Episode 32: Metropolitan (1990, Whit Stillman) / Of Unknown Origin (1983, George P. Cosmatos)

Manhattanites are prepared to go to great lengths to protect what’s theirs, whether the blue blood stock and their social standing or self-made yuppies and their hard earned real estate.

Whit Stillman’s amazing Metropolitan prefigured what would become the 1990s style of comedy rather inadvertently. Stillman’s background amongst preppies gives the non stop talking a high level of sophistication and sometimes hilarious snobbery that never drops or is contrasted with the lower echelons of society whose Kevin Smith verbiage is only pseudo-intellectual.

What’s more charming and surprising is the empathy Stillman has for these bubble dwellers. He’s perfectly aware that their wealth makes them naive, satire is not his focus. Instead he takes a literary approach to the saga of a new member to a particular casual preppie social circle, whose relative lack of, shall we say, monetary means is ultimately no trouble at all, old sport. He quickly takes to the budding talky romcommelodrama of the 90s….with class.

Elsewhere in town, actually Nova Scotia doubling for the same town, Peter “Robocop” Weller does battle with a rat from hell to save his home in a film from the director of Rambo: First Blood Part II. Sounds great, except every time …Of Unknown Origin dances near the edge of crazy fun it backs away. Which is a shame, since Cosmatos is a perfectly capable director and Weller does a lot with very little to do except scream in anger and go commando.

As the rat puppet scurries around the house there’s considerable suspense. As the rat draws near those in Weller’s life, they don’t get killed. As Weller grows more obsessed with killing the rat, his life seems about to fall apart, then everything works out. As his vacationing family wonders what’s going on back home, they eventually arrive home to find their husband alive and well. The rat loses the duel and Weller holds onto his soul. What was the point again?


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