The Andrew’s Review: ‘Damsels’ leave viewers distressed

Tom Andrew

The definition of the word absurd is ridiculously incongruous or unreasonable, and given the plot, actors and dialogue in the independent film “Damsels in Distress” one would expect to find its title among the definition for that word. It is not, but should be.

The film tries to be comically absurd as most Bill Murray, Farrelly Brothers and some Cohen Brothers films are, but it doesn’t even come close to these films.

‘Damsels,’ in short, is about a group of college girls who run a campus suicide watch group. They are there to help potential suicide victims, or help those who have information on students who may need their help.

At the film’s start they are given information about a student who has recently been dumped by her boyfriend and that she has locked herself in her room for many days.

They fear the worst, and upon getting into the distressed students room, they find that not only was she dumped by her boyfriend but this boyfriend had beautiful eyes, which are definitely not to be trusted.

The leader of this suicide watch group is Violet and is played with wide-eyed innocence by Greta Gerwig (“Arthur,” “No Strings Attached”). She feels the best way  to help those who are potentially considering suicide is to join her and her group in tap dancing, because it will make you happy.

She is fine until she realizes that the student she and her group save is now seeing her ex boyfriend which causes her to reevaluate her own life. She goes into a downward spiral, leaving campus and her friends and doesn’t tell anyone where she is.

She ends up at a fleabag motel, where she discovers the inadvertent powers in the scent of the soap left by the housekeeping staff. Suddenly, she begins to see things much more clearly, and returns to campus to enlighten her friends with her discovery found in the scent of the soap.

Absurd, and not funny.

The film weaves in a few characters that meet, then date, and then break up, then date again, then become friends. Nothing they do really adds to this film.

Aside from Gerwig, the only other recognizable actor in the film is Adam Brody (“Jennifer’s Body,” “The O.C.”), the rest are relative unknowns, which would have worked if they had decent direction, which they don’t, or a decent script to work with, which they don’t.

Even sadder is the fact that Whit Stillman, writer and director, is responsible for a handful of really good films. “Metropolitan,” “Barcelona” and “The Last Days of Disco” were brilliant films. They had wit, and actually made sense, but somewhere between 1998 and 2011, Stillman lost that sense and his humor.

‘Damsels,’ should not be seen in the theater. In fact, it shouldn’t be seen at all, unless you are prepared to lose 99 minutes of your life and know you’ll never get those minutes back.

You’ve been warned.