The Cosmopolitans


If you are a fan of Ernest Hemingway’s novels, then you know that he wrote The Sun Also Rises in 1926. It was about a group of American and British ex-pats who travel from Paris to Pamplona Spain. In Hemingway’s own words it was his notion that the ‘Lost Generation’ considered to have been decadent, dissolute, and irretrievably damaged by World War I, was [actually] resilient and strong. The theme of the book besides love, death, and renewal in nature, and the nature of masculinity, also included Paris and how it attracted droves of the Lost Generation.

The Sun Also Rises was made into a movie and it was released in 1957. Some of Hollywood’s biggest and brightest stars of the 1940’s and 50’s appeared in the film – Tyrone Power, Ava Gardner, Mel Ferrer, and Errol Flynn were the headliners.


I never read the book, and never saw the film either. But flashing forward to today, we have The Cosmopolitans which was written, directed, and produced by Whit Stillman. Now Whit Stillman is not a name that readily comes to mind. I’ve seen (and reviewed) just one of his films – Damsels in Distress which came out in 2011. It was about of a trio of privileged girls who set out to change the male-dominated environment of the Seven Oaks college campus, and to rescue their fellow students from depression, grunge and low standards of every kind.

l to r: Hal, Jimmy, Aubrey, and Sandro in the Paris Metro. They're heading for the pary at Fritz's place.

l to r: Hal, Jimmy, Aubrey, and Sandro in the Paris Metro. They’re heading for the pary at Fritz’s place.

In short these girls want to make things better, and have a great time doing it, just like Hemingways characters Jake Barnes, Lady Brett Ashley, and Robert Cohn did so long ago. In The Cosmopolitans which premiered its pilot today, Stillman takes what he can from both Hemingway and Damsels in Distress and sets us up in Paris, with three guys Jimmy, Hal. and an Italian guy named Sandro. Then there are three girls – Aubrey, Vicky, and Camille. The wild card is guy named Fritz who is wealthy, tosses parties, and knows every one.

Of the first six, four are Americans, one of the girls is a Canadian,  with Sandro providing some local European (Itaian) flavor. Fritz is also European but he may remind you more of Mad Men’s Peter Campbell. Let’s take a quick look at the principals –

Jimmy – played by Adam Brody who also appeared in Damsels in Distress. We don’t know much about him other than he calls himself and his buddies Parisians because they live in Paris. Jimmy, a self-described romantic is going to make a run at the blond sweetheart Camille. When he first sees her he says, My gosh, what an angel.

Camille – played by Dree Hemingway who along with her Sun Valley, Idaho roots is actually old EH’s great-granddaughter. Her real name is something else but for acting she ‘s using the stage name Hemingway. Any way she’s one of the expats and she is from Vancouver.

Vicky – played by Chloe Sevigny. Vicky thinks these guys are just kidding themselves and tosses their self anointed term ‘Parisians’ back at them derisively. You can imagine her mind thinking – Yeah, right. If these guys are ‘Parisians, then I’m Marie Antoinette. She’s a journalist writing about fashion and she’s considered to be completely atypical. As in journalists are always so angry and therefore, they must be ugly. But she’s not – she’s actually beautiful. Clearly an exception. Jimmy and Hal have called her Gold Coat Girl because they saw her once before and she wore a gold coat.

Hal – played by Jordan Rountree (with the plastic bag in the above image) is a guy who has broken up with his French girl friend. Actually she dropped him and yet Hal clings to his phone as this girl, Clemence, still calls him or texts him periodically. The situation has lost all of its fire but Hal clings to hope. When Sandro teases Hal he says – You’re an American man – you are also a milquetoast. European men would not let any woman get away with the stuff she does to you. She’s broken off the relationship with you how many times – 20? 30?

Hal – actually it is only 16 or 17 times. But when she contacts him at this party off he goes.

Sandro – played by Adriano Giannini – is a 40 something playing a thirty something who hangs around with these 20’s somethings. He describes Sandro as Italian, rich, … a playboy. He says, “The problem with these women who fall crazily into love, is that they also fall crazily out of love.” Sandro looks like something of a cross between a younger Pacino and a younger Matt LeBlanc.

Aubrey Lee – played by Carrie MacLemore. Carrie is also a Whit Stillman alumnus of Damsels in Distress. She’s from Alabama, which Vicky approves of in a kind of left-handed compliment – Alabama has a history. Too bad you lost the Civil War. But Aubrey is quite attractive, and she’ll manage to attract a married Parisian at this party who calls her Audrey, rather than Aubrey – even after she corrects him. She has a failed relationship (and it is so very recent) that she’s not over it yet.

Fritz – played by Freddy Asblom who is Swedish. Freddy and his soirees are the entry point into French society for our expat friends. Fritz seems like something between a raconteur and a rascal. And he so young. He’s only 24, and tell me if he doesn’t really really remind you of Vincent Kartheiser as Peter Campbell.

Okay there’s your characters – these folks don’t fret about geo-politics, television characters, or even money. Whit Stillman likes to float above those kind of topics. His well drawn characters will seem familiar and accessible. But they’re not us. They’re likely rich and privileged, and they’re living the high life in Paris and we’re not. Watch for the shot with exterior of Cafe de Flore at the corner of Boulevard Saint-Germain and Rue St. Benoit. Just Around the corner is the Cafe les Deux Magots.

While I am not a member of the Lost Generation, nor was I lost as I visited both of these restaurants and their world-famous sidewalk cafes in 2003, a mere eighty years after Hemingway.

If this pilot intrigues you, you can watch it for free if you have an acct.

If you don’t have an account yet, see if this featurette helps you to decide –

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