Movie Review: “Damsels in Distress”- A Darker “Clueless”

Written by Rachel Ganzewinkel May 29, 2012

“Damsels in Distress” follows three girls- Violet, Rose, and Heather- who try to save their fellow students from depression, suicide, and bad hygiene. It is an odd movie that seems to try and mimic the charm of Cher from “Clueless.” Cher was fine with being her valley-girl self who tried to improve people’s lives with make-overs, Violet is just a not-as-charming, quirky, maybe slightly psychotic version.

“I’m worried that you’ll kill yourself and make yourself look bad.”

Greta Gerwig plays Violet. She does a fantastic job, the only qualm I have is that Violet is the most unrelatable, irritating protagonist I have come across recently. For about the first 15 minutes of the movie, it seems all that comprises it is Violet talking, and talking and talking and talking. She’s blabbering about nothing. I guess that’s supposed to be the humor, she thinks she can be everyone’s saviour (her reasoning comes from a dark place) but can’t. Nobody likes her, probably because of the fact every time she thinks she’s helping she’s only blabbering about herself or so self-obsessed with saving someone she ignores the fact they’re not in any danger at all. At times, I felt if I was Lily (Analeigh Tipton), the new girl she takes “under her wing” I would’ve just flipped a table, chair, or anything, and said “fuck this.”

Lily is confused and unimpressed

The little annoyances add up

This movie in concept seems actually really funny, and at times it is. The characters are supposed to be caricatures of real people, and it does seem to be a dry-witted, pessimistic version of “Clueless”, which it pulls off sometimes, but sometimes it makes you want to violently erupt with anger because the little annoyances of what is wrong with the movie keep piling up. It’s like when someone near you keeps sucking their teeth, and at first you don’t mind, but then when someone starts tapping their foot, and then another clears their throat, you start to get mega irritated. That’s what happens in this movie. Heather’s (Carrie MacLemore) complete lack of intelligence seems charming at first, then gets over done. And let’s just say, if you took a shot every time Rose (Megalyn Echikunwoke) says “playboy/operator” you would be waking up in a place you don’t know how you got to with your pants missing, wondering where last night went.

The movie is darkly interesting

The movie itself has very dark moments where the audience gets to learn small facts about the characters we’re supposed to care about. Mental illness plays a large role, I mean how could it not when a suicide prevention center is feature predominantly? But it portrays mental illness in a way that seems to assimilate the people with these illnesses in with the world, not alienating them from it. Violet is deeply troubled and clearly insecure, I mean she tells people to aim lower when it comes to romantic relationships, that way you can feel like you’re “helping them.” But her version of helping is more of a self-righteous ego boost to make herself feel better. The absurdity of these characters is intriguing, and the boys encountered seem to be odd versions of boys that we see represented through Violet’s skewed filter of what the men around her are like.

The Men

Oh my goodness, the representation of frat boys, and guys in general in this movie is an odd one for me. I don’t really know what the writer, Whit Stillman, was trying to accomplish by representing them as clueless, mindless, and completely driven by their libido’s. If it was more clear as to why men were represented this way, maybe it could be funny or charming, but without any real purpose it just seems odd and insulting. Maybe he was trying to make a statement by flipping the traditional roles, where women lead the film and men are the supporting features? But that’s just pointing out a flaw in the film industry and continuing to do the same thing using opposite genders.


“Damsels in Distress” is a strange, dark, and dry witted film that only people with a Woody Allen sense of humor could enjoy. It’s a difficult movie to fully understand as you’re watching it as you’re not really sure what to make of it. Especially when the dancing and musical numbers start to occur (and yes, there is more than one weird dance numbers which can kind of be explained from the context in the movie, but still- weird). The small annoyances do make the film less enjoyable as they continue to occur throughout the entire movie, but overall, the subject matter was interesting. Even with the dark subject matter, the movie doesn’t sit too heavily.┬áIf you’re in the mood for a quirky comedy, you should defintely see this one.

My Rating: 7/10


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About Rachel Ganzewinkel

Rachel loves movies and writing and has found the perfect amalgamation in writing movie reviews for We Eat Films. In between movie watching and the real-life world of work, she enjoys tea, reading, writing, and wearing over-size sweaters (while occassionally doing some of these simultaneously).

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