Thursday, 6 April 2017
I've Just Seen: Metropolitan (1990)
It would be very easy to dislike the young people who live in the world of Metropolitan. These college students, all from upper-class New York, spend their nights wearing immaculate clothes - white gowns with gloves for ladies, suits for the men - going to fancy places to dine, and engaging in all too clever conversation. Yet under this beautiful, old-fashioned facade, these young people are dealing with the same issues and emotions as others their age, including romance, jealousy, annoying parents, university, and friendship.
I ended up really enjoying the company of these well-dressed, articulate people, whose bluster masks their vulnerabilities. There is no great overaching plot, though Stillman has borrowed group dynamics from Jane Austen's novel Mansfield Park - another reason I loved this film. The main character Tom still has feelings for his ex- Serena, while Audrey, who loves Austen's work, develops a crush on Tom.
The screenplay is full of wonderful dialogue, including a hilarious scene where Tom explains to Audrey that he doesn't really read fiction, but does read criticism about, which he thinks gives him an even better idea about the text than if he actually read it. A poignant feeling develops as the film goes on, as the group known as the Sally Fowler Rat Pack, before so tight-nit, start to go their separate until only two are really left.
Stillman manages to make this story of fancy apartments and wordy characters cinematic, creating a world that very specific, yet doesn't have a stable place in history; the teens are preserving a something that may never have really existed. And this gives the film a depth other directors might have missed. It is comparable to John Hughes' films, with its sense of youthful ennui - just more snappily dressed.