The upper-crust characters of writer-director Whit Stillman have always been snooty, but in his earlier films (Metropolitan, Barcelona, The Last Days of Disco) that quality was tempered by his wit and modest budgets. Damsels in Distress, his first feature in 13 years, says goodbye to all that with its tacky, clunky caricature of insufferable snobs. A young college student (Analeigh Tipton) transfers to an elite private school and gets absorbed into a prim, haughty clique whose anachronistic pursuits include tap dancing and launching a new dance craze called "the sambola." The premise—young rich people discover themselves—recalls that of Stillman's older features, but his characteristic naturalism is replaced here by overlit scenes, a saccharine symphonic score, and a halting narrative momentum. With Greta Gerwig, typically blasé as the women's leader.
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