Critics' Pick

Metropolitan (1990) (PG-13)

Comedy 98 min. August 7, 2015
By Sam Weisberg
There are movies that aren't for everyone, and then there are movies that ought to be stamped with a "Caution: Not for Everyone" disclaimer. Whit Stillman's snappy, light-footed 1990 debut, Metropolitan, is not only about rich teenagers — a common one-note villain in most American comedies — it's about old-money Manhattan teenagers who discuss Jane Austen, Charles Fourier and Lionel Trilling. Who, free from judgment in their regal safe spaces, whine about the decline of what they call the "Urban Haute Bourgeoisie." Who wear coattails and top hats. And who — least universal of all — attend debutante balls.

This is the ultimate insider film for the young, urbanite rich, and yet upon its 25-year re-release Metropolitan still possesses a low-key, self-mocking charm. That the film is semi-autobiographical imbues it with authenticity and passion. But it's the vulnerability of the cast members — most making their debut, and several leaving the trade soon after — that renders these characters likable. By any textbook definition, they are snobs, but they emerge as rather friendly and inclusive.
Underneath its meandering dialogue and structure lies the most classic romance story arc: Virginal, shy boy obsesses over snooty girl, somehow missing obvious signs of interest from an equally virginal and shy girl. The center of the movie at first seems to belong to Tom (Edward Clements), but he's so myopic that audience loyalty shifts to Audrey (the divine Carolyn Farina, who has, sadly, stopped acting). She's a tried-and-true wallflower with an aura of radiance that neither she nor her group has yet picked up on. Metropolitan is even touching at times, especially when it remarks on how the debutante-going scene is beginning to dissipate.
Whit Stillman Carolyn Farina, Edward Clements, Chris Eigeman, Taylor Nichols, Allison Parisi, Dylan Hundley, Isabel Gillies, Will Kempe, Bryan Leder, Ellia Thompson Whit Stillman Rialto Pictures

Newsletters

All-access pass to the top stories, events and offers around town.

  • Top Stories
    Send:

Newsletters

All-access pass to top stories, events and offers around town.

Sign Up >

No Thanks!

Remind Me Later >