ever filmed. I imagine there was a more comprehensible first draft and thenDamsels in Distress is perhaps the most pretentious screenplay ever filmed. I imagine there was a more comprehensible first draft and then writer/director Whit Stillman (The Last Days of Disco) pulled the thesaurus off the shelf and went to work. These damsels come across more as ridiculous caricatures than actual flesh and blood characters; nobody could retain any sort of patience around people who talk nonsense the way these girls do. Lily (Analeigh Tipton) arrives as a new transfer student to Seven Oaks University. During orientation, a group of girls seemingly pick her out at random to join their group; perhaps it is because her name fits the floral naming scheme. Violet (Greta Gerwig) is the leader of the bunch followed by her one-dimensional acolytes, Heather (Carrie MacLemore) and Rose (Megalyn Echikunwoke). Violet talks incessantly about the goals of the group which include finding and improving boys who are not particularly good looking or intelligent and staffing the volunteer Suicide Prevention Center. The answer as to why a somewhat normal Lily would so eagerly say yes to joining up with this gang and rooming with them is not forthcoming, but then again, there would be no film if she did not.

    Seven Oaks is not your normal university. Instead of a Greek system, they have Roman Letter Houses. So many students are depressed that they take to jumping off the roof of the education building; unfortunately it is only two stories tall so instead of killing themselves they only maim. As for suicide prevention, the route to recovery is neither mood altering pills or talk therapy, but tap dancing led by an instructor calling himself Freak Astaire (Nick Blaemire). I told you; pretentious beyond belief.

    The damsels have incredibly keen senses of smell and frequently sniff soap whenever unhygienic dorm dwellers walk by. They are also exceptionally open and frank about their feelings. Violet thanks Lily for chastising her for being hypocritical about arrogance and routinely references Lily as better looking and skinnier. This sounds duplicitous on Violetâ
    Full Review »
  2. Apr 15, 2012
    I usually like dry, tongue-in-cheek humor. But speaking inane, humorless absurdities with a straight face doesn't make them funny. SeveralI usually like dry, tongue-in-cheek humor. But speaking inane, humorless absurdities with a straight face doesn't make them funny. Several critics have used the word "twee" to describe the film; but "sophomoric," annoying," and "of no recognizable entertainment value" would seem more accurate descriptors to me. Miranda July is "twee"; this film was just completely disagreeable. Full Review »
  3. j30
    May 9, 2012
    I found Damsels In Distress hilarious and one of the best comedies I've seen recently. The dialogue is razor sharp, the actresses are great,I found Damsels In Distress hilarious and one of the best comedies I've seen recently. The dialogue is razor sharp, the actresses are great, particularly Greta Gerwig's character. I admit there's probably one dead spot in the film, but it quickly picks up where it left off. Full Review »