"Traditional Values Still Bring True Happiness"
What You Need To Know:
DAMSELS IN DISTRESS has a strong ear for funny dialogue and unique characters. The movie seems to take the girls’ side in the culture wars. The ending’s positive message seems to be that traditional values can still bring true happiness. The new girl, Lily, ends up having a rendezvous with one guy, a decision she comes to regret. Because of that, and some brief references to suicide and homosexuality, MOVIEGUIDE® advises caution.
(BB, Ro, Ho, L, S, AA, M) Strong moral worldview shows traditional moral values can still bring true happiness, marred slightly by one Romantic-viewed subplot, in a story about four college girls trying to create a return to traditional dating and sexual mores at their university, including mention of God in discussion about the decline of the culture, plus some absurd comments by one male student who says homosexuals of the past such as Cole Porter or Oscar Wilde were classy but modern homosexuals are crass “morons” who show off their muscles and contribute nothing; three obscenities; no violence; implied fornication when one girl allows herself to be seduced by a male student, but her actions bring unhappiness; no nudity; alcohol use and drunkenness; no smoking or drugs; and, comments on past misdeeds, such as excessive partying and drinking.
DAMSELS IN DISTRESS is a clever, witty comedy with a strong ear for funny dialogue, unique characters, and a relative absence of foul language, violence, and lewd content. It marks the return of writer-director Whit Stillman (METROPOLITAN, BARCELONA, and THE LAST DAYS OF DISCO) after 13 years of mining the neurotic tendencies of upper-class, East Coast WASPs for laughs – a flipside to Woody Allen’s depiction of neurotic New York Jewish culture.
The movie’s magic lies more in its characters and effervescently witty dialogue than in its thin plot. The story follows the exploits of four girls who try to overturn the gross intrusion of modern morals into their historic small-town university. Led by Violet, her cohorts Rose and Heather take new transfer student, Lily, under their wing on her first day. They try to steer her away from the modern wave of loose living that they believe threatens their school and towards a life lived with the values and styles of the 1950s and prior decades.
The core trio of good girls is best known on campus for running the school’s suicide prevention center. This is the source of many running jokes as the girls constantly assume other girls are suicidal when they’re either just a normal level of sad or not even sad at all. As Lily weighs whether to fully follow Violet’s advice, she’s tempted into a one-time sexual encounter with a male student. This leads her to being unhappy with her actions.
The four girls forge onward in search of men who will respect them. They also follow Violet’s quest to start a worldwide dance craze (of the traditional, ballroom-style variety). Without giving away the subtle twists and turns of everyone’s relationships, all ends happily with the movie offering occasional gentle laughs at the extremes the girls go, yet always treating them with great respect and taking their side in the culture wars. The positive message at the end seems to be the idea that traditional values can still bring true happiness.
With a refreshing moral worldview and a minimum of objectionable content, DAMSELS IN DISTRESS is nevertheless rated PG-13 for the buildup to Lily’s unseen sexual encounter, some discussion about suicide, and brief absurd comments about homosexuals of the past versus homosexuals of the modern world. The only downside is that the girls are so moral and traditional that it may render the movie too unbelievable in today’s world. However, those who appreciate smart, clean comedy may find themselves wishing the world could be so sweet a place as the heroines’ in DAMSELS IN DISTRESS. Caution is advised for older children.