Metropolitan (1990 film)

1990 film by Whit Stillman

Metropolitan is a 1990 film about the lives of young, wealthy New Yorkers during debutante ball season while home for winter break in their first year of college.

Written and directed by Whit Stillman.
Finally... A film about the downwardly mobile. tagline

Nick Smith

  • I'm not sure if you realize this, but these girls are at a very vulnerable point in their lives. All of this is much more emotional and difficult for them than it is for us. They're on display. They have to call the guys up and invite them as escorts. And preppy girls mature socially much later than others do.
  • But, unlike you, I've always assumed I'd be a failure anyway. That's why I plan to marry an extremely rich woman.
  • Rick Von Slonecker is tall, rich, good-looking, stupid, dishonest, conceited, a bully, liar, drunk and thief, an egomaniac, and probably psychotic. In short, highly attractive to women.
  • It's a tiny bit arrogant of people to go around worrying about those less fortunate.
  • The most important thing to realize about parents is that there is absolutely nothing you can do about them.
  • Playing strip poker with an exhibitionist somehow takes the challenge away.

Tom Townsend

  • [to Serena Slocum] I haven't been giving you the silent treatment. I just haven't been talking to you.


  • Man at Bar: You go to a party, you meet a group of people, you like them and you think "These people are going to be my friends for the rest of my life". Then you never see them again. I wonder where they go. We simply fail without being doomed. I'm not destitute. I've got a good job that pays decently. It's just that it's all so mediocre, so unimpressive. The acid test is whether you take any pleasure in responding to the question "What do you do?". I can't bear it. You start out expecting something much more, and some of your contemporaries achieve it. You start reading about them in the papers or seeing them on TV. That's the danger of midtown Manhattan - running across far more successful contemporaries. I try to avoid them whenever I can. But when I can't, they're always friendly. But inevitably they ask what am I doing - or think it.


Charlie Black: I think that - that - that we are all, in a sense, doomed.
Nick Smith: What are you talking about?
Charlie Black: Downward social mobility. We hear a lot about the great social mobility in America with the focus usually on the comparative ease of moving upwards. What's less discussed is how easy it is to - to go down. I think that's the - the direction that we're all heading in. And I think that the downward fall is gonna be very fast. Not just for us as individuals, but the whole preppy class.

Charlie Black: Well, I don't think "preppy" is a very useful term. I mean, it might be descriptive for someone who is still in school or college; but, it's ridiculous to refer to a man in his 70s, like Averell Harriman, as a "preppy". And none of the other terms people use - WASP, P.L.U., et cetera - are of much use either. And that's why I prefer the term "U.H.B."
Nick Smith: What?
Charlie Black: U.H.B. It's an acronym for Urban Haute Bourgeoisie.
Cynthia McLean: Is our language so impoverished that we have to use acronyms or French phrases to make ourselves understood?
Charlie Black: Yes.

Charlie Black: Of course there is a God. We all basically know there is.
Cynthia McLean: I know no such thing.
Charlie Black: Of course you do. When you think to yourself, and most of our waking life is taken up thinking to ourselves, you must have that feeling that your thoughts aren't entirely wasted, that in some sense they are being heard. Rationally, they aren't. You're entirely alone. Even the people to whom we are closest can have no real idea of what is going on in our minds. We aren't devastated by loneliness because, at a hardly conscious level, we don't accept that we're entirely alone. I think this sensation of being silently listened to with total comprehension... something you never find in real life... represents our innate belief in a supreme being, some all-comprehending intelligence.

Jane Clark: Why should we believe you over Rick? We know you're a hypocrite. We know your "Polly Perkins" story was a fabrication...
Nick Smith: A composite.
Jane Clark: Whatever. And that you're completely impossible and out of control, with some sort of drug problem and a fixation on what you consider Rick Von Sloneker's wickedness. You're a snob, a sexist, totally obnoxious and tiresome, and lately you've gotten just weird. Why should we believe anything you say?
Nick Smith: I am not tiresome.

Audrey Rouget: What Jane Austen novels have you read?
Tom Townsend: None. I don't read novels. I prefer good literary criticism. That way you get both the novelists' ideas as well as the critics' thinking. With fiction I can never forget that none of it really happened, that it's all just made up by the author.

Tom Townsend: I'm a committed socialist, not a Marxist. I favor the socialist model developed by the 19th-century French social critic Fourier.
Charlie Black: You're a Fourierist?
Tom Townsend: Yes.
Charlie Black: Fourierism was tried in the late nineteenth century... and it failed. Wasn't Brook Farm Fourierist? It failed.
Tom Townsend: That's debatable.
Charlie Black: Whether Brook Farm failed?
Tom Townsend: That it ceased to exist, I'll grant you, but whether or not it failed cannot be definitively said.
Charlie Black: Well, for me, ceasing to exist is — is failure. I mean, that's pretty definitive.
Tom Townsend: Well, everyone ceases to exist. Doesn't mean everyone's a failure.

Nick Smith: It's incredible, the eagerness of girls like you to justify the worst bastards imaginable... as being sensitive and shy. But if any guy who really was shy dared talk to you... you wouldn't give him the time of day - your eyes would glaze over.
Cynthia McLean: You're really hung up on Rick, aren't you? He must really threaten you somehow.
Nick Smith: You're right. I do feel threatened - that I may get a venereal disease from one of the St. Tim's girls he's been with.
[Cynthia slaps Nick]
Nick Smith: Did you learn that from your lovemaking with Rick? I hear it can get really rough.
[another slap]
Nick Smith: Don't do that again. For me, it isn't erotic.

Nick Smith: The titled aristocracy are the scum of the earth.
Sally Fowler: You always say "titled" aristocrats. What about "untitled" aristocrats?
Nick Smith: Well, I could hardly despise them, could I? That would be self-hatred.

Charlie Black: The term 'bourgeois' has almost always been - been one of contempt. Yet it is precisely the - the bourgeoisie which is responsible for - well, for nearly everything good that has happened in our civilization over the past four centuries. You know the French film, The Discreet Charm of the Bourgeoisie? When I first heard that title I thought, "Finally, someone's gonna tell the truth about the bourgeoisie." What a disappointment. It would be hard to imagine a less fair or accurate portrait.
Sally Fowler: Well, of course. Buñuel's a surrealist. Despising the bourgeoisie is part of their credo.
Nick Smith: Where do they get off?
Charlie Black: But the truth is, the bourgeoisie does have a lot of charm.
Nick Smith: Of course it does. The surrealists were just a lot of social climbers.

Charlie Black: Where do you get off, "you're surprised"? At what? You were Audrey's escort, yet you blithely left her stranded in the middle of the dance so you can try to work things out with Serena! And then you try to shirk the whole thing off on Fred.
Tom Townsend: I'm not trying to shirk it off on Fred. And I was not Audrey's escort. We were all there as a group. In any case, I'm very sorry there was a mixup.
Charlie Black: There was no mixup.
Tom Townsend: I'm sorry I left. But it wasn't intentional.
Charlie Black: When you're an egoist, none of the harm you do is intentional!

Nick Smith: You're opposed to these parties on principle.
Tom Townsend: Yes.
Nick Smith: Exactly what principle is that?
Tom Townsend: Well...
Nick Smith: The principle that one shouldn't be out at night eating hors d'oeuvres when one could be home worrying about the less fortunate.
Tom Townsend: Pretty much, yes.
Nick Smith: Has it ever occurred to you that you are the less fortunate?

Nick Smith: You haven't seen this? Detachable collar. Not many people wear them anymore. They look much better. So many things which were better in the past have been abandoned for supposed convenience.
Tom Townsend: I had no idea anyone wore those anymore.
Nick Smith: It's a small thing, but symbolically important. Our parents' generation was never interested in keeping up standards. They wanted to be happy, but, of course, the last way to be happy is to make it your objective in life.
Tom Townsend: I wonder if our generation's any better than our parents'.
Nick Smith: Oh, it's far worse. Our generation's probably the worst since - the Protestant Reformation. It's barbaric, but a barbarism even worse than the old-fashioned, straightforward kind. Now barbarism is cloaked with all sorts of self-righteousness and moral superiority. Will you look at this?
Tom Townsend: You're obviously talking about a lot more than just detachable collars.
Nick Smith: Yeah, I am.

Nick Smith: Jane's father's dead. Very suddenly, last year.
Tom Townsend: Must have been awful for her.
Nick Smith: Yes. It was tough on him too.

Charlie Black: I don't see how you can stand him. You're always complaining about people being frauds and phoneys. This guy is the phoney of the decade, yet you act as he were your long-lost best friend.
Nick Smith: Tom's hardly a phoney. Just mildly deluded. He's a perfectly nice guy.
Charlie Black: That's just another aspect of his phoniness. He's a terrible phoney, and when he's not being a phoney, he's a bastard.
Nick Smith: Oh, come on.
Charlie Black: You saw how he treated Audrey last night.
Nick Smith: Well, Audrey seems to have forgotten it.
Charlie Black: She has to act that way. Otherwise it would be even more humiliating. But I don't have to pretend Tom Townsend is a nice guy.
Nick Smith: You're really gaga about Audrey, aren't you?
Charlie Black: If by "gaga" you mean, do I like her? Yes, I do.
Nick Smith: Well, why don't you do something about it, instead of just going on and on about what a bastard Tom Townsend is.
Charlie Black: What do I do? Declare myself? That would be an absolute disaster. I don't think I haven't thought about these things. But I think if the situation could just continue as it has been, they gradually, over time, it'd grow into something more. That, at least, is what I've been hoping for.

Tom Townsend: What can you study in France that you can't study here?
Audrey Rouget: French. Actually, I was thinking of coming back when this semester ends.
Tom Townsend: I was thinking of going over. Not necessarily to Grenoble, but to France and Italy... though my resources are limited.
Audrey Rouget: There are some awfully cheap airfares these days during the winter season. It seems a shame not to take advantage of them.
Tom Townsend: That's how I feel.
Audrey Rouget: Do you really think I'm flat-chested?
Tom Townsend: I haven't really thought about it. Well, I shouldn't say that. The thing is, you look great... and that's what's important. You don't want to overdo it.


  • Finally... A film about the downwardly mobile.


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