Lily (Analeigh Tipton) arrives at college and is quickly befriended by a small group of girls with a singular motivation and goal: to rid the fraternity “DU” (rhymes with PU) of their unseemly smell.
The leader of the group and general moderator of the discussions is Violet (Greta Gerwig), consummate organizer and social philosopher. She and her friends, Heather and Rose (Carrie MacLemore and Megalyn Echikunwoke) have started and are staffing a University suicide prevention center. Violet is confident that tap dancing, a “highly effective therapy,” helps the depressed students regain their mental health.
The verbal exchanges are breezy and nonchalant in nature and yet contain serious emotional undertones. When the new friend, Lily, criticizes Violet, she shows amazing emotional/social intelligence by being open to the criticism. The girls go through a series of relationships and survive because they are warmly supportive of one another.
“Damsels in Distress” is an apt title. These young ladies are in distress. They may appear to be quite self-assured but are really, at their core, still trying to find themselves when it comes to mature activities like meeting men and dating.
Violet is very similar to the character played by Kate Winslet in her first movie, “Heavenly Creatures.” In fact, the whole spirit of the movie is similar to “Heavenly Creatures,” which is also whimsical but with a serious undertone.
The plot of “Damsels in Distress” takes an interesting turn when Violet becomes depressed herself or, as she likes to say, “in a tailspin.” We learn that Violet, at the age of 11, exhibited signs of Obsessive-Compulsive Disorder. She would wash or repeat movements 10 times to prevent her parents from dying.
Unfortunately, they died anyway, but we do not learn anything about her current family support system. Fortunately, she mostly grew out of the compulsions, which is unusual since most people with OCD don’t lose the symptoms without behavior modification techniques from a therapist.
This psychological history catches up to Violet, however, when she loses her boyfriend. She becomes distraught and disappears without being considerate enough to tell anyone where she has gone.
When someone gets depressed, it tends to make a person less responsible to one’s job, friends and family. It creates an I-don’t-care attitude. This is dangerous because when a person ceases to care, they lose interest in their life or job, so the stability of both are put in jeopardy. If you have a loved one who is depressed, you may want to ask if they are feeling suicidal.
You may help them find a “suicide prevention program” or a mental health professional such as a therapist, a psychologist or a psychiatrist. The therapist is the cheapest and may be able to see your loved one more quickly.
Violet pulls out of the “tailspin” and decides to start a dance craze since “every great creative movement in history was associated with a dance craze.” We never know if she succeeds because the ending is simply whimsical scenes of dancing, including her new dance, “the sambola.”
See “Damsels in Distress” if you want to laugh but don’t want to be too over-stimulated. It’s a hoot.
Rated PG-13 for mature thematic content including some sexual material.
Cedric Wood, Ph.D., L.P.C., is a counselor for individuals, couples and entire families. Call him now for 20 percent off your first visit!