I’m so relieved that Quentin Tarantino is a filmmaker and not a serial killer
“To the people clinging to the notion that female-led pictures are a niche genre, people see them! They make money! The world is round, people!” - Cate Blanchett
Collecting the Oscar for best picture for 12 Years a Slave, British filmmaker Steve McQueen became first ever black producer to win the award. But the Academy Awards still have a long way to go in the diversity stakes, says Ashley Clark. Read more
The real Jane Austen, were she alive today, would take offense that saccharine stories are being written in her name. From literary spin-offs capitalizing on the popularity of iconic characters like Pride and Prejudice's Mr. Darcy to film adaptations of books such as The Jane Austen Book Club, the cult of Jane Austen continues to persist, yet it does the Sense and Sensibility author no favors. Instead, films like the 2013 rom-com Austenland (based on the novel by Shannon Hale) seem to make a mockery of the English novelist’s work, displaying none of their wit and even less of their charm. Austenland centers on thirtysomething down-on-her-luck Jane (played by Felicity's Keri Russell), who travels to England in pursuit of the ultimate Jane Austen experience. She does so on the premise that a whirlwind fantasy romance will help her chances of landing a real life one. When she travels back in time for this period piece pretense, however, the lines between fantasy and reality become blurred and Jane starts to wonder whether she is falling in love for real.
To her credit, author Shannon Hale had a passable idea with Austenland. The notion of a Jane Austen fanatic taking her enthusiasm for the novels to a whole other level with this elaborately designed trip is rather delightful. The majority of the film’s problems, however, resulted from a poorly-constructed, often unfunny script and moments that were more excruciating than romantic. In its desperate attempt at appealing to the hopeless romantics in all of us, it failed miserably at inspiring swoons, eliciting facepalms and groans instead. While the male stars in the film tasked in doing the wooing were quite dashing, the scenarios that were set up in order for them to romance Jane were so hilariously inorganic that it almost seemed as though the viewer was forbidden from joining in on the love fest. For something that’s supposed to be a romantic comedy, the film was neither romantic nor comical, save only perhaps by some of Jennifer Coolidge’s character’s over-the-top frenzies.
It’s quite ironic that the film was about actors trying their desperate best to portray certain characters from Jane Austen’s world, because at the end of the day, this was all that they really were. Keri Russell’s Jane is no more than a poor woman’s Elizabeth Bennet, and JJ Feild, no matter how brooding and dreamy, only seemed like he’s trying to put on his best Mr. Darcy. One might argue that this was the point of the movie, to show that there are real world people that resemble the much-loved figures in Austen’s books. Yet Austenland's glaring problem is that it is too lazy to construct characters who are interesting beyond who they are based on. Instead, it expects the audience to fall in love upon recognition of these characters. For instance, Russell's Jane is an insecure, hopeless romantic, yet she drops this at the earliest convenience, when the script demands she play the part of headstrong, opinionated Elizabeth Bennet instead of someone with her own personality and convictions. As much as one adored Austen's works, it was too much to ask the audience to unquestionably accept a character they are expected to know as representative of the smart and sassy Elizabeth or lovable curmudgeon Mr. Darcy.
For all its tributes and homages to Jane Austen, Austenland lacked substance and some Sense and Sensibility. Worst of all, the film is so unbelievably unromantic (despite the obvious chemistry between the cast members) that the sought-after feeling of butterflies was replaced by waves of nausea instead. One might say that rom-coms shouldn’t be taken too seriously, as if it were enough of a lofty goal to show super sugary scenarios. However, the least that viewers ask for when going into a rom-com is the chance to piggyback on fake onscreen romance, and yet Austenland is so obviously contrived that it almost seems eager to stop us from floating above the clouds.
Congratulations to this year’s Academy Awards winners!
"I wrote down this speech that I had no time to practice so this will be the practicing session. Thank you Alfre, for such an amazing, amazing introduction and celebration of my work. And thank you very much for inviting me to be a part of such an extraordinary community. I…
El espíritu de la colmena (Victor Erice, 1973)