Emma. (2020)

A new movie review from The Movie Snob.

Emma.  (B+).  Did we really need another movie of the beloved Jane Austen novel?  I guess the box office will tell.  This is a fine and, I believe, faithful adaptation of the book, so being an ardent disciple of the divine Miss Austen I quite enjoyed it.  Anya Taylor-Joy was an interesting choice for the title role; her large, wide-set eyes give her a somewhat exotic appearance that may have worked better in her other movies like The Witch and Split, but she does a good job on the whole.  In this version, I think Mr. Knightley (Johnny Flynn, Clouds of Sils Maria) at least looks quite a bit younger than he was in the novel (and the familiar 1996 movie version starring Gwyneth Paltrow and Jeremy Northam), and perhaps as a result this Emma–Knightley combination actually generates a little romantic heat.  What else to say?  The music stands out; there’s quite of bit of it, and a lot of it sounds like religious music of the period (or at least some long-past period).  In this version, Emma’s older sister and her family come to Highbury for a visit and make a vivid impression; I don’t remember them from the book or prior movies.  Anyway, if you like Jane Austen, or period pieces, or romantic comedies, I think you should like this movie.

P.S.  Yes, the title of the movie really does have a period at the end, which I noticed on the opening title card.  According to Wikipedia, “The title of the film has a period attached to signify it being a period piece.”

Longbourn (book review)

Book review from The Movie Snob.

Longbourn, by Jo Baker (2013).  In the Jane Austen novel Pride and Prejudice, Longbourn is the name of the estate where the Bennets—the family at the center of the story—live.  Longbourn is a novel about the servants of those very same Bennets, before, during, and after the events of Pride and Prejudice.  I liked it well enough.  The main character is Sarah, a young servant whom the Bennets took in after she was orphaned as a child.  Two interesting men come into her life at the same time—a new servant working down at the Bingleys’ house and a mysterious stranger the Bennets take on as a footman.  It’s kind of fun to watch little snippets of Pride and Prejudice take place in the background, and to see the Bennets from a different (and not very flattering) angle.

Love & Friendship (book review)

A new book review from The Movie Snob.

Love & Friendship: In Which Jane Austen’s Lady Susan Vernon Is Entirely Vindicated, by Whit Stillman (2016).  Director Whit Stillman has written a novelization of his recent movie Love & Friendship, starring Kate Beckinsale and Chloe Sevigny.  (Although I never read it, he did the same for his movie The Last Days of Disco, also starring Beckinsale and Sevigny.)  I can’t say the novel really adds much to the film, but it is an adequate and enjoyable enough retelling of the schemes and machinations of the unscrupulous Lady Susan.  The novel’s narrator is Lady Susan’s nephew, who desperately attempts to make his aunt look like a victim of slander instead of the schemer she so clearly was.  As an added bonus, Jane Austen’s novella Lady Susan is included in the appendix, so you can see the bones that Stillman built his movie and novel out of.  The package is enjoyable enough, but it’s nothing to get too excited about.

Love & Friendship – a concurring opinion

From the desk of The Movie Snob.

Love & Friendship  (B).  I cannot find anything to criticize in Mom Under Cover’s fine review, so I will simply register my agreement.  I expect Whit Stillman will get an Oscar™ nomination for his screenplay, adapted from the work of the divine Jane Austen, and I won’t be surprised if Kate Beckinsale (Whiteout) scores a nomination for her entertaining turn as the hilariously self-interested Lady Susan.  Still, I don’t think this movie is quite up to the same level as Stillman’s amazing trilogy of movies Metropolitan (1990), Barcelona (1994) (co-starring Mira Sorvino), and The Last Days of Disco (1998) (starring Kate Beckinsale and Chloë Sevigny, just like Love & Friendship does).  If you like Love & Friendship, by all means look up Stillman’s earlier work.  (Damsels in Distress (2011) is not quite in the same league as his trilogy.)

Incidentally, Stillman had also published a novelization of Love & Friendship that sounds very interesting.  From what I have read, this novel is written as though it were the work of one of Lady Susan’s relatives, and he attempts throughout to defend her utterly indefensible behavior as described by Jane Austen.  (The full title of the book is Love & Friendship: In Which Jane Austen’s Lady Susan Vernon Is Fully Vindicated.)  It sounds pretty funny.  He also published a novelization of The Last Days of Disco, with the expanded title The Last Days of Disco, With Cocktails at Petrossian Afterward, which I have also never read.

Love & Friendship

Mom Under Cover makes it out to the cinema.

Love and Friendship (B)

Another movie that feels like a play is Amazon’s first feature film adapted from Jane Austen’s unfinished epistolary novella, Lady Susan.  Whit Stillman (Metropolitan  1990, Barcelona  1994) kept the dialog sounding true to period, witty with barbs.  Kate Beckinsale, as Lady Susan Vernon, delivers beautifully. The plot is much like a Shakespearean comedy.  Lady Susan is a widow without means whose attempts to score a new hubby (Xavier Samuel as Reginald De Courcy) are almost undone when the intended becomes interested in Lady Susan’s daughter, Fredica (Morfydd Clark), who is much closer to his age. Solid performances by Stephen Fry, Justin Edwards, and Chloë Sevigny.

Pride and Prejudice and Zombies

The Movie Snob is disappointed.

Pride and Prejudice and Zombies  (D).  I love Jane Austen and I am pretty fond of zombies, so this seemed like a can’t-miss proposition:  Take the characters, setting, and basic plot of Pride & Prejudice, add a liberal helping of brain-hungry undead, and mix well.  I was unfamiliar with most of the cast, but I thought having lovely Lily James (Cinderella) play Elizabeth Bennet and an eye-patched Lena Headey (300) play Lady Catherine de Bourgh could only help the cause.  I was right, but unfortunately the ladies’ charms can’t rescue this murky, mucky production.  The scenes that are lifted more or less intact from the novel are all right, although I found Darcy (Sam Riley, Maleficent) underwhelming.  The zombie scenes are uniformly a mess of quick cuts and unintelligible action.  The additional plotline involving the zombies made no sense to me.  I say skip it.  If you’re craving love in the time of zombies, check out Warm Bodies instead.

Sense and Sensibility (stage review)

A stage review from The Movie Snob.

Sense and Sensibility.  This is a new stage adaptation of Jane Austen’s beloved novel by Kate Hamill, and it was my first experience with a Dallas Theater Center production.  It was excellent, so I urge you to see it before it closes next weekend.  It is the story of loving sisters Elinor and Marianne Dashwood.  They find themselves in reduced circumstances after their father dies unexpectedly, and since this is Austen, the plot naturally turns on whether they will find happy marriages despite their precarious position in society.  Sensible Elinor loves shy, stammering Edward Ferris, while passionate Marianne falls head over heels for the dashing but perhaps not entirely trustworthy Willoughby.  Fine performances all around.  I was surprised that the actors were not miked, but I was sitting in the fifth row and could hear everything fine.  I do wonder if the folks in the back could hear as well.  It makes me want to go back and rewatch Emma Thompson’s 1995 film version, and maybe even the cheesy remake From Prada to Nada (2011).

Jane’s Fame (book review)

A new book review from The Movie Snob.

Jane’s Fame: How Jane Austen Conquered the World, by Claire Harman (2009).  I think I picked this little volume up through Daedalus, a dealer in discounted books.  It’s a pretty good little book, if you’re into Jane Austen.  It gives a little biography of the author, focusing on the titular topic of Jane’s fame as an author.  Turns out she did manage to sell some of her novels during her lifetime, and they were apparently reasonably popular, if not runaway bestsellers.  But she died so young, and with such a small output, that she seemed destined for obscurity.  And yet, somehow her novels continued to interest enough readers to keep her in print, and by the end of the 1800s she was popular enough to justify more and more editions of her works.  Critical attention followed, and of course by the end of the 1900s Hollywood had done its part to propel Jane’s popularity into the stratosphere.  So, it’s a reasonably interesting book for Janeites.  Other folks probably would not find it quite so interesting….

Pride and Prejudice

Another DVD review from The Movie Snob.

Pride and Prejudice  (B).  This is the 1940 version starring Greer Garson (Goodbye, Mr. Chips) as the spitfire Elizabeth Bennet and Laurence Olivier (Clash of the Titans) as the dashing but aloof Mr. Darcy.  I’m a Jane Austen fan, and I enjoyed this film just as I have enjoyed most films based on her novels, but I have to say this version of P&P didn’t really capture me the way the 2005 version starring Keira Knightley did.  Garson was fine, but she seemed a little old for the part, and Olivier was a little too reserved even for a stiff like Darcy.  Nevertheless, I enjoyed the movie.  Note that the screenwriters included Aldous Huxley of Brave New World fame, and that the filmmakers noticeably changed up Austen’s portrayal of the formidable Lady Catherine de Bourgh.

Emma (book review)

Book review from The Movie Snob

Emma, by Jane Austen.  Time to scratch an item off the bucket list — I have now read all six of Jane Austen’s novels.  Lots of folks know Emma, of course, from the Gwyneth Paltrow movie version from some years back, or from the enjoyable updating of the story in Clueless, or both.  And as best I can tell, the Paltrow film was very true to the book.  Emma Woodhouse is a well-born and wealthy 20-year-old girl who is the acknowledged queen bee of the social life in a sleepy little village outside of London.  Attractive, quick-witted, and basically good-natured, she gets herself into trouble by dabbling in matchmaking and generally thinking herself much more perceptive and knowledgeable about human nature than she really is.  Of course, Austen being Austen, you must expect that things will eventually come right in the end.  I enjoyed the novel quite a bit; if it has a flaw, I would say only that it may be a little too long (over 400 pages in the edition I read).  How does it stack up against Austen’s other novels?  It’s middle of the pack, I would say.  Pride & Prejudice is undoubtedly my favorite, and I think I probably prefer Persuasion and Mansfield Park just slightly over Emma.  But I probably liked Emma better than Sense & Sensibility, and certainly better than Northanger Abbey.  But they are all good, and if you like to read at all, you owe it to yourself to give Austen an honest try.

Persuasion

Another DVD review from The Movie Snob

Persuasion (B+). This is the 1995 production by BBC films, starring no one I was familiar with except Ciaran Hinds (TV’s Rome) as the redoubtable Captain Wentworth and Sophie Thompson from Emma in the role of Mary Musgrove. Of course it has a leg up, being based on one of Jane Austen’s novels. At 27, sensible and good-hearted Anne Eliott is virtually a spinster. Eight years earlier, she was in love with Captain Wentworth, but her closest confidante persuaded her to reject Wentworth’s proposal because he had no money and no family to speak of. Now, Anne’s father has spent them into a difficult financial position, and Captain Wentworth returns to the neighborhood a successful and wealthy man. Anne’s feelings for Wentworth have not changed, but her willingness to buck society’s expectations has. What are his feelings towards her? You can buy this CD for $5 at Target, so you have no excuse for not finding out!

From Prada to Nada

A new movie review from The Movie Snob

From Prada to Nada (C-). So, what possessed me to see this obscure movie with a lowly 39 rating on Metacritic.com? The fact that it’s based on a Jane Austen novel, that’s what. It’s Sense and Sensibility, set in modern-day Los Angeles and done with a Hispanic flair. Unfortunately, the script and the acting just aren’t very good. It’s about two sisters, the studious law student Nora and her partying undergrad sister Mary. They live with their wealthy father in a mansion in Beverly Hills. But at the very beginning of the movie, their father dies, and it turns out he was secretly near bankruptcy, so the sisters have to move in with their aunt Aurelia in poor east L.A. In best Jane Austen fashion, they meet some hunky guys, and things kind of go from there. I didn’t recognize any of the actors involved except Adriana Barraza (Babel) played the aunt, and as I say, the acting wasn’t so hot. But the movie’s heart was in the right place, and I can’t deny that there was applause in the auditorium after it was over.

Pride & Prejudice

DVD review from The Movie Snob

Pride & Prejudice (A-). This is the 2005 remake of the beloved Jane Austen novel, starring Keira Knightley (Never Let Me Go) as Elizabeth Bennet and Matthew Macfadyen (Robin Hood) as Mr. Darcy. Being a big Austen fan, I was predisposed to like it, and I still do. On watching the DVD, I was surprised to see Carey Mulligan (An Education, Never Let Me Go), whose career is quite hot at the moment, in the small role of Kitty Bennet. Apparently this was Mulligan’s first movie. The movie also features Rosamund Pike (Die Another Day), who would also appear with Mulligan in An Education. Anyhoo, it’s a lovely adaptation of a great story. The “behind the scenes” extras on the DVD are not particularly insightful, but they do give a few facts about Austen and make it clear that the cast of the movie really enjoyed working together.

Sense and Sensibility (book review)

A book review from The Movie Snob

Sense and Sensibility, by Jane Austen. I saw the movie version starring Emma Thompson (Dead Again) many years ago and loved it, but I’ve never seen it again, and I had never read the book either. It was Austen’s first published novel, and it is not on the same level as some of her others, but it is still an enjoyable read. It’s about two teenaged sisters, Elinor and Marianne, whose father dies and leaves their financial prospects rather uncertain. Elinor is intelligent, practical, and grounded, while Marianne is romantic and impetuous. This being Austen, of course both sisters fall in love, and the twin love stories drive the plot. Willoughby, the dashing young man of uncertain character who sweeps Marianne off her feet, is certainly one of the Austen’s most lively and vivid creations. I definitely want to watch the movie again after reading the book (even though, as a friend recently remarked to me, Emma Thompson had to be at least 20 years too old to play Elinor).

Mansfield Park (book review)

A book review from The Movie Snob

Mansfield Park, by Jane Austen. I scored a nice cheap edition of this classic from Half-Price Books not too long ago. Of course, Jane being Jane, it is an excellent read, although it did seem to move just a tad slowly at times. I think that’s just because I was somewhat compromised by having seen the movie version from a couple of years ago. The heroine of the tale is meek and modest Fanny Price. From a poor family herself, Fanny is unexpectedly semi-adopted at age 10 by her wealthy aunt and uncle, the Bertrams, and whisked off to the estate of Mansfield Park. The Bertrams have two sons and two daughters, and although Fanny is not really mistreated by the Bertrams, only the younger son, Edmund, shows her any real affection and kindness. Being both bright and sensible, Fanny’s appreciation for Edmund grows into love as she enters her late teens. (Apparently in Austen’s day there was no squeamishness about love affairs between first cousins. Kind of like modern-day Arkansas.) Things become difficult when siblings Henry and Mary Crawford land in the neighborhood of Mansfield Park. Fanny alone perceives the lack of moral fiber that lies beneath the the Crawfords’ winning appearances and personalities, so she is sorely tested when Edmund falls for Mary and Henry unexpectedly decides to woo Fanny herself. A good read, of course, and it makes me want to watch the movie again for sure.

Pride and Prejudice redux

From the desk of The Movie Snob

Seeing the play of Pride & Prejudice recently spurred me to go back and reread the book and then to watch the DVD of the Keira Knightley version from 2005. Both were very enjoyable experiences. The book is simply a treat, and it has an advantage over the play in that you get occasional glimpses inside Mr. Darcy’s head along the way. When you can only see his outward conduct, the plot really builds him up into such a jerk it is hard to change your opinion of him when the story calls for it. The movie is a little more successful at navigating this problem than the play because the camera can pause for a close-up of Darcy and give a hint at what he is thinking. The movie is very good, although it has to move very quickly in a few places to get everything in, and a viewer who is unfamiliar with the book is probably not going to easily and entirely understand how the characters get from point A to point B a couple of times. Also, I now see a bigger contrast between the book and the movie in the movie’s focus on romantic love in the modern sense, while the book carefully builds the protagonists’ love more on mutual respect and admiration than on romantic passion. Anyway, I highly recommend them both. I’m a little Pride & Prejudiced out right now, but eventually I’ll have to watch the 5-hour A&E version starring Colin Firth (The Last Legion).

Pride & Prejudice (stage review)

From the desk of The Movie Snob

Pride & Prejudice (Repertory Company Theatre). Well, I didn’t see this play in time for my review to help anybody decide to see to it. It ran from Feb. 13-22 at the Promenade Theatre on Coit Road in Richardson. But I case say that the production was of high quality and that I’ll definitely be willing to see RCT productions in the future. This play was adapted from the Jane Austen novel by James Maxwell, and it’s pretty faithful to the novel as best I can remember. Mr. and Mrs. Bennet have larger parts than I remember them having in the novel, and Mrs. Bennet in particular is an over-the-top character who is really played for laughs. The actors in the major roles all did splendidly, especially Elizabeth and Jane Bennet, and only a couple of the minor players wobbled a little bit. The acoustics were generally good, although it seemed like a couple of people were inadequately miked. The Promenade Theatre is a small one, only 9 rows of seats or so, so there’s probably not a bad seat in the house. And at $20 ($25 for musicals), an RCT show is not a bad bargain. I urge you to give it a try.

In a Summer Season (book review)

Book review from The Movie Snob

In a Summer Season, by Elizabeth Taylor (Virago Modern Classics, orig. (c) 1961). No, this is not a book by the fabulous star of Cat on a Hot Tin Roof, but a novel by a British author who lived from 1912 to 1975. I think I read about her in Atlantic magazine as being a fine but underrated author, so I made a note and got this book for Christmas. Obviously it is a quick read, checking in at 221 pages. It is also an enjoyable read, although I thought the ending was a little contrived. It is the story of Kate Heron, a widow in her 40s who lives in a small village an hour from London, who was left well off by her husband, and who has married a handsome but directionless man ten years her junior. This last detail in particular has many of the other characters’ tongues wagging and causes Kate herself some consternation. Apparently her work has been compared to Jane Austen, and I can see why; the book is full of close observations about the various characters, and events click into place in a satisfying manner. I enjoyed it a lot.

Northanger Abbey (book review)

Book review by The Movie Snob

Northanger Abbey, by Jane Austen. This was the only one of Austen’s six major novels that I had absolutely zero acquaintance with, as either a book or a movie, before now. As I understand, it was the first of those novels to be written, but the last to be published, and it certainly strikes me as less sophisticated than the others I have read. Nonetheless, it is as enjoyable in its way as the others. It is the story of 17-year-old Catherine Morland, whom I can describe only as a country bumpkin. She has lived her entire life in a remote country village, and all of her ideas about the outside world have come through Gothic romances she has read. Then some family friends take her the resort town of Bath, where she gets her first taste of society. She makes new friends in Bath, and then goes to stay with them a while at their estate of Northanger Abbey. There is plenty of humor in the book as Catherine encounters for the first time in her life people who are willing to lie to her face in order to get what they want, and as Catherine’s imagination runs wild with Gothic-inspired fantasies during her stay at Northanger Abbey. I recommend this and all of Austen work.

Emma (Masterpiece Theater)

Review from The Movie Snob

Emma. When I tuned in to this PBS Masterpiece Theater presentation, I didn’t realize it was going to be a rebroadcast of a 1996 version of the Austen novel. But I didn’t mind when I found out it was going to star a 22- or 23-year-old Kate Beckinsale (The Last Days of Disco) in the title role. Samantha Morton (Minority Report) played Emma’s friend and “project” Harriet Smith, and I didn’t recognize anybody else. I could not help but enjoy it, but I must say that I liked the Hollywood version (also made in 1996) a little better. Beckinsale and Morton were fine, but Gwyneth Paltrow (Shallow Hal) and Toni Collette (The Sixth Sense) were just as good, and Jeremy Northam (The Invasion) played Knightley with much more charm than the guy in the PBS version. Look up the Paltrow version first.

Movie Snob’s Best of 2007

Happy New Year, and welcome to The Movie Snob’s Best of 2007 column. As usual, the films eligible for consideration and inclusion in this prestigious work of film criticism are those that I saw in a movie theater during calendar year 2007. As usual, this means that a lot of 2006 releases will be included. For the record, I saw 58 movies in theaters in 2007, up from 45 in 2006.

Movie of the Year: It won the Oscar for Best Foreign Film —The Lives of Others totally blew me away. Set in Communist East Germany, it is the story of a member of the secret police who is assigned to spy on a playwright. He bugs the playwright’s apartment and spends hours listening to his activities. The playwright starts out a true believer in Communism, but as his faith erodes, so does that of his unseen listener. If you can tolerate subtitles (or know German), rent this movie a.s.a.p.

Best Drama: This was a rich category. Some critics found Amazing Grace, the story of the British parliamentarian who fought and eventually buried the slave trade, too schmaltzy, but I totally enjoyed it. Renee Zellweger impressed again as revered children’s author Beatrix Potter in the charming and moving little film Miss Potter. Into the Wild features lots of great performances, and amazingly got me to sympathize with a protagonist I felt sure I was going to dislike. I have a hard time picking just one, but if forced to choose I would have to give the nod to Into the Wild.

Best Comedy: Like last year’s Little Miss Sunshine, this year’s winner is more of a dramedy, a movie about a serious subject that doesn’t take itself too seriously. Featuring great performances by Ellen Page and Jennifer Garner, among others, the award goes to Juno. First runner-up is Walk Hard: The Dewey Cox Story, the send-up of Walk the Line and similar biopics. It made me laugh from beginning to end. I would also cite the French movie The Valet, in which a hapless car parker is suddenly hired to pose as the boyfriend of a supermodel, in order to conceal an affair she is having with a married tycoon. It’s a very enjoyable romp. Honorable mentions to the Will Ferrell movie Blades of Glory and the overly maligned Evan Almighty.

Best Action/Adventure: There wasn’t much competition for category winner The Bourne Ultimatum, which was just as slick and exciting as when it used to be called The Bourne Supremacy. Seriously, I can’t recall a single difference between the two, except in this last one we find out that Jason Bourne was Catholic before he became a government-programmed assassin. Go figure. Children of Men was not as impressive in the thrills department but was far more thought-provoking. Beowulf was a lot of fun, at least in its IMAX 3-D incarnation. That last Pirates of the Caribbean movie wasn’t bad, although it was awfully long.

Best Documentary: I didn’t see very many this year, but in the short list of contenders is an excellent movie. In the Shadow of the Moon is a very interesting look at the Apollo missions, and it features interviews with lots of the mere handful of men who have actually been to the moon. Alas, Neil Armstrong was not among them, and there is only the slightest allusion to the fact that he has apparently become an odd recluse somewhere.

Best Foreign Film: Setting aside my Movie of the Year (and The Valet, which I put in the Comedy section), there were some other foreign flicks that are well worth your time if you can stand subtitles. Actually, the first one has substantial portions in English. After the Wedding is a Danish film, I think, about the unexpected events that befall a Dane who has returned home from his work at an orphanage in India. Very interesting. I also really liked the Penelope Cruz movie Volver, even though I don’t much care for Ms. Cruz herself. Pan’s Labyrinth is compelling, but it is a very dark film. Brace yourself for lots of cruelty if you see it.

Honorable Mentions. I don’t mind a good chick flick from time to time, and two of this year’s honorable mentions fit that category: Becoming Jane, which is about Jane Austen, and The Jane Austen Book Club, which is about, well, you figure it out. Stardust was an interesting attempt to become this decade’s version of The Princess Bride. It doesn’t quite succeed, but it’s a good effort. Babel was a good movie. Did it win the Oscar? I forget, but it was a good movie nonetheless. And last but not least, check out this year’s little movie that could: Once. It’s a sweet indie film about an Irish street musician and a Czech girl that he chances to meet and make some music with. But don’t get the soundtrack. I did and regretted it. Just see the movie.

The Jane Austen Book Club

New review from The Movie Snob

The Jane Austen Book Club (B+). Okay, my grade for this flick is probably a little high. It’s just a cute, somewhat predictable movie about five gals and a guy who start a book club to read (duh) Jane Austen. And wouldn’t you know it, their lives kind of mirror the various plots from the books they’re reading! Featuring a large cast that includes Maria Bello (The Cooler), Emily Blunt (The Devil Wears Prada), Jimmy Smits (Revenge of the Sith), and Lynn Redgrave (Peter Pan, 2003 version), this is sort of like the movie version of comfort food. If you have read some or all of Jane Austen’s novels, you’ll probably enjoy it a little more than if you haven’t. And, if you’re like me, the movie will make you want to go read the ones you haven’t.

Becoming Jane

From the desk of The Movie Snob

Becoming Jane (B+). You really can’t go wrong with a movie based on one of Jane Austen’s novels. So how about a biopic about the Divine Jane? Turns out that it is a decent bet as well, although my understanding is that very little is actually known about Ms. Austen’s life, so this is probably a work composed mostly of speculation. Anne Hathaway (Interstellar) is Jane as a young woman. She lives with her middling-to-poor family, eking out a living in rural England circa 1800. A wealthy bachelor is taken with her, but she cannot even imagine marrying except for love, and she is decidedly not in love with him. Then a saucy Irish law student named Tom Lefroy (James McAvoy, The Last King of Scotland) crashes into her social milieu, and they clash right away. If you know Pride and Prejudice, you might guess what happens next. But what happens after that? Give Becoming Jane a chance and find out.

Pride & Prejudice; Walk the Line

New reviews from The Movie Snob:

Just in time for the holidays we have been graced with two exceptional movies for your consideration.

Pride & Prejudice (A). It is apparently very difficult to make a bad movie from a Jane Austen novel. I loved both the delightful Gwyneth Paltrow version of Emma and the wonderful Emma Thompson adaptation of Sense and Sensibility, and I have greatly enjoyed updated versions of JA’s work such as Clueless and Bridget Jones’s Diary. (Okay, the version of Mansfield Park from a few years ago didn’t stay with me, and the recent Bollywood Bride & Prejudice was a bit of a misfire. But still, they weren’t bad.) This P&P may be the best of them all (although I’ll confess I’ve never seen the popular A&E version starring Colin Firth and Jennifer Ehle). Keira Knightley (Laggies) is charming as the intelligent but headstrong Elizabeth Bennet, and Matthew MacFadyen (Anna Karenina) adeptly handles the difficult chore of making Mr. Darcy simultaneously unlikable and sympathetic. Great supporting performances too, including Rosamund Pike as the lovely but shy oldest Bennet daughter Jane (hard to believe Pike was also the icy villainess in Die Another Day,that James Bond movie with Halle Berry), and Judi Dench (Murder on the Orient Express) as Darcy’s monstrous snob of an aunt, Lady Catherine de Bourg. If you have the slightest fondness for costume dramas or romance, you must see this movie.

Walk the Line (B+). I simply don’t know how to write a review of the new Johnny Cash biopic without comparing it to Ray. Both are great movies featuring great performances, and the subjects’ lives had more than a little in common. Joaquin Phoenix (her) doesn’t really look much like Johnny Cash to me, but he still does a heck of a job, and I was blown away when I learned after seeing the movie that he did all of his own playing and singing. Reese Witherspoon (Four Christmases) is, if anything, even better as June Carter, the great love of Cash’s life. Her singing and playing are phenomenal as well. But if memory serves, I gave Ray an A-, while I just can’t elevate this one into the “A” category. I’m not sure why, but I think it’s because Cash’s life just wasn’t as vividly eventful as Charles’s. Like Charles, Cash had big problems with drugs and family life, but unlike Charles he didn’t have crosses to bear like blindness and racism. I guess being madly in love with one woman when you’re married to another (with several children to boot) would be pretty bad, but Cash spends so much of the movie bottoming out on booze and pills that he lost a little of my sympathy and interest. (Although I recall reading that Ray gave the life of Charles a bit of a whitewash, so maybe a more honest movie would have lost a point or two in my book.) But if you’re even a casual fan of Johnny Cash’s music (and I’m the casualest), you’ll enjoy this movie. Plus you’ll probably get to check off several of next year’s Oscar nominees in one movie.

Bride & Prejudice

A movie review from The Movie Snob:

Bride & Prejudice (C+). I am not exactly sure what “Bollywood” means, but I gather it refers to a style of movie that is very popular in India and that tends to feature lots of extravagant and elaborate music-and-dance numbers. The movie called The Guru a couple of years was an attempt to bridge the gap between Hollywood and Bollywood, and so is this retelling of the Jane Austen story. It is much less successful than that other little adaptation of Pride and Prejudice called Bridget Jones’s Diary, but the quality of the source material partially overcomes the weak screenplay and poor acting. In this version (set in the present day), Will Darcy is a wealthy American visiting India with his best friend, an Indian fellow living in England. There he meets Lalita, the spunkiest of the four unmarried daughters in the Bakshi family, and sparks fly. The Indian actress who plays Lalita is stunningly gorgeous, but the fellow who plays Darcy is as wooden and charmless as they come. The musical numbers are fun to watch, but the lyrics are all pretty insipid. Still, on the whole, I kind of liked it.

And his Oscar picks:

We have an Oscar pool at the office, and I think I have probably seriously missed the boat this year. But I don’t mind falling flat on my face in public, so here are my picks. (Plus, I can always go back and edit them after the program.)

Best Picture: Million Dollar Baby
Best Director: Martin Scorsese
Best Actress: Annette Bening
Best Actor: Jamie Foxx
Best Supporting Actress: Cate Blanchett
Best Supporting Actor: Morgan Freeman
Best Cinematography: The Aviator
Best Screenplay (Original): The Aviator
Best Screenplay (Adapted): Million Dollar Baby
Best Special Effects: Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban
Best Animated Feature: The Incredibles

See you on the red carpet!