David and Nathan Zellner’s Kumiko, the Treasure Hunter was 2015’s best film, so it’s not a huge surprise that their follow-up Damsel is one of the best of 2018 so far. It’s also both a more overt comedy, and a revisionist Western with echoes of Unforgiven and Dead Man. Samuel (Robert Pattinson) is a wealthy numbskull who travels into the Old West to rescue his sweetheart Penelope (Mia Wasikowska), who’s been kidnapped by the no-good Anton Cornell (Gabe Casdorph) and his brother Rufus (co-director Nathan Zellner). He also enlists the aid of the timid, not-really-clergy Parson Henry (other co-director David Zellner) to wed Samuel and Penelope upon her rescue.
To say more would ruin Damsel’s many surprises, though while it’s set in a very different milieu than Kumiko — Damsel’s world is as warm and green as Kumiko’s was cold and wintry — it’s also a dry and very funny culture-clash comedy that plays on many of the same themes, such as the expectations placed on women to get hitched at a certain age, whether they particularly want to or not. It’s also a joy to see Maps to the Stars’ Wasikowska and Pattinson reunited — and speaking of Pattinson, some people are still all “lol sparkly vampire” about him. Damsel offers further proof that those people are idiots.
Opens Friday at the Embarcadero Center Cinema.