Over the past year, as I’ve watched people borrow the 2016 film Love and Friendship, I’m continually reminded how much I love Whit Stillman’s movies. I was a freshman in college when Metropolitan, a movie about freshmen whose experiences were very unlike my own, was released in 1990. I went to the theater to watch it with my best friend on the recommendation of Siskel & Ebert, which was pretty much how we spent every weekend. That particular Saturday didn’t introduce me to films full of gentle irony and witty dialog, but I knew I was watching something special. The movie went on to garner Stillman an Oscar nomination for Best Original Screenplay. I don’t know how many times I’ve watched Metropolitan since then, but I know it numbers in the dozens, and that it may be enough times to qualify as a full-on love affair.
As a member of GenX, movies often cited as defining my generation include Star Wars: A New Hope, Breakfast Club, and Reality Bites. I saw all of those movies and I loved two of them. Maybe I wasn’t crazy about the last one because people insisted it depicted me and I didn’t identify with the characters at all. That’s – dare I say it – ironic, because I certainly can’t identify with the upbringing, the wealthy lifestyle, or the social concerns of Metropolitan’s upper class debs and their beaus at the twilight of their era, but like Tom – the middle class protagonist who finds himself in their midst – I’m charmed by them even as I’m befuddled, and occasionally even horrified, by them.
I’ve anticipated all of Stillman’s subsequent releases and savored them to varying degrees. If, like me, you enjoy Jane Austen and other comedies of manners, I hope you’ll give them a try, too.