‘Damsels’ review: Robert Pattinson on edge in quirky western comedy


Directed by David Zellner, Nathan Zellner

Starring Robert Pattinson, Mia Wasikowska, David Zellner, Nathan Zellner

Rated R

Playing at Film Society Lincoln Center, IFC Center

The world needs more offbeat comic Westerns like “Damsel,” which fearlessly takes up space in subgenre terrain that’s rarely occupied these days.

This is a strange movie in every possible respect, filled with quirky digressions and performative tics, in which Robert Pattinson plays an aristocrat named Samuel Alabaster, who has journeyed to the frontier along with a tiny horse in order to rescue Penelope (Mia Wasikowska), the woman of his dreams, who he believes has been kidnapped.

The picture plays entirely at a 45-degree angle, at odds with the majestic setting. The writers and directors are the Zellner brothers, David and Nathan. They take the archetypal premise and spin it to a point where the characters are more foolish than heroic, in which their plight is played for slapstick laughs and extreme despair, often simultaneously.

It nearly works. But “Damsel” offers too thin of a conceit to sustain enough interest from start to finish and the scattershot approach means it’s never quite as funny or as affecting as it thinks it is.