Writer/director Whit Stillman’s films are populated by wealthy young people—preppies, snobs, One Percenters in the larval stage—and we shouldn’t really like them.
And yet we do. In fact, we come to sort of love them, and if Whit Stillman can claim anything on his deathbed, it’s that: He made yuppies loveable.
Stillman’s loosely connected 1990s trilogy of films—Metropolitan, Barcelona and The Last Days of Disco—feature young members of the privileged classes making their way into the wider world. Stillman returned to theaters earlier this year with Damsels in Distress, a more broadly funny take on his template of arch, literate comedy.
METROPOLITAN and THE LAST DAYS OF DISCO have been reissued to Blu-ray this by the Criterion Collection this week, with restored picture, sound and a few modest extras. There’s something fragile and rather lovely about Stillman’s brand of melancholy cocktail comedy, and it’s nice to have him back in the mix.
Metropolitan is Stillman’s first film, a true indie which he wrote, filmed and financed himself. Shot guerilla-style in New York City, the story follows a group of upper-class, overeducated college students as they make the circuit of Manhattan debutante balls and after-parties.
Tom Townsend (Edwards Clements) is the odd man out in this group, whose secret is that he isn’t really rich at all, and lives with his divorced mom in a modest flat downtown. The others in the group each have their roles—the jaded dandy, the intellectual nebbish, the “good girl”….
Metropolitan won an Oscar nomination for its over-articulate screenplay, but what really endures is the comic empathy underneath. The characters know that their social schedule is a rickety artifact of old money tradition. Debutante balls? Really? But they go through the motions anyway—it’s what one does—and sublimate their fears of the real world into airy bon mots. It’s about the sadness of things ending, really, but loyalty and decency prevail.