Tuesday, June 14, 2016

Metropolitan Museum

Since we watched Metropolitan (1990), we are now Whit Stillman fans. Possibly we were all along, we just couldn't prove it. But this movie is very much our thing.

It is a movie about preppies and debs in Manhattan in the 80s. They are young, mostly rich, well educated and well brought up, and ridiculous. They dress in evening wear and go to debutante balls, then meet Sally Fowler's place to talk nonsense all night. One of them, Tom Townsend, is a newcomer - he doesn't have any money ("lacks resources" is the kind phrase), but he is accepted as one of them. Well, he prepped at Pomfret.

Some people say there's no plot, but there is quite a bit of plot. It just isn't important. What is important is the young, bored, over-educated and over-dressed boys and girls talking about themselves, society and life in general. Topics range from Fourierism to Jane Austen to gossip about schoolmates.

Now, I didn't prep, nor was I in any way preppy. But I did attend an Ivy League school and knew plenty of preppies, both in the Lacoste and Docksider sense and the Philips Exeter and Groton sense. I had any number of conversations like this, or listened to them quietly from my armchair somewhat away from the fireplace. There is a major plot point about the boys and girls communicating through letters - I remember that too. Writing letters to the girls I knew outside of school or at other schools, waiting for a reply. I'm still proud of some of the letters I wrote, and still remember some that I got - although none of them got me a inch closer to true life romance.

This movie struck me as very artificial and quite true to life. The people in it are lovable and ridiculous. They are so sophisticated and blase, but still in high school. They know so much about life and society, and live in such a small bubble. Only Tom Townsend seems to have ever taken the subway.

The distaff side of this group is a little more of a mystery. The female lead, Audrey, is the Jane Austen fan, a cute, insecure girl with Molly Ringwald lips and a Dorothy Hamill bob. She is easy to love, but I don't know if Stillman got into her head the way he writes for the boys. Maybe it's me that can't read her as well as I read the boys.

I understand that Stillman has made two other movies in this milieu, and has recently done a Jane Austen adaptation. We will be working our way through them, a little at a time. Binge-watching would be greedy, and is not done in proper society.

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