Damsels In Distress: Noah Wunsch’s journey through the screening and after party

Written by Noah Wunsch on . Posted in NY Press Exclusive.


Damsels in Distress, directed by Whit Stillman.

I told myself I wasn’t going to drink last night. I lied. That lack of conviction lead me where I stood at the end of the evening, waiting outside the little girls room for one of the lead actress’ who starred in the film I saw two hours and seven Coronas earlier, to come out, so I could tell her how great she was in the movie, and that it was probably in her best interest to start dating me. I was wholly confident this tact would work, as long as she didn’t come out with a gaggle of friends…
The evenings screening, held by the Cinema Society with Town & Country and Brooks Brothers, was for Whit Stillman’s latest hats off to WASP life and SAT words, Damsels in Distress. Sitting in the back row of the theatre with my friend Stan, a stranger plopped down and nudged me, “Back row, eh?” he winked. “That way we can take off if it sucks, right? Ha!” I shrugged.
The stranger ducked out two-thirds of the way through.
The movie’s faults lie in its age. This is very clearly a movie about young twenty-year-olds, written by someone out of their young twenties. The edge and jaunty satire that was relevant in Stillman’s first film Metropolitan (1990) feels tepid and droll in 2012. It’s just… white. The movie is Wonderbread white. And while some liken Stillman’s pedantic writing to that of Woody Allen, I make the point that Woody is Jewish, so his neurosis is infused in the writing. Stillman is Ivy League, so his writing is infused with Xanax and not much conflict. The shortcomings of the film as a plot driven vehicle, were salvaged thanks to the phenomenal young cast, who handled Stillman’s buffalo cent words with elegance. Not faltering between the likes of hackneyed, chastisement or an argument over the correct pluralization of the word doofus. With scene after scene of two olive dry martinis, it was necessary for the audience to take a trip for a sip at the Soho Grand, where the after-party was held in The Club Room.
Lovely attendees ranging in age slurped down their “martis,” swirled some Woodbridge Sparkling Wine or drank the elderflower concoction handed out at the entrance. It had a red flower petal in it. I drank it and felt girly, which isn’t a bad thing, just a fact. I traded it in for a Corona, and spritzed a lime on the group I was conversing with. It seemed the stranger had snuck out of the screening to make an early entrance to the after-party. A lovely woman in the group asked if he enjoyed the film. He laughed, “I hated it!” This started a conversation on social faux pas’, and the woman admitted she had a particularly bad one earlier in the evening. She had attended the “From Scotland with Love,” event. Men were kilted up, and she jokingly asked one of them if he shaved his legs in preparation.
“No ma’am,” he had said. “I lost both my legs in Iraq.” He then pulled up his kilt revealing two prosthetic legs. The woman shook her head. “I wanted to die.”
At the bar I fell in line with a dapper Brit in a pin-stripe double breaster. He was gregarious, and flounced me around the room introducing me to him and her and his and… hers? He told me he loved his wife, that he had always had a passion for fiery women. “That’s why I liked the film.” I furrowed my brow, none of the women had seemed particularly “fiery” to me. “They’re all batsh-t crazy! Beautiful little lunatics.” A photographer passed by, and he wrapped his arm around my shoulder. “Take a picture of me and my boyfriend!” I liked this guy. Sense of humor. She asked to take some candids, so he told me about how awful Wrath of the Titans was while flashes broke. “That’s what you learn when you have kids, there are so many awful movies out there.” He patted me on the back and went to sit down with a friend.
Four more beers in and I was walking around the room feeling like Midas. I’ve got the Corona touch. I had told a talent manager I didn’t like the movie. “I represented one of the actors in it.”
“I said I didn’t like the movie, I didn’t say I didn’t like the acting.”
I had failed flirtations with a beautiful Canadian woman. I had asked what she was reading: Game of Thrones and The Return by Joseph Conrad. Sexy. “Do you have siblings?” she had asked. I nodded. “How did you torture them growing up?”
“I didn’t,” I replied. “I was the younger one. I got tortured.”
“I was the younger one too,” she said. “But I tortured the older ones.”
“That’s because you’re a sadist. I’m a masochist.”
The films cast was spread out around the room. Adam Brody leaned against a mirrored wall, talking to Ryan Metcalfe who plays one of the singular “doufi.” The actresses’ were on couches here and there, but one in particular had caught my eye. I had read a profile of her before I had left for the screening, which happened to mention she was single and kind of a nerd. Just. My. Type.
I made eyes with her, and she caught on, looking back seductively. Or maybe it was a different adverb, worriedly? I was pretty much staring at her. Murderer status.
Nah, it was probably seductively.
“Noah, we’re leaving,” a friend called out. “You coming?” I turned around one more time, but she had returned to her conversation. I placed my Corona on the bar and made way for the exit, but as I was about to turn left into the elevator bank, I noticed the lithe creature slinking off to the ladies’ room. Her long black dress, picked up so she wouldn’t trip over the pool, seemed oddly familiar in all its backless glory. Holy sh-t, did I remember what this girls dress looks like? I need to get a hold of my creeper status ASAP. But it couldn’t have been a coincidence that this woman, this starlet to be, had left for the restroom at the same time I had left in general. No. She must be following me. A little of the ol’ cat and mouse, ay? I can play that game missum!
I stood by a pillar, futzing with my hair. I was waiting for her to return, for her to smile when she recognized that I had caught on to her none too innocent ploy. What to say when she came out? “You. Me. Now.”
“I read about you earlier tonight. I know you’re single.” Jesus, I’ve seriously become a creeper. When did that happen?! “You were great in the movie, how about you and I go make-” NOPE. The door to the ladies’ room opened. She stepped out alone. Walking towards me, to me, for me.
But then the door opened again and two loud-mouthed lovelies called after her. The gaggle of friends had magically appeared, and with it my Midas like confidence. She passed me by, and all I could do was smile, which, she did in fact return and then left forever. There I stood, drunk in the Soho Grand. Another damsel in distress.

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