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Film / Metropolitan

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Metropolitan is a 1990 comedy, marking the directorial debut of Whit Stillman, who also wrote and produced it.

Tom (Edward Clements) is a college student and self-proclaimed Socialist spending his Christmas break at his mother's Manhattan apartment. A misunderstanding over a taxi cab results in a chance invitation to a party held by a close-knit group of wealthy young people, the SFRP (Sally Fowler Rat Pack, named for the member at whose apartment they gather). Tom gradually becomes an accepted part of the circle, forging friendships with brash Nick (Chris Eigeman) and sensitive Charlie (Taylor Nichols). He also becomes attracted to Audrey (Carolyn Farina), the group's resident Ingenue, who happens to be a former classmate of his crush Serena. But as everyone begins their journey into adulthood, the SFRP seems to be on the verge of breaking up, as everyone realizes their rarified social world may be on its last legs.



  • 20 Minutes into the Past: The only indicator of the time frame is that the story took place "not so long ago." It certainly feels like it's taking place years or decades before its 1990 release date. The only points that really anchor it to a certain era are the mention of Paul McCartney as someone a disturbed young woman would be obsessed with, and a comment suggesting that Averell Harriman (who died in 1986) was still alive. A few other hints (mostly the technology) suggest The '70s, though the very Eighties term "Yuppie" is used. Whit Stillman originally wanted to set it in the early 60s, but didn't have the budget to do full period art direction, so he just tried to keep things vague and timeless.
  • A-Cup Angst: Thanks to dismissive comments made about her breasts by Rick Von Sloneker, Audrey suffers from this.
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  • Author Avatar: Stillman readily admits that Tom is based on himself and the story is autobiographical.
  • Big Applesauce: You couldn't get more New York if you tried. The movie is set there and covers a certain social milieu that only exists in the city. A major bit of character shading for Tom is that, unlike the others, he lives on the West Side of Manhattan rather than the East. As you might expect, the film was a huge hit in New York, sticking around in theaters for several months.
  • The Casanova: Rick Von Sloneker, a Jerkass member of the SFRP's extended social group, has this reputation and more-or-less becomes the movie's villain.
  • Composite Character: Cited In-Universe by Nick, who disses Rick by telling the group that he seduced a young woman named Polly Perkins, who was subsequently Driven to Suicide. He's later forced to admit that Polly doesn't exist and he made the story up based on gossip about Rick and various girls. He justifies it by citing nonfiction pieces in New York magazine that use this device.
  • Crappy Holidays: Tom spends Christmas Eve in his bedroom watching the infamous WPIX Channel 11 Yule Log on a black-and-white TV.
  • Did I Mention It's Christmas?: The film starts a few days before Christmas and ends a few days after, with the appropriate decorations all around, but it's not really a Christmas movie.
  • Forced Meme: Deciding that "Preppy" and "Yuppie" aren't very accurate names for their social set, Charlie coins the acronym "UHB" (Urban Haute Bourgeosie, pronounced "ubb") and spends the movie trying to push it.
  • In the Style of:
    • Very much comes across as an Americanized Éric Rohmer film, with John Hughes and Woody Allen helping out with the script.
    • Audrey is a fan of Jane Austen, and this film is sometimes discussed as a modern Austen-type story. Stillman has also cited the work of one her British contemporaries, Thomas Love Peacock, as an influence.
  • Interclass Friendship: Tom is downwardly socially mobile because of a broken home, but because there's a shortage of men to escort the girls to debutante balls, he's accepted into the SFRP.
  • Maybe Ever After: Tom and Audrey have to go their separate ways after the holidays, but it's easy to assume they'll be back together eventually.
  • Motormouth: Charlie spends every single SFRP gathering subjecting everyone to lengthy monologues expressing his opinions on subjects like religion and society.
  • Nerd Glasses: Charlie wears very nerdy round-rimmed glasses.
  • Parlor Games: The SFRP plays these at their gatherings, most memorably an unusual variant of Truth or Dare just called Truth, which involves a dime, a tissue, a glass and cigarettes.
  • Preppy Name: Largely averted, instead opting for character names that wouldn’t be out of place in an F. Scott Fitzgerald novel, with the exception of arrogant aristocrat Rick Von Sloneker.
  • Random Events Plot: The story is basically just a couple of weeks of episodes in the lives of young Manhattanites.
  • Realistic Diction Is Unrealistic: The characters are very eloquent and speak in complete sentences, and your tolerance for this style of dialogue will determine how much you like the film.
  • Red Oni, Blue Oni: Cocky, extroverted, cynical Nick is Red. Insecure, nerdy, sincere Charlie is Blue.
  • Single Woman Seeks Good Man: Audrey is the most down-to-earth, most well-read, and least shallow girl in the group, and finds the thoughtful Tom a breath of fresh air.
  • Speech-Centric Work: A very dialogue-heavy film, and literate, densely-written dialogue at that. Stillman even got an Academy Award nomination for Best Original Screenplay.
  • Upper-Class Twit: The SFRP is a group of self-absorbed rich young slackers who spend most of their free time partying.
  • Wham Line: Serena revealing to Tom that Audrey, who had made it sound like she only vaguely knew Tom from the letters that Serena shared with her schoolmates, had in fact developed a crush on Tom based on them before she even met him. Serena even gave the letters to Audrey.
  • White Anglo-Saxon Protestant: The entire film is about a young, wealthy group of these. Audrey attends Midnight Mass on Christmas Eve, but it is Episcopalian.
  • Yuppie: A movie about people who'll become Yuppies after college. At one point Charlie and Tom talk to an actual Yuppie at a bar, who warns them of how disappointing they'll find adult life.