The Literate “Metropolitan”

Metropolitan (1990) is the fascinating Whit Stillman’s first film.  I staunchly disagree with those critics who say it’s his best; I think it’s his weakest.  In its last few scenes the movie’s story self-destructs incorrigibly, and there is some mild sentimentality besides.  But the film is a very watchable literate comedy, the usual brainy confection.  The characters here are young men and women usually called preppies—or, as one fellow would have it, U.H.B. (Urban Haute Bourgeoisie).

Stillman zeroes in on the disconnect between these people’s smart conversation with its political dimension and their inactive, deb-society lives.  Often they’re lovable frauds, but all of them need to move on.  There’s growing up to do.  All the same, several of the young men ask themselves whether those of their generation are decisively “doomed to failure.”  Stillman seems comfortable with the idea that yes, they’ll become failures, but no, they’re not doomed.

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