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New Looks At Whit Stillman’s ‘Damsels In Distress’ & Rebecca Hall-Led Ghost Story ‘The Awakening’

New Looks At Whit Stillman's 'Damsels In Distress' & Rebecca Hall-Led Ghost Story 'The Awakening'

1998 was the last time we had a film from Whit Stillman—“The Last Days of Disco”—and it has taken thirteen years, and a few projects that never got off the ground, to finally bring the indie filmmaking legend back, and we hope the wait is worth it.

Damsels In Distress” certainly finds the director surrounding himself with youthful vigor, with Greta Gerwig, Analeigh Tipton and Adam Brody leading the cast in the college-set tale about a trio of girls who seek to help depressed students through their own program of musical dance numbers and good hygiene, and, no, we don’t know what that means either. And that’s not all, romance also comes into the lives of all the women as well in what seems to shaping up to be a very ambitious, screwball style film. For some reason everything we’re reading about this reminds us of the tone of “Punch Drunk Love.” And it won’t be long before we find out if we’re right, as the film closes Venice and hits TIFF next month. Synopsis below.

Damsels in Distress is a comedy about a trio of beautiful girls as they set out to revolutionize life at a grungy American university – the dynamic leader Violet Wister (Greta Gerwig), principled Rose (Megalyn Echikunwoke) and sexy Heather (Carrie MacLemore). They welcome transfer student Lily (Analeigh Tipton) into their group which seeks to help severely depressed students with a program of good hygiene and musical dance numbers. The girls become romantically entangled with a series of men – including smooth Charlie (Adam Brody), dreamboat Xavier (Hugo Becker), the mad frat pack of Frank (Ryan Metcalf) and Thor (Billy Magnussen) – who threaten the girls’ friendship and sanity.

Here’s the deal with Rebecca Hall: we’ll pretty much watch anything she’s in. The actress is simply one of the best working today, and so even though this kind of genre film tends to fail more than succeed, we’ll give “The Awakening” a chance. TV director Nick Murphy (”Occupation”) takes the helm for the BBC Films/Canal Plus production, co-writing the script with genre veteran Stephen Volk (”Ghostwatch”), with Hall leading a cast that also includes Dominic West, Imelda Staunton and Joseph Mawle. So what is it? Set in 1921, Hall plays Florence Cathcart, someone who doesn’t believe in that ghostly mumbo jumbo but finds her views shaken when she visits a boarding school that may be spooked. Yeah, we’ve seen this before but if the film can bring something new to the equation, we’ll be there. Synopsis and pic below.

Haunted by the death of her fiancé, Florence Cathcart is on a mission to expose all séances as exploitative shams. However, when she is called to a boys’ boarding school to investigate a case of the uncanny, she is gradually forced to confront her skepticism in the most terrifying way, shaking her scientific convictions and her sense of self to the very core. Haunting and moving in equal measure, The Awakening is a sophisticated psychological/supernatural thriller in the tradition of The Others and The Orphanage, but with its own unique and thrilling twist. Starring Rebecca Hall, Dominic West and Imelda Staunton.

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