Time Out says
Mon May 15 2006One Christmas vacation, the university-age scions of the Upper East Side aristocracy return home for a few ritualised weeks of debutante balls and ‘after-parties’ in Whit Stillman’s semi-autobiographical debut, first released in 1990 and now revived at the ICA. To most viewers, the film’s milieu will be exotic terrain – New York’s old-money thoroughbreds in their natural habitat – and it’s the writer-director’s alter ego, Tom Townsend (Edward Clements), who locates our point of view. Tom’s parents have split and his trust fund has evaporated, so he provides the knowledge of the insider but the critical stance of the dispossessed outsider. With dry, affable humour, Stillman ribs his wealthy characters for their vanities and juvenile myopia, but he never belittles them for what amounts to a profitable accident of birth. If anything, Stillman casts the sharpest eye on his less privileged stand-in, who’s marked out by his red hair, his quasi-socialist politics, his use of public transportation, and his raincoat in winter.
It’s a credit to Whitman’s gifts of characterisation that Tom is at once as infuriating and loveable as any smart, decent kid in the throes of late adolescence. So is Nick (Chris Eigeman), who’s possessed of lightning wit, bad judgment, and no end of snap opinions (‘The Surrealists were all a bunch of social climbers’). And so is Charlie (Taylor Nichols), who nurses a crush on sweet, pretty Audrey (Carolyn Farina) and frets about the ‘downward mobility’ of what he dubs the UHB, or Urban Haute Bourgeoisie. None of Stillman’s endearing characters quite fits their prescribed social context, and in its exhilarated final movement, ‘Metropolitan’ finds an exit out of the stifling UHB salon.
Author: Jessica Winter
Fri May 19, 2006