Writer-director Whit Stillman ("Metro-politan," "Barcelona") makes a long-awaited return to the screen with "Damsels in Distress," about a quartet of girls in a leafy Eastern college who set out to boost the spirits of severely depressed classmates by combining a regimen of good hygiene and dance lessons.
The group's leader, Wister (Greta Gerwig), is gawky and talky. Her great ambition in life, about which she is deadly serious, is creating a new dance craze that will sweep the planet. Her partners in crime include the all-business Rose (Megalyn Echikunwoke) and shy transfer student Lily (Analeigh Tipton). The men with whom they become entangled, such as smooth Charlie (Adam Brody) and assorted frat packers, are diversions on the road to stardom.
Stillman isn't much of a visual stylist and the gibes and jabber don't always hit home. Still, there's a lovely loopiness to this film. In its own superannuated preppy way, Stillman's comic universe is as singular as Woody Allen's. Grade: B+ (Rated PG-13 for mature thematic content, including some sexual material.)