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Whit Stillman’s “Metropolitan”

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By Thom Bennett

IFC News

Debutantes and their dates: Whit Stillman’s “Metropolitan” was a tough sell amongst its indie peers when it came to be in 1990. Sixteen years on and only three films later, Stillman still has little, if anything, in common with his contemporaries. But “Metropolitan” remains one of a handful of post-Sundance American independent films that helped, for better or worse, to open the floodgates for a generation of filmmakers and their films.

It’s the simple story of a guy named Tom Townsend (Edward Clements) who somewhat accidentally and reluctantly becomes a part of New York debutante society during one fateful Christmas season “not so long ago.” He falls in with a crowd who call themselves the Sally Fowler Rat Pack (or SFRP for short) in honor of the frequent hostess of their get-togethers. Tom befriends Nick (Chris Eigeman), the caustic observer of the group, and attracts the interest of sweet, Jane Austen-obsessed Audrey (Carolyn Farina). Charlie (Taylor Nichols) is leery of Tom’s acceptance by the group and himself harbors a secret crush on Audrey. Tom, who comes from a middle-class background, is an outsider who at first acts dismissive of the SFRP’s neo-aristocratic lifestyle. However, he’s quickly caught up in the comings and goings of the group, leading to a comical and touching showdown at the Southampton home of Nick’s arch-enemy and renowned womanizer Rick von Sloneker.

“Metropolitan” went on to get an Academy Award nomination for Best Original Screenplay (losing to the bewilderingly bad “Ghost”) and win an Independent Spirit Award for Best First Feature. But Stillman’s debut film has more in common with Orson Welles’ “The Magnificent Ambersons” than with the army of Scorsese imitations that arrived at the same time, and, unlike many of those more heralded films and filmmakers, holds up remarkably well. The insightful and often hilarious dialogue is the true star of the film and is indicative of a rare first-time filmmaker mature enough to stick with what he knows and do something great with it.

Once again, we have Criterion to thank for giving a great film the treatment it deserves. The special edition DVD comes with a captivating commentary by Stillman and actors Chris Eigeman and Taylor Nichols, who discuss, among other things, the making of the film on a shoestring budget and how out of place it was at the time. Stillman’s subsequent films, “Barcelona” and “The Last Days of Disco,” deal with similar themes in different eras and places with fine results — however, “Metropolitan” remains an essential American independent film by one of the great underappreciated American filmmakers of his generation.

The “Metropolitan” DVD will be released by the Criterion Collection on February 14.

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The Best Of The Last

Portlandia Goes Out With A Bang

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The end is near. In mere days Portlandia wraps up its final season, and oh what a season it’s been. Lucky for you, you can watch the entire season right now right here and on the IFC app, including this free episode courtesy of Subaru.

But now, let’s take a moment to look back at some of the new classics Fred and Carrie have so thoughtfully bestowed upon us. (We’ll be looking back through tear-blurred eyes, but you do you.)

Couples Dinner

It’s not that being single sucks, it’s that you suck if you’re single.

Cancel it!

A sketch for anyone who has cancelled more appointments than they’ve kept. Which is everyone.

Forgotten America

This one’s a “Serial” killer…everything both right and wrong about true crime podcasts.

Wedding Planners

The only bad wedding is a boring wedding.

Disaster Hut

It’s only the end of the world if your doomsday kit doesn’t include rosé.

Catch up on Portlandia’s final episodes on demand and at

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Your Portlandia Personality Test

The New Portlandia Webseries Is Going Your Way

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Carrie and Fred understand that although we have so much in common, we’re each so beautifully unique and different. To help us navigate those differences, Portlandia has found an easy and honest way to embrace our special selves in the form of a progressive new traffic system: a specific lane for every kind of driver. It’s all in honor of the show’s 8th and final season, and it’s all presented by Subaru.

Ready to find out who you really are? Match your personality to a lane and hop on the expressway to self-understanding.

Lane 10: Trucks Piled With Junk

Your junk is falling out of your trunk. Shake a tail light, people — this lane is for you.

Lane 33: Twins

You’re like a Gemini, but waaaay more pedestrian. Maybe you and a friend just wear the same outfits a lot. Who cares, it’s just twinning enough to make you feel special.

Lane 27: Broken Windows

Bad luck follows you around and everyone knows it. Your proverbial seat is always damp from proverbial rain. Is this the universe telling you to swallow your pride? Yes.

Lane 69: Filthy Cars

You’re all about convenience. Getting your car washed while you drive is a no-brainer.

Lane 43: Newly Divorced Singles

It’s been a while since you’ve driven alone, and you don’t know the rules of the road anymore. What’s too fast? What’s too slow? Are you sending the right signals? Don’t worry, the breakdown lane is nearby if you need it.

Still can’t find a lane to match your personality? Check out all the videos here. And see the final season of Portlandia this spring on IFC.

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Last-Minute Holiday Gift Guide

Hits from the '80s are on repeat all Christmas Eve and Day on IFC.

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GIFs via Giphy, Photos via The Everett Collection

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