April 20, 2012 Are All Men Cads? Movies Reviewed: The Deep Blue Sea, Damsels in Distress

Posted in comedy, Coming of Age, Cultural Mining, Drama, Movies, Romance, UK, Uncategorized, US by CulturalMining.com on April 24, 2012

Hi, this is Daniel Garber at the Movies, for culturalmining.com and CIUT 89.5 FM, looking at high-brow and low-brow movies, indie, cult, foreign, festival, genre and mainstream movies, helping you see movies with good taste, movies that taste good, and how to tell the difference.

I’m back again to review some new movies. Are all men cads, heels, users, liars and cheats? How about douches, stalkers, assholes, Tucker Maxes, players, pricks and opportunists, who will say just about anything to get laid? This question is taken up by two films with male directors and writers, but told from the points of view of the female characters. One is a post-war historical melodrama about a married woman who willingly goes astray; the other a contemporary light comedy about a group of college students who risk being led astray.

The Deep Blue Sea

Dir: Terrence Davies

based on the Play by Terrence Rattigan

The war has ended and, Hester (Rachel Weisz), is a beautiful young woman married to a much older man. Sir William Collyer (Simon Russel Beale) is intelligent, kind, upper class and very rich, and he’s also a judge. He loves Hester dearly, but can’t provide for her sexually. Hester is the daughter of a vicar whose life feels like it’s hit a dead end. Then she meets Freddie (Tom Hiddleston), a dashing RAF pilot, a hero in WWII. He’s brash, funny and charming and “makes a pass” at her.

Soon, she’s separated from her husband and trades his mother’s stately home for a dowdy London flat filled with society’s struggling outcasts – like a doctor whose license has been revoked.

The movie opens with Hester’s attempted suicide. The reasons for this, the reactions of her husband and her lover to it, and her final decision, make up the rest of the movie. It’s told through Hester’s flashbacks to the war, her time spent with Freddie and William, and memories of the war. And it tries to explain her strange decision to leave wealth, status and a loving husband for a nonchalant cad.

Davies is an remarkable director for whom what you see, and the music you hear is always as important than the dialogue. He doesn’t tell strict linear narratives, but gives impressions of the thoughts and experiences of the main character. This is adapted from the play by Terrance Rattigan, but Davies uses dialogue sparsely. He hints at what’s going on and is rarely explicit. For example when William discovers the aptly-named Hester’s infidelity, you get a brief glimpse of a punch and judy show going on just outside a door.

Although it’s a melodrama, I found it very moving, visually stunning, with an evocative soundtrack often provided by the characters themselves singing period songs in pubs or bomb shelters. The acting is also great – Rachel Weisz’s first good job in a long time, (I was losing faith in her as an actress) with the exception of one strange shouting scene between Hester and Freddie that seemed a bit clumsy and overdone. Not a conventional movie, but a beautiful and moving one.

Damsels in Distress

Dir: Whit Stillman

Lily (Analeigh Tipton, a Michelle Trachtenberg look-alike) is a university student who transfers to Seven Oaks, a former all-girls college in a small New England town. She is immediately befriended by a clique of discerning, conservative women, and moves in with them. They all have flower names like her. Violet (Greta Gerwig), the obvious ring-leader, thinks men all have “B.O.” She knows aromas and colours are very important. Rose (Megalyn Echikunwoke), an African-American with a recently acquired impeccable British accent, says men are all players. Along with dumb-as-a-post Heather (Carrie MacLemore), the three have a goal: to rescue the downtrodden and suicidal students on campus by distributing donuts and teaching them… tap dancing!

Violet has a theory – aim for the bottom, and only date guys stupider than she is. So she goes for the frat boys (“They’re not “Greeks” – we only use Roman letters here”) some of whom haven’t even learned the colours yet. But her world is sent off-kilter when Lily proves too popular, and has two romantic and handsome boys chasing her. Will the smart, but inexperienced, Lily choose the suave frenchman Xavier (Hugo Becker), who tells her he’s a member of the Cathars and must follow certain sexual rules? Or the charming and successful businessman Charlie (Adam Brody) who just happens to be on campus? And will she ever see through these guys’ transparent ruses?

Damsels in Distress is a very cute, and very funny, coming-of-age story about life in a sheltered, liberal arts college. This is Whit Stillman’s first movie in a long time, and it’s great, like all his movies. He did The Last Days of Disco, Barcelona, and Metropolitan, all very distinctive portraits of educated, but naïve, upper-middle-class people. This one is done in vignettes, over the course of a year, with a terrific ensemble cast — all new, and all terrific. Admittedly, it has a confusing and cobbled-together-looking finish, that leaves you thinking why was that there? but it was just silly, not bad enough to spoil an otherwise fully enjoyable movie.

The Deep Blue Sea is now playing, and Damsels in Distress opens today (Friday, April 20) in Toronto, check your local listings. The Strawberry Tree is showing tonight (Friday) at the Images festival, and tickets for HotDocs, Toronto’s documentary festival, are available now.

This is Daniel Garber at the Movies each Friday morning on CIUT 89.5 FM, and on my web site CulturalMining.com.

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  1. […] April 20, 2012 Are All Men Cads? Movies Reviewed: The Deep Blue Sea, Damsels in Distress (danielgarber.wordpress.com) […]


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