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In the Dark

Things Are Looking Up

Damsels in Distress
Produced by Westerly Films 
Written and directed by Whit Stillman 
Distributed by Sony Pictures Classics 

 

Is there a better remedy for depression than watching Fred Astaire’s films?  Violet Wister (Greta Gerwig), the heroine of Whit Stillman’s magisterial Damsels in Distress, doesn’t think so.  Neither do I.  The medical and psychiatric communities may have their reservations regarding this therapy, but there can be no doubt among civilized people.  There is simply no tonic equal to hearing Astaire sing George and Ira Gershwin’s “Things Are Looking Up” as he does on Stillman’s soundtrack.  Should the afflicted also bestir themselves to imitate the master at whatever level of competence they can muster, their long-term cure is all but guaranteed, as Violet will personally attest.

Violet is a junior at Seven Oaks College, once a woman’s school that in the rush to stay contemporary—not to mention solvent—foolishly began matriculating smelly boys some 15 years before our story begins.  Having taken full note of their beastly odor and crude manners, Violet and her roommates—all florally named as she is—have embraced a mission to improve these bumptious souls.  Violet, Rose, Heather, and...

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