Barbed Whit

There’s a scene in American director Whit Stillman’s debut Metropolitan (1990) where his Manhattan debutantes start riffing on Jane Austen. Eventually her detractor Tom (Edward Clements) – a middle-class kid who’s fallen in with a self-styled socialite rat pack, whose story was drawn heavily from Stillman’s own – admits he’s never actually read any of Austen’s work. “You don’t have to have read a book to have an opinion on it,” he says with conviction. Some critics considered Metropolitan a contemporary take on Mansfield Park, though the influence of Austen’s astute comedies of manners can be seen throughout Stillman’s oeuvre – an…