Monday, February 25, 2008

#97: Metropolitan (Stillman, 1990)

Stillman is a hermetic director who made three films in the 90’s before disappearing entirely. It’s a shame he decided to call it quits because his debut Metropolitan showcases a budgeoning auteur with a sharp ear for refreshing dialogue where his characters are pre-occupied with philosophical musings or existential thoughts of reality which brings to mind the works of Woody Allen or Richard Linklater. If you happen to be a fan of either director, this is the film for you. However, the difference is that Stillman’s work tends to focus more on socialism and conformity created by a specific milieu -- in this case it happens to be small group of rich college preppies living in Manhattan who as one character refers to as UHB: an acronym for Urban Haute Bourgeoisie. It’s a clever title that is meant to abolish the standard referral of “upper-class” since its meaning is no longer entirely relevant in contemporary society.

The film takes place over the course of the Christmas break for these first year college students who dress as debutantes and attend various social functions. Enter Tom (Chris Eigman), a middle-class Princeton student who rents luxury suits and puts on a pseudo-intellectual guise in order to integrate himself into this elitist niche. As luck should have it, he bumps into an old female classmate named Audrey (Carolyn Farina) at one of these prestigious balls who happens to be part of this rich upper-class (like in the real world, it’s who you know) and introduces him to her select group of friends where he begins to form a friendly relationship with them. Nick (Chris Eigeman) is one of the people that Tom’s takes an instant liking to mostly for his cynical nature and views on the disintegrating bourgeoisie class system. The rest of the story follows Tom’s various escapades among these haughty individuals and his struggle for social acceptance. It’s important to note that Stillman’s film is not to be taken at face value and above all else, is a social satire that takes witty jabs at pretentiousness while also being a meditation on growing up. For a film that is very dialogue heavy, the script exemplifies great writing where irreverent comedy with a social conscience is seamlessly interwoven with intellectual ruminations about life itself. These characters are not exactly likeable but their insecurities, relationships and problems they encounter ring true for those not quite ready to accept adult responsibilities.

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