9.17.2007

As the movie season turns from summer fun to fall serious, it's time for a Ladies and Gentlemen Ticket Stub:

* Becoming Jane -- What would Jane Austen make of the cottage industry devoted to her in today's Hollywood? Now that's a screenplay I'd like to read...and this little biopic makes a pleasant diversion in the meantime. Based on her life and embellished with entertaining but unlikely details, the movie peeks into Jane's struggle to choose between work and love. Will she be able to "live by her pen," or should she follow her nudgy mother's advice and settle for money? Better yet, will she elope with the dashing, witty law student, like one of her minor characters, or make the hard choice and follow the rules, like one of her heroines? Pale and pouty Anne Hathaway does a creditable accent and a fine job bringing Jane's prickly persona to life -- part Elizabeth Bennett, sure, but part Miss Bates and plenty of Anne Elliott too. It's a sign of success that we consider the greater tragedy the possibility that Jane might never have written her novels if she hadn't been so disappointed in love. Extra points for James Cromwell and Julie Walters as Mr. and Mrs. Austen, as mellow and squabbly as the Weasleys. (B+)

UPDATE: * The Jane Austen Book Club -- I must confess, I disliked the book. But sometimes surprising things happen in life -- the movie was quite good, and that's one of it's themes, too. Lifted well beyond its simplistic plot by great casting, it manages to make talking about books (which most of the audience haven't read, even in Cambridge) as interesting as the characters' various personal dramas. That's where the chickflickery comes in: infidelity, divorce, mother issues, death, bed death, spinsterhood, romance, and crafty young lesbians all enter the scene! The delicious Emily Blunt is spot-on as a repressed young French teacher who has a carefully scheduled dalliance with one of her students (he's 18, and they don't get hot and heavy until the end of the school year...but still!). Maria Bello pops as the prickly single dog-breeder; and Amy Brenneman hold her own against a cheatin' Jimmy Smits. The young pup, Hugh Dancy, is winning, and Kathy Baker steals every scene as the artsy boomer dame. Mercifully free from a crutch-pop soundtrack but with an oddly unsatisfying ending, it's a story Jane herself would appreciate...though certainly improve on. One extra point for a cameo by the long-lost Nancy Travis! (B)

* 3:10 To Yuma -- It's Maximus vs. Batman! Christian Bale and Russell Crowe play perfectly to type as hero and antihero in the classic Western remake, complete with lonesome prairie and twanging guitar soundtrack. I think director James Mangold does best with a color-by-numbers outline to work with -- the film is thankfully unimaginative and delivers exactly what's promised, without anachronistic jokes, needless subplots, or a bloated score. Bale plays a limping Civil War vet about to lose his ranch and his last ounce of self-respect; Crowe is the sly outlaw who's been captured, possibly by his own boredom, and must be delivered by Bale's half-assed posse to the titular train. He wears velvet and sweet-talks everyone while racking up a considerable body count; Bale is gaunt and desperate, and so ethical he won't take a swing at the local mercenaries driving him off his land. Who is the real man between them, and who's just a dreamer? There's a lot of talking in between the gun battles, and both leads are strong enough to make the picture work as a drama, not just a gritty Western. Delicious bit parts by Peter Fonda as the tough bastard Pinkerton security guard, Alan Tudyk as the put-upon veterinarian, and Ben Foster as the hothead sidekick round everything out nicely. Bale gets the hero's finale, but Crowe gets the last laugh -- what's not to like? (A)

2 comments:

Musing said...

I saw your comment on Melissa Summers "Suburban Bliss"... you used the username Serafina Pekala... you know that they are coming out with the Golden Compass movie in December!?

emily said...

Oh indeed! And the smokin' hot Eva Green from "Casino Royale" shall play me...uh, Serafina, that is...in the movie. Not bad, huh? :P