Such is the tagline for the wonderful Metropolitan, which I finally made the time to watch tonight, inspired by a reminder in a comment from Magic Molly herself. The movie was just released as a criterion classic a few months ago, but Whit Stillman made it available to Hulu in an effort to keep his movies alive since he takes so long to make them these days. I’d seen Barcelona long ago and loved it and only caught bits and pieces of The Last Days Of Disco on TV here and there. I’d planned to eventually get the criterion of Metropolitan at some point, but… well, thanks, Hulu!
Wikipedia sums up the plot of the movie better than I could right now: “Shot on location in Manhattan and Long Island, the movie depicts the lives of young, upper-class New Yorkers (or as one character attempts to rebrand them, the “urban haute bourgeoisie”) during debutante ball season while home for winter break in their first year of college. Middle-class Princeton student Tom Townsend, an admirer of Fourier’s socialism, observes this comedy of manners with an outsider’s distance but eventually becomes deeply attached to the characters he meets.”
Tom Townsend, played by Edward Clements, is for the most part, a nice and decent guy. But also has a touch of the self centered douchebag hypocrite to him. He’s a big fan of Fourier says things like, “I don’t read novels. I prefer good literary criticism. That way you get both the novelists’ ideas as well as the critics’ thinking. With fiction I can never forget that none of it really happened, that it’s all just made up by the author.” In addition to that and his being obsessed with the ethereal Serena Slocum, a girl he only dated through letters, he’s completely oblivious to the crush on him held by my favorite character, Audrey Rouget.
Audrey, played by Carolyn Farina, is seemingly the only level headed person in the group that Tom finds himself falling into and she’s instantly attracted to him. Her affections make sense at first: He’s an outsider, he’s rebellious as a snooty intellectual can be, and says things like, “I’m against the whole Deb thing,” while at the same time hanging out and doing the whole Deb thing. Audrey, all sweetness and sad eyes personified, listens as Tom goes on and on about his love affair with Serena that seems to exist more in his mind than in reality, and tells Tom that she likes Jane Austen right before he tells her that he’s never read Jane Austen, but nonetheless, she’s stupid.
When Tom finally gets Serena and mentions something that she said to him in a letter once, she makes a flippant comment about how keeping letters is ridiculous and reveals how keeping letters is a waste of time (which makes sense for Serena since she had several correspondence boyfriends) and reveals that she didn’t keep Tom’s letters, but gave them away to the shy, quiet girl that went school with her: Audrey.
Right after it’s too late, but not before Audrey potentially gets herself into some serious possible harm at the hands of Rick Von Sloneker, some kind of serial predator of young Deb women who leads them right on to eventual suicide, Tom finally notices Audrey and via hearing of her affections (now supposedly extinguished) for him, realizes that he could have a thing for her. So he teams up with his sort of but not really rival for her, Charlie (played by Taylor Nichols, who was excellent in Barcelona), the only person in this social group who’s possibly as or more arrogant than Tom himself, to go save her and redress in her eyes.
As a plot recap or serious analyzation, this is somewhat flawed, mostly because it’s late (Dear work tomorrow: Fuck you), but the movie is fresh in my mind and wonderful (and if I had the time or the energy, I would go into a long thing about flow of these movies, the wondrous rhythmic flurry of almost sing song language that inhabits every Stillman picture), and I wanted to sing an ode to the Audrey character. She apparently reappears in some form in The Last Days of Disco, which I know definitely need to go out and find.
The movie is almost 20 years old now, which feels too weird since everything has a classic, yet old fashioned sense to it. The 90s still feel somewhat recent and familiar to me emotionally, probably because the real meaty part of my adolescence is anchored there, even though intellectually I know that the 90s were… a while ago. That said, you can still clearly see the way Stillman’s style and this movie in particular influenced Wes Anderson and Noah Baumbach, especially in Kicking and Screaming. But I’d be remiss to not mention an appearance by a very young Christopher Eigeman (who was also in Kicking and Screaming) in this movie. Looking back at his place as the sarcastic guy that you should hate but don’t usually, he really did what he did the best out of the rest of his 90s counterparts. (Well, his niche wasn’t over too long ago, he did do a recurring stint on Gilmore Girls a while back.)
Anyways, it’s late and I’m somewhat tired so I’ll just leave you with a wonderful quote from Eigeman’s character in the movie: “I’ve always planned to be a failure anyway, that’s why I plan to marry an extremely wealthy woman.” (That line as terrifying personal resonance for me since someone once told me that I reminded them of an Eigeman character in a tragic sort of way.)