Metropolitan – an Indie Film Review
“Manhattan, Christmas vacation, Not so long ago.” This is the text that appears when Whit Stillman’s film “Metropolitan” starts. I immediately start going over memories of the break I have just come back from myself, and from those past. I would find out that my memories would differ drastically. None of my memories held conversations of the validity of deb parties or glasses of fine Scotch. They held a lot more mediocre beer next to campfires on the river.
“Metropolitan” is the story of a group of high-class students who are accustomed to the fine dining happenings of Manhattan. The self-dubbed “Sally Fowler Rat Pack” is regarded even by other high-class citizens as a fairly elite group of the deb-going community. These deb attendees spend all of their break going from fancy party to fancy party, always ending their nights the following morning after attempting to converse on heavy subjects. Tom Townsend (Edward Clements), a young man with strong views, one of which is against deb altogether, is somewhat accidentally taken into this group. This changes some of the dynamics of this pretty familiar group.
At first I assumed Tom’s distaste for the deb scene was due to the pretentiousness of its personnel, but after some time to better understand his character, I found the reason to be that he is just as pretentious himself. He dogmatically stands behind philosophies he doesn’t understand, he adopts harsh opinions of books he hasn’t read, and he supposedly understands the workings of society he isn’t really a part of. In fact he is just pretentious enough to end up fitting right into the group.
Once Tom finds his way of being a regular in the group, he ends up disappointing Audrey (Carolyn Farina), the girl that seems to be falling for him, by acting on a past love affair that he hasn’t quite gotten over. The group is equally disappointed in this action, even though they were the ones to coax Tom into going to the deb ball against his first instinct. Charlie, a member of the group who happens to have a thing for Audrey, even goes as far as to say that that Tom is a phony.
This accusation come from a man under the dilution that he is part of a new form of the bourgeois, and because of his standing, is doomed for failure. Charlie later meets a man from a similar upbringing and is shocked in disbelief that the man has not been doomed by failure. The man confesses that the biggest issue in his life is that it pains him to admit the answer when people ask him, “What do you do?” It is not that he doesn’t have a respectable job or decent income, but it’s the fact that he finds no joy in what he does, and therefor life is not as successful as what it could be.
This is the most direct way that the Whit Stillman shows his disapproval of this higher-class society, the underlying theme of the film. The film acts as a satire of this exaggerated social pool. The group of deb-goers finds themselves to be totally normal and self-righteous. If this were to be taken completely seriously, as a typical Hollywood film would lead you to do, it would be somewhat appalling, where as an independent film, we can see it as more a social commentary and laugh at it’s ridiculousness.
In one of the groups “highly enlightened” discussions, Charlie says, “There’s actually very little social snobbery in the United States.” “I can’t stand snobbery or snobbish attitude of any kind” Sally responds, who has her very own posse of elite social pieces. You can’t help but laugh at it.
Once Tom gets fully accustomed to the life of dances and parties, the pack fizzles out and he finds that the elaborate life isn’t a real thing, but merely a show that can’t last longer than two weeks.
Check out the trailer: