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Revisiting a Classic Film

Actress Carolyn Farina on playing a New York debutante in the ’90s

Whit Stillman’s 1990 film Metropolitan is the sort of movie that, even in its third decade, can serve as shorthand to describe a certain type of someone. In fact, it can seem at times that when it comes to quirky, privileged WASPs, Stillman invented that certain type of someone. So it’s no surprise that the 25th anniversary of the Oscar-nominated film is being celebrated with no small amount of fanfare including a nationwide re-release this month. 

Metropolitan, for those who don’t know, follows a young Manhattanite named Tom Townsend in his romantic misadventures as he attempts to find a place in New York society. Actress Carolyn Farina plays Audrey Rouget, a debutante who becomes interested in Tom, despite his not-quite fitting in with the world she knows. Here, Farina talks about working on the movie, her later career change and her secret love of motorcycles.


A scene from Metropolitan

Metropolitan depicts Manhattan’s upper crust. Was that something you were used to?

I came from a single-parent home in a working-class neighborhood of Queens. I didn’t know I was poor until I worked on Metropolitan! I would walk into these beautiful homes with very wealthy people, and I was wearing beautiful ball gowns—and then I would go home to my apartment and say, ‘God, I’m poor! I didn’t know that!’

How has your view on the film changed since its release?

I see it with much different eyes now, and I’m not so critical of myself in the movie. I was a young actor and was more focused on me, saying things like, ‘Oh, I should have done that differently,’ so I was definitely more focused on myself. Now, I see it as a whole picture, I see myself as a different person and follow the story [of the movie] as if I was someone who wasn’t involved in it. I see the charm and I get so much out of it now than when I was younger! I look at Metropolitan like my child, I see it as a very charming movie that’s from a very different world, but it’s a human story that many can identify with. 

Did you have any expectations of the film when it was first released?

I had no expectations; I was very naïve of my first professional job. I didn’t know what was going to happen to the film, but was happily surprised when it did become successful.

What about expectations of yourself as a professional actress?

Being an actress is as much as a part of me as my temperament or the color of my eyes. My mother told me that when I was young, I would go into the corner of a room, talk to myself and act out roles. Acting is something that is always in my heart, and there isn’t a day when I don’t think about it!

But you’re a professional in a different field now, right? 

Yes, I decided to go back to school, and I am currently a school psychologist. It’s actually harder to become a school psychologist than an actor.

What are people surprised to learn about you?

I’m very goofy! I can be outspoken sometimes, but I’m a goofball. I also love motorcycles, and I’ve always wanted to be on Law and Order: SVU. I’ve still yet to do that! 

That’s every New Yorker’s dream! Do you have any tips for aspiring actors?

As I would say to any child that I come across in my work: hold fast to your dreams, don’t let go, be sure of yourself, play it through—don’t give up! The worst is when things get us down and we lose confidence, and then give up too soon. Hold on. Good things can come.