How you take to "Metropolitan" may have a lot to do with your personal tolerance level for snobs.
This picture is filled with them.There is a sense of irony to writer-director Whit Stillman's comedy of manners, but the irony is soft and his film is full of observations that seem romantic, yet diffident.
An independent production, "Metropolitan" was a much-talked-about picture at the Sundance Film Festival in Park City this past January. But all the talk wasn't positive.
There was a sense people either loved or hated this movie. Oddly, I'm somewhere in the middle. I found it fairly enjoyable, but it seemed to lack something.
The nominal storyline develops largely through the backdoor entry into society of a working-class young man who attends a recital in a rented tuxedo and finds himself invited by a bunch of spoiled preppies to join them. They are short of escorts for the ladies, you see.
He is at first reluctant but eventually links up with this elite collegiate set for myriad rounds of torpid conversation as they spend the entire Christmas season going to debutante balls and after-parties, then sitting around talking about themselves and each other _ and especially anyone who has left the room.
Stillman is adept at creating distinctive characters, and the ensemble performances are all quite good. The problem is you may simply not care much about them _ or for them.
There are some interesting set-pieces here, but what "Metropolitan" really lacks is an edge, some kind of acerbic wit to put it all in perspective.
The obvious comparisons are Henry Jaglom and Woody Allen. Jaglom's films are less polished but seem more relevant. Allen's are more piercing and witty on every level.
On the other hand, Stillman is examining a more white-bread bourgeois rich and youthful level of society than either of those filmmakers characterize. But the audience may feel this is too loving a portrait of a decadent and fading upper-crust society and therefore feel put off.
On a technical level, this is an amazingly slick film. Stillman knows how to, as they say, put every dollar on the screen.
And on balance, he's certainly a filmmaker to watch for in the future.
"Metropolitan" is rated PG-13 for occasional vulgarity and a single obscenity.