Metro Retro: Siskel & Ebert on Metropolitan, 1990

Twenty years ago writer/director Whit Stillman released “Metropolitan,” set during the height of the debutante ball season between Christmas and New Year’s. No other film has examined the preppy class with such wit and originality, and unlike lesser preppy films from the ’80s, “Metropolitan” is as timeless as its indeterminate temporal setting.

The clip above is Roger Ebert and Gene Siskel’s review from a 1990 episode of “At The Movies,” in which Ebert praises the film’s quirky highbrow dialogue, while Siskel — whose favorite movie, “Saturday Night Fever,” depicts a much different tribe of young New Yorkers — gives “Metropolitan” a thumbs down. — CHRISTIAN CHENSVOLD

11 Comments on "Metro Retro: Siskel & Ebert on Metropolitan, 1990"

  1. i love this movie!

  2. HRH The Duke of Windsor | December 25, 2010 at 9:39 pm |

    I very much enjoyed Barcelona and The Last Days of Disco but I found Metropolitan to be unwatchable. I hated almost everyone in that movie.

  3. Christopher Tawney | December 26, 2010 at 10:09 am |

    Perhaps being dead for thirty or forty years may have jaundiced HRH The Duke of Windsor’s (sic) view of ‘Metropolitan’. I thought it was great fun, as amusing as Animal House, and nearly as good as Diner. Sadly, I don’t believe anyone’s made such a good film about us, because we’re intrinsically boring.

    Happy Christmas.

  4. HRH The Duke of Windsor | December 26, 2010 at 3:24 pm |

    I am jaundiced about many things but I still have an ear for dialogue. And what Roger Ebert claimed as an accurate dialogue for Manhattan preppy/yuppies sounded like a group of high school students desperately trying to impress each other with “deep” thoughts and stilted language.

  5. Totally disagree with Windsor. I think, like Siskel, you just don’t like the characters so they sound affected to you. To me, they don’t sound like they’re trying to impress each other with “deep” thoughts, they sound like they actually have deep thoughts.

  6. HRH The Duke of Windsor | December 26, 2010 at 11:33 pm |

    I respect your opinion Christian but I heard nothing deep in Metropolitan. And I will confess to disliking the characters.

    As I said, I do like Stillman’s other two movies so I do not bear him any dislike. And those two movies had plenty of characters to dislike.

  7. Christopher Tawney | December 27, 2010 at 1:27 pm |

    Christian and the late Duke of Windsor,

    I think you are both missing the point; the characters are meant to be individually dislikeable …’desperately trying to impress each other with “deep” thoughts and stilted language’ – exactly right. Confused and not particularly happy as almost all children that age are; that’s why the ending is poignant. For selfish reasons and in a not very well thought out way, the two competing wimpy males stumblingly rescue the girl. It’s not ‘deep’, it’s affectionate, so maybe it’s deep after all.

    Happy Christmas.

  8. Maybe you don’t know people who have “deep thoughts” so it seems affected to you.

  9. Christopher Tawney | December 28, 2010 at 2:47 pm |

    No, no one I know would lay claim to ‘deep thoughts’, I’m proud to say. Though did you bother to read the post by the way? No problem either way; it just makes a rather confusing dialogue.

    Keep up.

  10. Many people reserve their deepest resentment for this film; it is rather queer. They act angered, threatened even, by the prospect of people who may think seriously. They see wealth and privilege, and immediately resign themselves to contempt. For some reason, it is ok to brandish BMWs and baubles, but not ok to mount a defense of tradition and high culture. If one shows the slightest disdain for popular culture, the smallest preference for matters of substance and taste over ephemera, one is branded a pretentious ass. I’ve the fortune to enjoy conversations like those in the movie among select acquaintances. While my wits cannot match a Whitman’s, they exist all the same.

    Real preppies can be quite snobbish, vapid and provincial in comparison to Nick and co. (Gossip Girl and NYC Prep are a bit closer to the mark). But I found most of the principal characters quite endearing, especially Nick & Audrey, and Charlie to a lesser extent. The film is perhaps the most authentically conservative film around, and tastefully so. I later saw Last Days of Disco, and it was without the charm and beauty of Metropolitan.

  11. Upcountry Tweed | November 25, 2016 at 12:40 am |

    With Metropolitan, I can always turn down the lights and relive a time when I was young and this perpetually imperfect world was a much better place. This movie is an arcane treasure for any person with graying temples who remembers a daily does of Tom Brokaw and Ronald Reagan. This is a film for the Preppy class, about the Preppy class, and directed by a member of the Preppy class. The salient feature of each scene is isolated elegance. This is a charming movie that one can watch over and over again. If the upper-middle class could have a “cult classic,” (I cringe at the hackneyed expression) this might well be ours. The movie brings us back to those last golden days of WASP hegemony, the late 80s and early, early 90s. Concomitantly, there is an unspoken and ineffably melancholy undercurrent in the film. This tacit undercurrent was likely a portent of the impending demographic tragedy that is now both inevitable and unmentionable. Perhaps Stillman directed this gem to be an enduring classic, the poignancy and relevance of which becomes more obvious as we, that last genuine Preppy class, age. Life has no happy endings; only endings. Memories of youth provide the afterglow before the darkness takes us all away. We cannot fix the disaster that has befallen our culture. We can only leave our artifacts behind in the hope that one day elegance and virue will be respected once again. Metropolitan is such an artifact.

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