The fictional Seven Oaks University has only recently gone co-ed, and the male students are still a bit unclear on the concepts of civility, bathing, and any slightest degree of self awareness. Enter the floral-named trio of Violet, Rose, and Heather, whose stated goal is to improve humanity, one dufus at a time. Rather than wasting their time on the cool, good looking, smart guys, they prefer to find a fixer-upper and strive to bring him somehow up to their almost ivy-league standards. To this mix, we add a new transfer student, Lily.
The girls work at the campus Suicide Prevention Center, working to cure depression and suicidal tendencies one sad-sack at a time, through a combined therapy of talking things to death, and dance. Mostly tap dance, but any dance is ripe for use. They go to frat parties and find guys to ‘fix’, which could be cruel and horrific, if it were not for the fact that, for the most part, the girls are self-aware enough to recognize their own weaknesses and failings.
‘Damsels in Distress’ is either genius or irritating, depending on whether you enjoy the brittle dialog or not. The actors all give perfectly fine performances (esp Greta Gerwig as Violet, the ringleader of the group), but I would say that the dialog is the star of the film. Imagine a world where young adults, even the stupid ones, don’t say, ‘like’ three times in every sentence, and aren’t continuously attached to their phones, checking Facebook and Twitter to see if there’s something they’re missing going on. This reality of our modern age is charmingly missing from ‘Damsels in Distress’, a film where the characters speak in complete sentences, use words that aren’t so big that you need a dictionary, but are not generally heard in day-to-day conversation. It’s a welcome relief from most films today.
But it’s not enough. At the end, I came away thinking it was a strange film, without much of a plot, about a group of neurotic girls trying to fix the world, and thus, somehow, to fix themselves.