ABOVE: RYAN METCALF AND ADAM BRODY LAST NIGHT. PHOTO COURTESY OF NICK HUNT/PATRICKMCMULLAN.COM.
Before kicking off his much-anticipated screening with Brooks Brothers of Damsels in Distress last night, Cinema Society founder Andrew Saffir apologized to the audience for the tight quarters in the Tribeca Grand screening room, which was filled to capacity—and, okay, maybe then some. “That’s what happens when you have a new Whit Stillman film,” Saffir said, to an appreciative chuckle from the audience—Damsels is the long-awaited fourth feature from Stillman, and it’s been 14 years too long since his most recent, The Last Days of Disco.
But it’s worth the wait: true to the Stillman aesthetic, Damsels is funny, sophisticated, and resides in a world all its own. Its actors (the women are listed in the credits as “The Damsels,” the men as “Their Distress”), many of whom are up-and-comers sure to be fielding offers by the dozen from now on, shine. The story is simple—it follows the romantic tribulations of four female roommates at the last of a group of elite liberal-arts colleges to go coed—but its characters are complicated. Perhaps the funniest surprise among them is Carrie MacLemore, who chirpily informed us last night, “I play Heather, she’s kind of the insipid one, the resident airhead of the group. The three of us girls take in a transfer student and try to bring her under our wing and teach her our ways.”
“They’re obsessed with the elegance of the past,” MacLemore said of her character and her fellow damsels, played by Greta Gerwig, Analeigh Tipton, and Megalyn Echikunwoke. “Old movies, old fashion, simple pleasures, fragrance and all that”—the sort of innocent, endearing pretension that marked Metropolitan‘s Nick and The Last Days of Disco‘s Alice blooms in Damsels‘ dialogue, too.
“I sort of thought we would have conversations much like his dialogue,” said Adam Brody, who plays a love interest for both Gerwig and Tipton, “and in fact, not really, no. He asks you a lot of questions about your life, and you end up talking about maybe more mundane stuff, certainly not as high-minded subject matter… he’s got so many ideas, and his movies are so full of philosophy and literature, I wanted to talk late into the night around a fire about all of it.”
“I did Shakespeare for years, and it’s a very weird comparison to say, but the way that Whit works with dialogue is just—it’s got such a cadence and a movement to it. It’s very amazing to know that you don’t have to do so much,” agreed Ryan Metcalf. “I read a lot of scripts, and I see what people are producing…”
He trailed off with a smile, then shared that he gained 20 pounds for the role, on a “strict diet of creatine and Wendy’s.” Indeed, Metcalf’s character, Frank, is a bit of a meathead—one senseless enough, even, to cheat on Gerwig’s character. Asked whether there’s any advice he wish he could have given to his own 20-year-old self, Metcalf paused a moment before summing it up: “I’d have to say, “Don’t get a tattoo, lay off the piercings, and read more books.'”
DAMSELS IN DISTRESS IS OUT FRIDAY. TO SEE MORE PHOTOS FROM THE PARTY, CLICK HERE.