Following on from yesterday’s piece, columnist James Slaymaker has one final idea for alternative seasonal watching for you – should you be feeling a little tired of The Muppet’s Christmas Carol, or you’re not exactly looking forward to a fifth viewing of Love Actually.
A masterwork of gradual world-building and delicately crafted dialogue, Whit Stillman’s micro-budget period piece Metropolitan resembles something akin to a Hollywood classism revival filtered through the giddy formal shabbiness of a Luc Moullet movie. Detailing the romantic entanglements of a group of bourgeois, over-educated college over the course of their Christmas vacation, this half-mocking, half-affectionate comedy of manners is so effortlessly witty that it takes a while to register that it’s essentially an elegy. Stillman’s ambivalence lies in the fact that he doesn’t necessarily see the inevitable passing of this way of life as a negative development for society as a whole, yet it deserves mourning anyway.
Needless to say, F. Scott Fitzgerald is the guiding force here, particularly the semi-autobiographical This Side of Paradise. The low-key plot concerns the entrance of Tom, a perpetual outsider and audience surrogate due to his relatively degraded financial states, to the tight-knit band. The mild mannered Audrey quickly develops a romantic infatuation with him, who prefers to fawn over his ex-girlfriend Serena Slocum, despite his discovery that she was dating at least 20 other men at the same time. Serena has recently become involved with Rick Von Sloneker, a hedonist who also happens to the encapsulation of everything group leader Nick and amateur philosopher Charlie stand for. Yet as in all of Stillman’s work, the plot isn’t so important in itself as in how it demonstrates how the young and idealistic tend to perceive their lives in the model of fiction, assigning themselves pre-determined roles.