Anyone who lived through the 1980’s can not hear the term Preppy and not smile! For the rest of you young things who were just a twinkle in your parents eyes, take notice and rent the movie Metropolitan, writer, director and producer Whit Stillman’s witty take on the WASP subculture of young upper-class Manhattanites as they spend their Christmas holiday attending debutant balls and discussing the downward social mobility of the upper class. It will fill you in on many of the cultural references that you might hear from your parent’s or their friends, and give you a good laugh at the 1980’s women’s fashions that today, just look downright overstated and clownish.
(Let’s hope that 1980’s fashion does not resurface soon!)
I adore this film for its clever, snarky dialogue, gentle irony and Jane Austen references. The parallels between her novel Mansfield Park and Metropolitan have been debated by critics and even included in the essay ‘From Mansfield to Manhattan: The Abandoned Generation of Whit Stillman’s Metropolitan’ by R. V. Young which can be downloaded in PDF here. The heroine of the film is Audrey Rouget (Carolyn Farina), a shy upper-class socialite who falls for middle-class Tom Townsend (Edward Clements). She is a Jane Austen admirer and the two of them have an interesting conversation about her favorite author and literature.
Carolyn Farina as Audrey Rouget
Audrey: “I read that Lionel Trilling essay you mentioned. You really like Trilling?”
Audrey: “I think he’s very strange. He says that nobody could like the heroine of Mansfield Park? I like her.
Then he goes on and on about how we modern people of today with our modern attitudes, bitterly resent Mansfield Park because…its heroine is virtuous? What’s wrong with a novel having a virtuous heroine?”
Tom: “His point is that the novel’s premise…there’s something immoral in a group of young people putting on a play? Simply absurd.”
Audrey: “You found Fannie Price unlikeable?”
Tom: “She sounds pretty unbearable, but I haven’t read the book.”
Tom: “You don’t have to have read a book to have an opinion on it. I haven’t read the Bible, either.”
Audrey: “What Jane Austen novels have you read?”
Tom: “None. I don’t read novels. I prefer good literary criticism. That way you get both the novelist’s ideas as well as the critic’s thinking. With fiction, I can never forget that none of it ever happened; that it’s all just made up by the author.”
Edward Clements as Tom Townsend
This independent film was produced on a shoe-string budget and used unknown actors, notably Taylor Nichols as Charlie Black the angst ridden intellectual Woody Allen type and Chris Eigeman (who I adore and just think is the most under used actor in Hollywood) as the cynical and smug Nick Smith. This film is grouped together as the Stillman trilogy which also includes Barcelona (1994) and The Last Days of Disco (1998), another favorite of mine which is unfortunately not available to purchase, rent or steal!
Chris Eigeman as Nick Smith
Further viewing & reading
Mansfield Park Madness: Day 6 Give-away
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Written and directed by Whit Stillman. Independent motion picture, 98 minutes. Staring Carolyn Farina as Audrey Rouget, Taylor Nichols as Charlie Black and Chris Eigeman as Nick Smith.
Day 7 – Aug 21 MP novel discussion chapters 17-24
Day 8 – Aug 22 MP great quotes and quips
Day 9 – Aug 23 MP novel discussion chapters 25-32
Day 10 – Aug 24 MP 1999 movie discussion