Friday, April 30, 2010
Metropolitan Time Waste
Once in a while, a movie comes out that speaks to an entire generation. Throughout the 1980's, John Hughes created films like The Breakfast Club, Pretty In Pink and St. Elmo's Fire. These were stories about the human condition, movies with themes that could be appreciated by a broad audience. While geared toward teens and twenty-somethings, the characters in these films were dynamic. You'd be hard-pressed to find an individual who lived through the 80's who couldn't find a member of the Brat Pack to relate with.
And then, in 1990, Whit Stillman made Metropolitan. This film is the antithesis of a John Hughes flick. Sure, it's cut from the same mold: it attempts to straddle the line between drama and comedy; the story is centered around a number of characters, none of whom can be identified as the protagonist; the plotline has little to do with action and everything to do with conversation; changes in setting are sparse and unimportant. The problem here, of course, lies in how relatable these characters are: not at all.
Metropolitan quickly settles into its setting: an upper-class dinner party in Manhattan in what we can only assume is the 1970's. The glamorous apartment is filled with exceptionally dressed men and women in their early twenties having conversations that go like this:
"That's how New York seems, at least in the popular imagination."
"Well, I don't think that there is a popular imagination."
"Oh, what do you mean?"
"Just that. I don't think there is a popular imagination."
None of these characters listen to each other. They simply wait to speak. No one actually says anything of substance, and there are constant arguments with no discernable purpose other than the reiteration that yes, these characters care about nothing but flaunting their class and education.
While it is charming to witness just how empty these trust-fund babies' lives are, the joke gets old rather quickly. Then it gets depressing. Don't get me wrong: you don't feel for the characters at all. You just start feeling bad about yourself, because you'll never have it that easy, and you imagine that if you did, you wouldn't be such a pretentious douchebag. And these characters are pretentious douchebags. They exude a cloud of smug so thick you might get lung cancer.
Of course, there is a very small audience the movie can appeal to. For the sake of being unbiased, here are some words from a positive review of this film from Amazon.com: iridescence, juxtaposed, soigne, genteel, egalitarianism, deconstructionist, poignant, cynosure, evanescence. These are words that people shouldn't use in an Amazon product review unless they feel the need to flaunt their depth in front of the entire internet. (Of course, most of us here on the internet know the difference between a writer with a masterful vocabulary and one who just discovered thesaurus.com.)
So, unless you have an inflated sense of self-worth you need to reaffirm by understanding this film in some profound manner or you're a New York socialite (in the most romantic and repugnant sense of the word), don't let Metropolitan rob you of time or money. Amazon.com is asking $32 for the DVD, which is about thirty-two dollars over a reasonable price. Hell, this movie's not even worth the bandwidth you'll waste downloading it illegally.