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If, like me, you have seen indie darling Greta Gerwig before (in "Baghead," "Greenberg" or "Arthur") and haven't decided whether her earnest quirkiness left you irritated or besotted, "Damsels in Distress" won't help you reach a verdict.

Gerwig plays Violet, the talkative leader of a gaggle of female do-gooders at a formerly all-male Seven Oaks College. Violet and her friends, snooty Rose (Megalyn Echikunwoke) and dim Heather (Carrie MacLemore), run the campus' suicide prevention center, where Violet champions tap-dancing as a depression cure. Enter Lily (Analeigh Tipton), a transfer student who questions whether Violet is too judgmental about Seven Oaks' menfolk, sending Violet into a self-described "tailspin."

Writer-director Whit Stillman, long the chronicler of young upper-crust manners ("Metropolitan," "The Last Days of Disco"), creates dialogue that is as clever as it is chatty, with charming discursions for Gershwin tunes and even an attempt at starting a dance craze.

Gerwig, with her rapid-fire dithering, is fully in command of the film, though I can't help feeling her winsome awkwardness will eventually lead to her and Zooey Deschanel in a back-alley knife fight to determine who's the most "adorkable" of all.; —


'Damsels in Distress'

Opens Friday, May 4, at the Broadway Centre Cinemas; rated PG-13 for mature thematic content including some sexual material; 99 minutes. For more movie reviews, visit

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