Still the Man? Whit Stillman and his Cosmopolitans

Dear readers,

Welcome to my blog!

Now I won’t pretend to be enlightened, fancy or to even know anything about half the things I write. I’m just looking for an avenue to share my thoughts and that has ended up on your doorstep. So what’s first on the agenda? I’ve been quite interested in the new 3rd-season pilots being picked up by Amazon, The Cosmopolitans in particular starring Adam Brody and Chloe Sevigny, since I attended a talk at the American Library in Paris given by its screenwriter, Whit Stillman.

Whit who? I imagine his name doesn’t ring the loudest of bells to many people; back track to 1990 when his first film Metropolitan (following a group of young débutantes during their winter holiday in New York attending balls and dances, then staying up all night discussing politics and the like) was Oscar-nominated for Best Original Screenplay and you find his fireworks of success. He enjoyed much popularity with his other films that followed, BarcelonaLast Days of Disco and Damsels in Distress.

OK background check done, now didn’t someone mention cosmos…? Well kind of – Stillman’s latest project, The Cosmopolitans, portrays a group of 20-something Americans who are low on love and high in expectations, looking for more purpose in their lives in the City of Lights aka PARIS! The pilot – Chapter 1: The Broken Hearted – starts out with three guys lamenting the break-up of one of their (Hal played by Jordan Roundtree) relationships with an older woman, in typical Parisian cafe style. He gets pretty philosophical about it, mentioning the one thing we never really think about when it comes to this gorgeous city – how lonely expats can become and how it’s rarely spoken of.

Adam Brody, Chloe Sevigny, Adriano Giannini

Adam Brody, Chloe Sevigny, Adriano Giannini

Dumped around “16, or was it 17?” times by his divorced ex-girlfriend, he muses that “a lovely story and a sad face” are simply irresistible (no, not that cheeezay Sarah Michelle Gellar film). Enter Aubrey played by Carrie MacLemone, a small-town American girl who followed her boyfriend to Paris, only to confess that everything was going great until she moved here. Her admission immediately forges a connection with the guys, who end up inviting her to a party. Expensive champagne and bad French are flowing smoothly until things turn sour at the end.

Now coupled with an oft-told storyline and actors we’ve come to type-cast in teen dramas (sorry Adam Brody…), I guess some of us are thinking, what makes this series any different from what we’ve seen before? It wouldn’t be fair to judge The Cosmopolitans by The O.C. or Gossip Girl standards; they were full of depressed, self-abusive rich kids who craved drama as much as they repressed the urge to eat (and yes I was as addicted to them as the next 14yr old at the time). There is still the element of unattainable glamour in Stillman’s production, the ever-intriguing Chloe Sevigny who plays “gold-coat-girl” Vicky Fraser, a fashion journalist from across the pond who doesn’t waste time giving her opinion of Aubrey’s new friends – isn’t 25 old enough to start putting our lives in order already?

It’s easy to judge off the bat that Cosmopolitans is going to take the same direction other young-adult TV series have gone – beautiful ensemble cast, gripping drama-fuelled storylines that finish with a very weak ending. But I have more faith than that, mainly because the pilot doesn’t try to romanticise its setting or make relationships seem easier and more attainable than they are. In fact it’s about friendship just as much as it is about dating. As Stillman said at the ALIP event about Metropolitan, an concept that has filtered down through his other work, the idea wasn’t to just watch young kids attending dances and whatnot but to focus on the group dynamics, how they interact and how they affect one another.

The humour is subtle but surprisingly resonate, especially if you live in Paris like yours truly and understand some of the inside jokes, (“Have you visited the Opera Garnier?” “Oh yes right, by the Starbucks.”). Think Woody Allen but with a lot less controversy. His characters seem savvy, realising that people still get lonely in a city like Paris, that bridges and accordians surprisingly aren’t the foundations for stable relationships, and at the end of the day you better hope you can count on your friends, even if you just met them crying awkwardly in a cafe.