Metropolitan (1990)

“It’s a tiny bit arrogant of people to go around worrying about those less fortunate.” A unique comedy/drama written and directed by Whit Stillman (The Last Days of Disco) that will not appeal to all tastes (especially if you disliked something like My Dinner with Andre), Metropolitan follows the lives of a group of young Upper East Side Manhattanites as they spend winter break from college amid the debutante ball season. Cynical, self-described Fourierist “Tom Townsend” (Edward Clements), an outsider from the West Side (he has a rented tux and wears a worn, Columbo-style raincoat), inadvertently joins the circle and manages to stir things up in the process. “Audrey Rouget” (Carolyn Farina), who loves the novels of Jane Austen, becomes obsessed with Tom but he still holds a torch for former girlfriend “Serena Slocum” (Ellia Thompson). Meanwhile pseudo-intellectual “Charlie Black” (Taylor Nichols) has a crush on Audrey. Last but not least, “Nick Smith” (Chris Eigeman), the most outspoken member of the group, has an irrational hatred for the movie’s villain, egomaniac “Rick von Sloneker” (Will Kempe). The solid cast includes Allison Parisi as “Jane Clark,” Dylan Hundley as “Sally Fowler,” Bryan Leder as “Fred Neff,” Isabel Gillies as “Cynthia McLean” and Stephen Uys as “Victor Lemley.” Most of the “action” takes place during lively, frequently hilarious after-party discussions over drinks. For instance, Tom never reads novels, preferring literary criticism: “That way you get both the novelists’ ideas as well as the critics’ thinking. With fiction I can never forget that none of it really happened, that it’s all just made up by the author.” Okay, not much happens but the dialogue is rich and the characters themselves are very entertaining. I especially enjoyed the scenes of verbal sparring between von Slonekar and Nick, Charlie and Tom on their quest to “save” Audrey from von Slonekar, as well as when Tom and Charlie talk to the older guy in the bar and they can see their own possible dismal futures ahead of them when he remarks, “The acid test is whether you take any pleasure in responding to the question ‘What do you do?’ I can’t bear it.” The film’s tagline announced, “Finally … a film about the downwardly mobile.” Metropolitan was nominated for an Academy Award for Best Original Screenplay but (believe it or not!) lost out to Ghost.

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