Something can hardly be nostalgic if it is not well-known in the first place, but Whit Stillman’s first feature film Metropolitan (1990) is worth remembering. For me, this was the first “independent” film that I ever rented from the video store, and only because I had seen it on the shelf a few times and was mesmerized by seemingly sophisticated characters in fantastic party dresses.
Tom, a freshman at Princeton, is home during the break at his home on the Upper West Side of New York City, who through a chance meeting in a taxi cab, gets indoctrinated into a group of rich, debutante friends. At first Tom is more amused by these characters, questioning their conservative political views, but as he spends time with them idly chatting and attending various debutante balls, becomes swept up in the social dynamics and relationships with the group.
The characters of Metropolitan talk, dress up, play Bridge, try to act like adults, and talk some more. They have names like “Rick Von Sloneker” and “Audrey Rouget”. This is from a time when indie film means zero budget, but this film doesn’t need any major action or elaborate sets. It is entertaining for those that like to feel like they are on the inside of an intense conversation.
Two decades later, Metropolitan makes me nostalgic for the New York City it once was. It’s amusing to see that Tom is considered “poor” because he lives with his divorced father on the Upper West Side and not on the Upper East Side like the rest of the clique. The film also captures the materialistic and upperwardly-mobile culture of the late eighties, much like the book/film American Psycho, minus the extreme violence and sex.
Being a Broke-Ass, you are probably wondering why in the hell you would want to watch a twenty-year old film about spoiled rich college kids. The brilliance of the film is that, behind all the rich clothes, parties, and ivy league education, it’s all about finding connections with people and feeling like you belong. Isn’t that all what any of us wants? The rich part just isn’t essential to gaining it.
Sadly, Whit Stillman only blessed the cinematic world with two other films, Barcelona and The Last Days of Disco, both chronicling privileged young people sharing signature dialogue styles as Metropolitan. Equally sad, none of the young stars of Metropolitan have had much success in any films, except for perhaps Chris Eigman.