Metropolitan (1990)

Stillman’s accomplished comedy (his debut feature) tackles a particular class milieu in America—what the young, well-to-do Manhattanites deem as ‘urban haute bourgeoisie’—with a wry and sardonic tone that is uniquely his.   

Rating: 4 out of 5.

Review #2,305

Dir. Whit Stillman
1990 | USA | Comedy/Drama/Romance | 94 mins | 1.66:1 | English
PG (passed clean)

Cast: Carolyn Farina, Edward Clements, Chris Eigeman, Taylor Nichols, Allison Parisi
Plot: A group of young upper-class Manhattanites are blithely passing through the gala debutante season, when an unusual outsider joins them and stirs them up.
Awards: Won Silver Leopard (Locarno); Nom. for Grand Jury Prize (Sundance); Nom. for Best Original Screenplay (Oscars)
Source: Majestic Films

Accessibility Index
Subject Matter: Moderate – Upper-Class; Youth; Relationships
Narrative Style: Straightforward
Pace: Normal
Audience Type: Slightly Mainstream

Viewed: MUBI
Spoilers: No

One of the discoveries of American independent cinema in the 1990s, Whit Stillman may not have the sensational impact of Quentin Tarantino or the chameleon-like talent of Steven Soderbergh, but in his quiet, unassuming way, he found an audience ready to lap up his unique comedies, which are not many to begin with. 

His gift for the gab earned him his only Oscar nomination for Best Original Screenplay for Metropolitan, his accomplished debut feature. 

In Metropolitan, one might already find the wry and sardonic tone already fully formed.  The film hasn’t aged well aesthetically, but the dialogue remains fantastic and refreshing. 

One might draw comparisons to Woody Allen, but Stillman’s work is less neurotic and more specific to a certain class milieu in America—in this case, the young, well-to-do Manhattanites who spend their time idling away in their social circles, that is to say, they enjoy gossiping and judging their friends while waxing lyrical about their own literateness (‘wokeness’ isn’t in their vocabulary yet). 

“It’s a tiny bit arrogant of people to go around worrying about those less fortunate.”

As a character points out, they are proud to be part of the ‘urban haute bourgeoisie’, though they are certainly far from being mature human beings who can stand on their two feet. 

This is probably why it’s fun—and funny—to see how Metropolitan plays out; these people aren’t yet well-equipped to face the challenges of life, but they are still young and fervent, and there will be more life lessons ahead of them. 

The scenarios in Metropolitan are already a life lesson for some of them who may finally realise that it is far more important to chart your own path than to conform to social conventions.

Grade: A-



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