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Whit Stillman
Carolyn Farina, Edward Clements, Chris Eigeman, Taylor Nichols, Allison Parisi, Dylan Hundley, Isabel Gillies, Bryan Leder
Writing Credits:
Whit Stillman

Finally ... A film about the downwardly mobile.

One of the great American independent films of the 1990s, the surprise hit Metropolitan by writer-director Whit Stillman (Damsels in Distress) is a sparkling comedic chronicle of a middle-class young man’s romantic misadventures in New York City’s debutante society. Stillman’s deft, literate dialogue and hilariously highbrow observations earned this first film an Academy Award nomination for best original screenplay. Alongside the wit and sophistication, though, lies a tender tale of adolescent anxiety.

Box Office:
$225 thousand.
Domestic Gross
$2.938 million.

Rated PG-13

Aspect Ratio: 1.66:1
English Monaural
Supplements Subtitles:

Runtime: 99 min.
Price: $39.95
Release Date: 7/24/2012

• Audio Commentary with Writer/Director Whit Stillman , Editor Christopher Tellefsen and Actors Christopher Eigeman and Taylor Nichols
• Outtakes and Alternate Casting with Optional Commentary
• Trailer
• Booklet


Panasonic 50" TH-50PZ77U 1080p Plasma Monitor; Sony STR-DG1200 7.1 Channel Receiver; Panasonic DMP-BD60K Blu-Ray Player using HDMI outputs; Michael Green Revolution Cinema 6i Speakers (all five); Kenwood 1050SW 150-watt Subwoofer.


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Metropolitan: Criterion Collection [Blu-Ray] (1990)

Reviewed by Colin Jacobson (July 23, 2012)

Back when Metropolitan became a critical success in 1990, it looked like writer/director Whit Stillman would turn into a rising star in the movie business. This never really happened. While Steven Soderbergh launched from his breakthrough Sex, Lies and Videotape in 1989, Stillman’s career failed to ignite. He produced two more flicks in the 1990s but those didn’t achieve the same level of success as the Oscar-nominated Metropolitan and he didn’t direct any features at all between 1998 and 2011.

One night, Tom Townsend (Edward Clements) stands at a Manhattan street corner and finds himself invited to a local debutante ball after-party hosted by a group of upper-class college students. At this, they wear formal garb, listen to light jazz and debate philosophy and political tenets. The twist is that although Tom shares their intellectual leanings, he’s from much more modest financial means.

Despite that obstacle, the rich kids take to Tom and he becomes part of their circle. This mainly connects him with cynical Nick Smith (Christopher Eigeman) as his benefactor/main male friend and Audrey Rouget (Carolyn Farina) as his potential love interest.

This Blu-ray became my initial viewing of Metropolitan; I knew of it back in 1990 but never got around to seeing it. I wish I’d watched it then simply because I was much closer in age to the characters. I graduated college in 1990, so if I’d disliked it, at least it wouldn’t have been for age-related reasons.

Since I didn’t see the movie until 2012 and the ripe old age of 45, some of my feelings about Metropolitan may be tainted by the attitudes that alter as you get older. Obviously it’s a whole lot easier to identify with – and tolerate – pretentious college kids when you’re in the same bracket. When you get into middle age, their self-absorbed smugness becomes much more difficult to take.

Though I suspect the characters of Metropolitan would’ve annoyed me just as much at 23 as they do at 45. The personalities seen here live up – or down, if you will – to the stereotypes of spoiled rich kids who think they know everything and who do nothing.

For the life of me, I can’t figure out why Stillman received so much positive attention for this dull tripe. From the very start, Stillman doesn’t just wear his influences on his sleeve; he dons an entire suit, and that suit screams “Woody Allen”. The simple text of the opening paired with jazz music strongly evokes the standard Allen credits, and the setting/story plays as standard Woody with a younger cast.

Minus all of Allen’s wit and insight, unfortunately.

I’ve been critical of Allen over the years, as he’s had more than a few ups and downs. However, it doesn’t take much to realize that even a mediocre Allen movie surpasses the stiff, one-dimensional nature of Metropolitan. Heck, one need only look to another film from the same era as Metropolitan - 1989’s Crimes & Misdemeanors - for evidence of Allen’s greater skill in this regard.

Metropolitan feels like all of the Allen pretensions without much else to it. Of course, Stillman doesn’t limit himself to Allen allusions; he also wears his literary influences on his sleeve, as we get heavy doses of F. Scott Fitzgerald and Jane Austen along the way.

All of these add up to a movie with little more to it than a series of nods to other, more talented artists and a trite, dull story. Buried beneath the smug socializing of its characters, we find a tale with a pretty simple romantic theme. Essentially the movie boils down to “Audrey loves Tom but Tom’s too dense to notice until the end”. Everything else comes across as window-dressing.

And pretty insufferable window-dressing at that. The characters seem so full of themselves that they’re tough to take, and we’re stuck with one fatuous conversation/monologue after another.

Granted, the movie does loosen up as it goes. The characters show a bit more self-awareness and the tone gets lighter as it concentrates more on the interpersonal dynamics. Unfortunately, at this point it’s too late. The film’s stiffness and lack of wit has left us adrift, and it can’t offer enough meat during the final act to bring us back onto shore.

The general amateurishness of the film doesn’t help. Shot on a low budget, I’m fine with the production values; much of the flick takes place in apartments, so it doesn’t need anything fancy.

Metropolitan loses points largely due to the consistently weak acting. Some fare better than others, but there’s not a single natural, believable performance in the bunch. All involved feel like Stillman recruited them from local college productions and he couldn’t get any actors with much real talent.

Ultimately, Metropolitan tells a slow, semi-pointless tale in a dull manner. I kept waiting for it to deliver some insight, wit or cleverness, but none of that ever arrived.

The Blu-ray Grades: Picture B/ Audio C+/ Bonus C+

Metropolitan appears in an aspect ratio of approximately 1.66:1 on this Blu-Ray Disc. Though I suspect the transfer offered a good representation of the source material, the image tended to be spotty.

Most of the time, sharpness looked acceptably concise and accurate, but more than a few exceptions occurred. Some shots came across as tentative and slightly mushy. I noticed no signs of jagged edges or shimmering, and no edge enhancement popped up throughout the film. In terms of print flaws, I saw a couple of minor streaks but nothing more. Grain could be rather heavy; I attributed that to the source photography.

The palette of Metropolitan favored muted tones, which made sense given its low-key production design. Occasionally the tones pepped up a bit, but the film’s rusty Eighties roots came through via the generally bland colors. Blacks were fairly deep, though, and shadows showed fairly good delineation. Nothing here excelled, but the image merited a solid “B”.

The film came with a simple monaural soundtrack. Audio quality was reasonably good, though the mix occasionally showed its age. Speech demonstrated somewhat thin and reedy qualities, and I heard some edginess at times. The lines were acceptably natural in general, though, and they remained intelligible. Music worked fine. The score offered decent depth and range. Effects didn’t play a huge role, and they occasionally seemed a bit tinny. However, they mostly sounded clear and accurate. This was a restrained soundtrack that seemed fairly average for its era.

When we shift to extras, we launch with an audio commentary from writer/director Whit Stillman , editor Christopher Tellefsen and actors Christopher Eigeman and Taylor Nichols. All four sit together for this running, screen-specific discussion of the project's roots and development, music, cast and performances, sets and locations, story and characters, script, editing and tone, costumes and camerawork, financial issues, and related topics.

While I didn’t care for the movie itself, this commentary provides a strong examination of it. Actually, it starts a little slowly, but it quickly picks up a good head of steam as it covers a nice variety of filmmaking topics. This one cranks along well and delivers an informative take on the movie.

After this we find outtakes (9:24), a Memorial to Line Producer Brian Greenbaum (1:01) and alternate casting. In the latter, we see Will Kemper audition for Nick Smith (1:52) and Lloyd Kaufman try out for Allen Green (2:27). The outtakes mix blooper reel material (goofs and giggles) along with some alternate lines; it’s mildly interesting at best. As for the “Tribute”, it gives us quick montage of shots in which the late line producer – who died in 1992 – appeared. It’s fine but would probably be better if it included some commentary about Greenbaum.

The two “alternate casting” pieces are reasonably fun to see. They come with optional commentary from Stillman; he tells us a bit about the actors and why he made the casting choices he did. It’s a useful expansion on the material.

In addition to the film’s trailer, we get an eight-page booklet. This presents some credits as well as an essay from critic Luc Sante. The booklet’s less substantial than most from Criterion, but it adds some value to the set.

With Metropolitan, we get a self-conscious attempt to meld Woody Allen with a mix of literary sources. Harpooned by a variety of amateurish factors, it doesn’t work; the movie seems too stiff and full of itself. The Blu-ray provides good picture, decent audio and supplements led by a very strong commentary. Criterion brings the movie to Blu-ray well, but I can’t say the film does anything for me.

Viewer Film Ratings: -- Stars Number of Votes: 0
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