Film Review: Whit Stillman’s ‘Metropolitan’

Whit Stillman's Metropolitan
Courtesy Rialto Pictures

Whit Stillman makes a strikingly original debut with “Metropolitan,” a glib, ironic portrait of the vulnerable young heirs to Manhattan’s disappearing debutante scene. With its sophisticated, gently mocking wit and the introduction of an intriguing ensemble cast, pic is a strong candidate for specialized theatrical release.

Story centers on a set of East Side friends who dub themselves the SFRP (or “Sally Fowler Rat Pack,” after the girl whose sprawling Park Avenue apartment they gather in) and. more amusingly, UHBs, for Urban Haute Bourgeoisie. They drag into their number a newcomer. Tom (Edward Clements), who openly disapproves of them but nonetheless shows up every night for a private gatherings after black-lie parties and dances. A self-serious but insensitive young man.

Tom inspires the first-time love of Audrey, a quiet, good-humored literature lover who feels a bit outside the group. But Tom repeatedly humiliates her as he continues to pursue an old flame, Serena (Elizabeth Thompson). For Tom, the comforting sense of permanence the group offers proves an illusion — just as he comes to rely on them, they scatter as Christmas holidays end. In an amusing errand of rescue with his romantic rival, Charlie (Taylor Nichols), Tom tries to resurrect what he’s loat. Apparently seeking to portray in comic detail the surviving remnants of the world described in F. Scott Fitzgerald’s “This Side Of Paradisc,” “Metropolitan” succeeds on several levels, offering rich, sparkling dialog, distinct characters and an intriguing peek into a seldom seen milieu.

Stillman achieves a certain visual poignancy in images of the same small group, dressed in correct tuxedos and party clothes, struggling to maintain a way of life. Twentiesera piano music and ornate title cards between scenes extend the irony.

Among the fine cast, Christopher Eigeman stands out as Nick, the funny, arrogant group leader who’s as jovially self-aware and self-mocking as his new friend. Tom, is stilted and blind to himself. Carolyn Farina gives a sensitive. perceptive performance as Audrey. Pic is a true independent production financed by 37-year-old Stillman (who sold his Manhattan apartment) and several friends. Stillman’s previous film experience was his involvement in making a 1984 indie production, “Skyline,” about the comic adventures of Spaniards in New York.

1990: Nomination: Best Original Screenplay

Film Review: Whit Stillman’s ‘Metropolitan’

  • Production: Westerly. Director Whit Stillman; Producer Whit Stillman; Screenplay Whit Stillman; Camera John Thomas; Editor Chris Tellefsen; Music Mark Suozzo, Tom Judson; Art Director [uncredited]
  • Crew: (Color) Available on VHS, DVD. Review from 1990. Running time: 98 MIN.
  • With: Carolyn Farina Edward Clements Christopher Eigeman Taylor Nichols Alison Parisi