Whit Stillman directs Edward Clements, Carolyn Farina and Chris Eigeman in this indie coming-of-age drama where a young intellectual spends Christmas with a gang of Manhattan socialites and debutants.
“It’s a tiny bit arrogant of people to go around worrying about those less fortunate.” I had forgotten I already watched this as a kid until twenty minutes in. Something about a rented tux and borrowed overcoats chimed within my deeper musty memory banks. Stillman has a graphic designer’s visual sense… if he cannot fill his screen with spectacle he makes the sparse luxury his camera does have access to go a very long way. The production fakes obscene wealth on shoestring convincingly. Usually I would dismiss such fare as posh people with posh people problems but this has deft touch and self awareness that softly enthrals. Nothing much really happens as an outsider fits in and an unofficial group of pals then slowly disband over romantic intrigue and unavoidable deadline of the Christmas holidays ending. There’s an intelligence and playfulness to the script that avoids alienating… even if you don’t get all the prep school references. We watch a way of life in decline, possibly it ever was outdated. A chilly, festive New York (beautiful as always) freezing a moment in time for an alien part of society that has always been not in sync with progress. The amateur acting is a bit serviceable but Stillman requires an almost deadpan tone which proves easy enough for his cast to hit. See you in another 30 years, U.H.B.s!
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