American cinema’s most urbane talent, writer-director Whit Stillman returns from a 13-year hiatus with this delightful fable of campus lives and loves. As new arrival Lily (Analeigh Tipton, from TV reality show America’s Next Top Model!) faces the challenge of intractable social rituals at a New England Ivy League college, she’s swiftly taken under the wing of Greta Gerwig’s alpha female Violet, who has strong views on just about everything – few of them conventional.
Previously a standout in Noah Baumbach’s Greenberg, Gerwig is in her element here, delivering Stillman’s jewelled bon mots with unflappable aplomb. She’s infuriating, irresistible and the absolute key to the Stillman’s combination of ethical inquiry (how come would-be paragons of wisdom are so messed-up themselves?) and insouciant fun (will a new dance craze change the course of history?)
A movie which dares to be daffy while always respecting the audience’s intelligence, this is a rare treat from a director who really should work more often. (Notes by Trevor Johnston.)