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Doomed. Bourgeois. In love.

Isn’t that a great strapline? It belongs to Metropolitan – the first of Whit Stillman’s sort-of trilogy (the others are Barcelona and The Last Days of Disco.) It’s about a group of New York debs angsting and falling in love one winter season ‘not so long ago’ (around 1990). I suppose, with a bit of copywriter’s licence, you could describe it as a Brat Pack movie scripted by Edith Wharton, or Anna Karenina directed by Woody Allen. OK, that’s a stretch but it really is charming. It contains lines like, ‘There’s something about winter in the city, with everyone all dressed up, that makes me think of War and Peace‘. Other lines I just found on wikiquote include:

‘Rick Von Slonecker is tall, rich, good-looking, stupid, dishonest, conceited, a bully, liar, drunk and thief, an egomaniac, and probably psychotic. In short, highly attractive to women.’


‘The acid test is whether you take any pleasure in responding to the question “What do you do?” I can’t bear it.’

Metropolitan is funny, but it’s not really satirical. It’s an affectionate elegy to a dying breed, the ‘urban haute bourgeoisie’ as opposed to the yuppie. The people in it are downwardly, not upwardly mobile. They’re aware that the deb season is an anachronism, that they’re going to be significantly less rich and influential than their ancestors and that America doesn’t need an aristocracy. But that doesn’t stop them being, as outsider Tom Townsend describes them, ‘an extraordinarily nice group of people.’ This is an interesting article on the discreet charm of this particular bourgeoisie.


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