What happens when you throw straight man humor, serious coeds, and an idealistic college campus into a blender? You get Damsels in Distress, director Whit Stillman's quirky, self-deprecating comedy that winks at its own goofiness while addressing cultural issues head-on.
The curtain opens at Seven Oaks College where a trio of coeds is examining the newbies at student orientation. Led by Violet (Greta Gerwig), the girls select Lily-a young woman in need of friends-as their newest recruit.
A Converse-shoed transfer student, Lily discovers her new friends-Rose, Heather, and Violet-are slightly outside of normal. Clad in vintage Vogue attire, they are a serious bunch of girls who believe God gave them abilities and talents and expects them to be used for His glory. Their personal mission is to elevate campus life by helping the moronic frat boys realize their full potential. The girls believe their gracious influence will have a civilizing effect on the hapless goons.
The more Lily learns about Violet and her quirky ways, the less attracted she is to her. A self-described "normal" college student, Lily dresses in jeans and T-shirts and sleeps with her grad student boyfriend.
But being "normal" doesn't do Lily any favors. Being normal leaves her sexually scarred when she goes along with her boyfriend Xavier's conviction that sex should be non-procreative-a backward and distorted view as far as everyone else in the movie is concerned.
Though there are no sex scenes in this PG-13 movie, there is a fairly open discussion of sex. There is also some bad language, though no more than you'd hear during a normal day on campus.
The winners in this movie are not those like Lily who are trying to be "normal." The winners are those like Violet who ascribe to a Judeo-Christian worldview, know their purpose in life, and know that the world needs more individual thinkers, not more sheep.
Violet and company realize the world runs according to the rules of its Maker. Though a little quirky and oddly intellectual, Violet is the real McCoy and through her character Stillman reveals his worldview. Thanks to his good-natured humor and self-deprecating wit, Stillman is able to serve a portion of scathing cultural critique without coming off as pedantic or bizarre. Laughing their way out the door, viewers come away challenged to think beyond "normal" and aspire to a more refined and gracious way of life.