Netflix It!: "Metropolitan" Movie, DVD Review

11/26/2009 Posted by Admin

Movie, DVD Review


Written and directed by Whit Stillman, 98 minutes, rated PG-13.

By our guest blogger, Katherine Martinez

Whit Stillman’s “Metropolitan” captures a group of upper-class “preppies” as they gaily swing through debutante season. Some may pause at the phrase “debutante season” and wonder what year in which the story is set. In fact, the year is cleverly posed in several frames by the title card, “Not so long ago in Manhattan.” Given certain backdrops, it's clear that this is the Manhattan of 1990. It is the activity taking place onscreen that makes the time setting slightly blurry.

For instance, there are the young women in the movie, who innocently gossip in the articulate tempo of a socialite's banter and treat the escort shortage as a serious issue. They sit around their parents' living rooms sipping cocktails and laughing at the cynical humor of their friend Nick (Christopher Eigeman), a young man who enjoys taking on the stereotypical snobbish attitude of the socialite. Then there is Charlie (Taylor Nichols), who enjoys making intellectual small talk and brings up his opinions about downward social mobility and the eventual fall of the “UHP” (urban haute bourgeoisie). A newcomer, Tom Townsend (Edward Clements), joins the crowd for an after party but resists belonging based on his views, which keep him “morally opposed” to “deb” parties. He eventually gives in to the lifestyle and quickly becomes the object of affection for Audrey (Carolyn Farina), the most shy and conservative of the group.

The many contradictions in the characters’ personalities prove that they themselves do not believe in the image they are working to maintain. Tom develops his opinions on books without reading the actual material but rather through recognized literary criticism. Nick pretends to be arrogant but only to overcompensate for his own loss of status through divorced parents. Audrey tries to continue having Jane Austen's ideas of romance by fervently holding on to a naive crush on Tom despite his repeated rejections of her. Together each young adult works to hold on to the social traditions of the past because it's what they've learned to do. The group participates in cliché bourgeois pastimes in an attempt to assert their class identity as aristocracy yet, in the midst of dances, pseudo-philosophical conversation and games of bridge, there is an underlying anxiety that inevitably surfaces. Somehow, the group recognizes that high-society culture has forever changed.

“Metropolitan” goes beyond being just a simple coming-of-age story about a group who is leaving their younger years behind. Here, the debutantes and their escorts also are forced to reinvent their perspective of reality to include the outside world. This depiction of wealth is fairly conceited but as later directors have proven (such as Wes Anderson), upper-class pretension is sometimes just too hard to resist.

Grade: A

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