Whit Stillman may be a spoiled rich kid (his name is “Whit,” which is enraging enough), but he’s a talented spoiled rich kid, with his cinematic “comedies of manners” influencing the likes of Wes Anderson (most notably in The Royal Tenenbaums) and Noah Baumbach (most notably in Kicking and Screaming — the one that’s not the Will Ferrell soccer movie). Stillman’s 1990 debut, Metropolitan, actually has shades of The Great Gatsby as it follows Tom Townsend (Edward Clements), a Princeton freshman who, despite his conflicting personal values and beliefs, gets caught up in the Sally Fowler Rat Pack (SFRP), a group of preppy, Upper East Side Manhattanites making the rounds at various debutante balls over Christmas break; as the seemingly endless conversations grow increasingly more elitist (and inane), Tom nonetheless finds himself becoming attached to the group’s ringleader, Nick (Chris Eigeman) — and to the lovely Audrey (Carolyn Farina). A witty and enjoyable diversion, to be sure; the film was funded by Stillman’s selling of his New York apartment and is loosely based on the writer-director’s own experiences in Washington D.C. during the Christmas break of his first year at Harvard. Barcelona (1994) and The Last Days of Disco (1998) make up the other parts of an unofficial trilogy; during Disco‘s opening weekend, Stillman retreated to France for what would end up being a 13-year hiatus from filmmaking before re-emerging in 2011 with Damsels in Distress.
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