It is a sweet review and normally I would just add it to my long blog post on the career of Carolyn Farina but there a couple of things about the review which bothered me enough that I wanted to just make some note of them here.
I think the best thing would be for me to quote bits of the review and make comments.
“Tom Townsend, is an upwardly-mobile academic …”
COMMENT: I cannot recall any evidence that young Tom is such a thing. He is still, like the others, a student at an elite college. I would guess probably a freshman or sophomore.
This photo appears with the legend, “New York debutantes love to boogie down to “Cotton Eyed Joe.” They are also drunk.”
COMMENT: I don’t think they were especially drunk. And I think it was a cha-cha.
“Stillman doesn’t truly upturn the conventions of a romance by the end, but he subverts them in a more constructive manner. Neither Tom nor Charlie rides in on a white horse to save Audrey [Miss Rouget] from the licentious advances of Rick von Sloneker; as it turns out, she doesn’t need “saving.” … The clueless cavaliers have buried the hatchet, and while Audrey doesn’t seem to romantically favor one or t’other by film’s end, the final shot of the three hitchhiking home suggests the far more poignant, powerful seeds of a deep friendship sown.”
COMMENT: I realise that it is currently de rigueur to mock nearly everything men try to do, but in fact Rick von Sloneker has an extremely sleazy reputation and Tom’s and Charlie’s concerns are not totally absurd. More significantly, it is downright obvious that Audrey favours Tom at the end of the film as she has all along, not Charlie, whom she had earlier given a fairly clear brush-off. I am frankly at a loss to see how an attentive reviewer could not see that. Tom and Audrey, in their penultimate beach scene, are clearly a couple by the end of the film.
FURTHER COMMENT: I cannot forbear pointing out what it is that Tom and Audrey are really talking about and negotiating in the beach scene at the end of the movie. Admittedly, he does not actually kiss her, for example, but she is flirting with him strongly. These are emotionally costive types of people. (Which is why Tom, Charlie and Audrey can walk off together at the end of the movie, as friends. There has been no showdown, but Tom has “won” Audrey nonetheless). But consider what Tom and Audrey say to each other. Tom as good as asks her if she is still a virgin, after staying at Rick’s place. “So, nothing happened?” She assures him that nothing happened. She then asks Tom, “do you really think I am flat-chested”. Tom dodges the question beautifully and assures her that she “looks great”. They then jokingly agree that Jane Austen would never have gone to stay at Rick’s house. I assume this signals that Audrey is not hidebound and will be fun as a woman, not just an intellectual companion. (If it seems that the virginity point is overblown, remember that Nick Smith remarked of the beautiful Serena Slocum, when she was going out with Rick von Sloneker, that she was certainly not a virgin any more.) In any case, Audrey is finally learning to flirt – referring, even obliquely and negatively, to her own breasts is bound to get Tom’s attention. And Tom is starting to learn to lead and take the initiative, although there are signs that despite his burst of enterprise in joining her in The Hamptons, he is still worryingly feckless. He seems to have the gestures down OK, but why not make firmer plans to see her again? The viewer remains unsure if he is really interested enough.
The photo below gets the following legend, “Though their motives remain obscure, these young people decided to use their dinner party to recreate the narrative of James Joyce’s “The Dead,” only to realize too late that Joyce’s dense, layered prose translates very poorly to dinner theatre.”
COMMENT: This one has me stumped. I will admit I have never read that piece by James Joyce. Maybe the young people are trying to “recreate the narrative” of the Joyce piece. I shall have to study the question more. But this picture does give me the chance to make a remark I wanted to make before. There is, I think, a very good and rather sly in-joke in this scene. I think it is the dinner party where Charlie dilates on Bunuel’s The Discreet Charm of the Bourgeoisie. In that film, there is a scene, I understand, in which diners at a dinner party do not realise they are really on a stage. I am fairly sure Stillman is making an ironic reference to the fact that the young people in the scene are also “on stage” in a film. (LATER: I have now perused the James Joyce short story, The Dead, and any connection with the scene from the movie is not obvious to me. I imagine the reviewer meant something by his remark but if so it is too erudite a point for me.)