Metropolitan is a quirky gem of an indie movie offering a look at the holiday season through the lens of a group of preppy young Manhattan socialites on the debutante circuit. If this sounds off-putting, just think of the subject in the hands of a drier-humored Woody Allen or early Eric Roehmer with a dose of Wes Anderson to get the idea. From 1990, Whit Stillman’s debut film is subtle, witty and heady with a healthy dose of ironic cynicism.
This is a film that sneaks up on you. If you think you might not care about this specific subgroup of self-concious “Urban Haute Bourgeoisie,” sit tight and give this low-key dialogue driven film a chance. There is a reason it was nominated for an Academy Award for Best Original Screenplay. Stillman’s understated sophisticated writing gives the film a certain poignancy as it chronicles a fading society on the brink of extinction.
During Christmas vacation, Metropolitan follows a young group of eight privileged New York City friends as they attend parties, discuss politics, play bridge, gossip and ponder the meaning of morality, Jane Austen and the impending doom of their class. This timeless coming of age story operates from the point of view of Tom Townsend, below left, the outsider of the group, whose romantic aspirations and adolescent anxiety are the perfect foil for Stillman’s complex characterizations and acute social observations.
At the outset, we are prepared to dislike these young socialites with their privilege and pretension. But just as Austen grows on the supposedly cynical Tom, the vulnerability of many of the characters grow on us as well. Oft compared to a modern day Noel Coward grafted with a hint of Fitzgerald, the underlying social commentary, is bittersweet. While the original trailer doesn’t do justice to the wit and wisdom of the film, the terrific score and clever quips might just whet your appetite to see a bit more.
4 thoughts on “At the Movies | Metropolitan”
A really wonderful reminder, Stacey. Merci!
Sounds like a “perfect cup of tea!” Looking it up now…. franki
Sort of like my adolescence — except mine was more Suburban Shoat than Urban Haute. Still, you had me at Woody Allen, Eric Roehmer & Wes Anderson! Thanks for the recommendation, Stacey! Always enjoy your film wisdom with clever quips and clips. Happy Holidaze!
Metropolitan is indeed a great indie film. I’ve watched it countless times. Whit Stillman mentioned during an interview he did about the film that everything was borrowed to make the movie. He used an apartment belonging to parents of a friend. He also used borrowed deb attire.
The film is the first in a trilogy of Whit Stillman films. The second and third are Barcelona and The Last Days of Disco: With Cocktails at Petrossian Afterwards. The book came after the film.