Monday, July 13, 2009


You could hardly pick a film set in a world more foreign than the way I grew up than you see in Whit Stillman's 1990 drama Metropolitan. I grew up in rural Oklahoma and sometimes speak with a drawl; Metropolitan is filled with WASPs from upscale Manhattan locales. Yet, I love this movie so much I included it in my all-time top 100 a few years ago. That's the beauty of watching films--they can reach you no matter what kind of barriers (real or otherwise) that exist to stop you from enjoying the story.

If you know me at all it's no surprise that I love Metropolitan as it is very "Woody Allen" to me (there should be a new genre known simply as: woody). Because I grew up in rural Oklahoma I gravitated to Allen's films to escape the place I was at. His characters and sense of humor was so completely opposite of everything that existed around me in the 1980s. I dreamed of living in New York, drowning in the culture of the bustling city and falling in love. Rather than move there I watched Annie Hall over and over (although I did end up living in New York later and Seattle and London). I had the neurotic thing down from a young age so what did it matter whether I'd been to any of these places Allen was filming--his stories found resonance in me even though I had never come close to stepping on the island.

Stillman's Metropolitan, a low budget talkfest set among a group of college students who call themselves the Sally Fowler Rat Pack, is a wonderful movie. Their evenings are spent going to debutante balls, hanging out in various apartments in Manhattan drinking and smoking, wearing gowns and tuxedos and espousing lots of opinions. Expect multiple references to things like the relevance of socialist theories by Charles Fourier or the emergence of the "urban haute bourgeoisie" underclass that they believe they are firmly entrenched among. Prepare to use your brain some when listening to Stillman's dialogue.

These men and women are lost in their own late-night preppy haze full of witticisms and sadness. Stillman makes it plain as day that they all realize these are possibly the last moments of their youth. Some are ready to move on to the next phase, some are not. A catalyst for much discussion in the SFRP is the emergence of a newcomer in their midst--Tom Townsend. Tom claims he doesn't believe in the debutante social life yet finds himself in tux and tails nearly every night. Despite his reservations, Tom bonds with the group, especially Nick (Chris Eigeman--watching this I'd forgotten how much I like Eigeman) and Audrey (Carolyn Farina). It never hurts when joining a group if there is a really cute girl who is interested in you--this is a universal truth whether in New York, Oklahoma or Mongolia.

Metropolitan is just one of those small films that you'll either take to or you won't. I love it and can hardly wait to rewatch Stillman's next two similar films--Barcelona and The Last Days of Disco. Metropolitan has little in the way of action as it is just people waxing erudite about lots of highbrow topics. It's got some romance and even a little violence (okay, there's a tiny bit of action!). It's got one-liners and has a very scripted feel that might turn some off. Me? I find it utterly charming and sweet and can find a permanent place for it in the newly coined genre of woody films.


bb said...

This almost reminds me of Reality Bites.

Replicant said...

A lot more low budget and kind of highbrow...have you seen it?

bb said...

No, I haven't seen this one.

Vern Snackwell said...

i'm still working on my 100 favorite list. barcelona would be in my top 100 and metroplitan would be in my top 150.