Movie travel destinations

December 12, 2007

Are you a set-jetter? And nope, I didn’t write that wrong. With the seemingly endless need these days for one-word sound bites and catchphrases – the interminable celebrity “blended name” phenomenon (wasn’t that supposed to burn out, like, 2 years ago?) and the constant barrage of new e-words like bacn (hint: it’s not spam) – there is even a cute little term for film tourism: set-jetting. Like jet-setting, but, you know, backwards, where “set” refers to a film set, and jet … well, you probably got all that long, long ago. It’s people who travel to visit places where movies were shot or take place, okay?

Um, anyway, if you are a set jetter, or one of your Christmas gift recipients is and that DVD package just won’t cut it this year (if they have the original release and the collector’s edition of that DVD, they probably don’t need the ultimate director’s cut special edition in a collectible painted tin as well, but that’s just a hunch), there are plenty of great destinations for you to try out.

Of course, one option is to just travel to famous film locations like New York, Paris, London, and so on, and see the sights yourself. Apparently, UK’s film board is hoping that many people think that way after this movie holiday season and will want to soon set-jet off to see the locations prominently displayed in new films like The Golden Compass and upcomers like the new James Bond and The Dark Knight.

Here are some fun film location activities you can do on your own:

The real “Hogwarts Express” in Scotland

Hogwarts Express (Harry Potter) – aka, the Jacobite Steam Train, Scotland
Pictured above.
(Approx. £29 round trip for an adult, second class. Less than 6 hrs round trip. For dates of operation, fares, timetables, and more, click here.)

I’m very excited, because I’ve actually done this one and can, you know, speak from experience, which is always a bonus. Steaming its way from the small Highland town of Ft. William in Western Scotland to the very small port village of Mallaig (try the Smoked Haddock Soup at one of the seafood restaurants during your 2 hr break in the town; trust me, it’s worth it), and then back, the Jacobite Steam Train and its route were both used in the Harry Potter films as subs for the gleaming Hogwarts Express and its journey to the School of Witchcraft and Wizardry. Sadly, the interior is not quite Hogwarts material – and no magical candy cart! the indignity… – but the scenery on the ride is spectacular, and when else are you ever going to ride on a true steam train?

Bonus: Ft. William sits right next to the beautiful Glen Nevis, a location featured in Braveheart and also Harry Potter, among other films.

Cinderella’s palace (Ever After) – aka, Château Hautefort, France
Pictured below.
(Entrance fee is €8.50 for an adult. Click here for hours, directions and other information.)

Okay, while it’s not Neuschwanstein Castle in Germany or the (supposed Sleeping Beauty inspiration) Château d’Ussé in France, both of which helped inspire Disney’s original animated Cinderella, it does have the unique distinction of being the home of Drew Barrymore’s Prince Charming (Dougray Scott) in Ever After. Complete with drawbridge and turrets, the exterior and interior of Château Hautefort were used in many scenes in the film (that cool beamed room where Leo da Vinci paints? actually in the castle itself).

Not to mention the fact that it’s located in the gorgeous rolling hills and fields of the Périgord, kind of a lesser-known version of Provence if you will. Since it seems as if Périgord literally has a castle on every hill top, make sure to leave some time to see more than one, particularly the towering Beynac (a darn cool fortress built in the 12th century that was also used in Ever After) and the cute little village (used in Chocolat) that sits below the castle and along the Dordogne river. The Périgord area also has some pretty impressive caves (with cave drawings!), including Lascaux (or its replication anyway; the original is closed off to tourists, but the replication is startlingly authentic, minus that rubbery-style plastic floor, of course) and my personal favorite, Padirac (ever want to feel like you’re in that mythical boat that goes across the river Styx? now’s your chance!).

If you like this castle, you may definitely want to consider looking up Chatsworth in England, the Pemberley in Keira Knightley’s Pride and Prejudice (and rumored to be the inspiration for the original Darcy abode in the classic Austen novel). For a complete Pride and Prejudice movie tour in England, check out this tour provided by British tours. And if you happen to be in India and have some free time, you might want to look up the Golden Temple in Amritsar, which was featured prominently in Bride and Prejudice (title similarity to Austen novel definitely not coincidental).

The Beach (The Beach) – aka, Maya Bay, Ko Phi Phi Leh, Thailand
(I have no idea. Maybe Wikitravel knows?)

Enough with the cold places, I think. And for this one, I think I’ll let it speak for itself. Or rather, the pictures speak for themselves. It was the location of The Beach after all.

And I would recommend the so-called James Bond Island (from Bond film The Man with the Golden Gun), otherwise known as Khao Phing Kan, while you’re in Thailand, but I think that one may have already succumbed to mass set-jetting (i.e., tourism overload disorder).

Also check out other beautiful film locations, such as Malta and Tenerife, in Expedia UK’s Top ten film set locations list.

◊ ◊ Budget Travel does an excellent real world breakdown of various film spots and moments (including restaurants, shops, streets, mansions, trains, etc.) from 10 different movies released in ’07, such as The Bourne Ultimatum, Atonement and even Ratatouille (the more people-size side of things, though).

◊ ◊ At Ripple Effects: also make sure to check out Arti’s own beautiful photos of famous film locations like Petra (Indiana Jones and the Last Crusade but without the Holy Grail), Lacock (Harry Potter, Pride and Prejudice miniseries – remember Meryton?) and Bath (Austen again). Scroll down for the Petra photos, which are definitely a not-miss.

Chateau Hautefort

♦ ♦ ♦

But let’s be honest, why go to all that effort when someone can just do all that troublesome “finding” and “researching” work for you? Here are some organized tours that will take you through everything you want to see. And yes, I know the distinction between some of these and the items in the previous list may be a bit hazy, but what can I say, I like living on the edge.

Lord of the Rings – New Zealand

With the success of the epic trilogy, let’s just say it’s highly unsurprising (bordering on dull) that many New Zealand tour grips have developed their own specialized tours that guide your through the various (and quite breathtaking) sites used in Peter Jackson’s fantasy films. Activities could include everything from simply viewing the valley of Helms Deep to rafting the Anduin.

Here are a bunch of options. Costs, naturally, vary widely by trip and the trips last anywhere from half a day to over 2 weeks (for the truly dedicated fans, I’m guessing).

All things Dracula – Transylvania

Because nothing says “vacation” like a ritual killing of the living dead. Yep, that – along with a viewing of “Dracula’s castle,” a stop at Vlad the Impaler’s citadel and the consumption of something called a “Vampire dinner” (totally benign, I’m sure, this is Transylvania after all) – is included in Transylvania Live’s well-known Vampire in Transylvania: Dracula tour. Don’t worry, I’m, say, 86.5% sure that the ritual killing isn’t real.

Price is generally €1390 per person for a 7 day / 6 night trip (meals, entry fees, etc. included).

Steep? Well, good news, the site declares that the whole trip is available for free if:

You don’t have a reflection in the mirror,
You decompose when sun light strikes you,
You’re over 200 years old,
Can use your wings to fly to Transylvania,
[…] Come join your fellow vampires in Transylvania.
Blood treats not included

Transylvania Express (a railway tour company) also offers 4 and 5 day Dracula trips starting at €945 / €1994. They also offer special Dracula trips for groups.

Pirates of the Caribbean – Dominica, in the Caribbean Sea (appropriately enough)

I know what you’re thinking. Pirates? Really? Isn’t it time that someone finally pays attention to this film trilogy? Well, fortunately, at least the Tamarind Tree Hotel and Restaurant on the Caribbean isle of Dominica agrees with you! They’ve thought ahead of the curve to design a 7-day package that takes you to all those Depp-graced spots on the island.

For 2007-2008 rates and other information, click here.

Don’t want to stop there? Check out about.com’s look at some of the other Caribbean locales used in the Pirates film shoot.

… and much, much more – New York, San Francisco, Philly, and D.C.

Come to New York and you see a movie scene around every corner – isn’t that where Sally ate her (extremely) good sandwich? or where Sara ate her slightly-less-than serendipitous frozen hot chocolate? And sure, you can visit Katz’s Deli and Serendipity 3 yourself (and, well, brave the waits yourself as well – expect about 1 hour to 1 1/2 hour wait at Serendipity on the weekends if you haven’t reserved, a little less if you have), but why not have a tour company take you to all the other sights you might not think of?

On Location Tours provides approx. 2 to 4 hour tours of movie (and TV) spots in the Big Apple (and Washington DC), with tours that specialize in everything from Sex and the City to just Central Park, for about $15 to $40 per person.

Washington Walks offers a Bus, Camera, Action! Reel Washington 3 hr tour for $30 of the national capital’s big movie spots, such as those seen in All the President’s Men and The Exorcist.

Not to be left out, San Francisco has its own handy tours, including these two Hitchcock-inspired tours (because what trip can really be fun without getting totally spooked out?) that guide you through those eerie (or they will be) sights from Vertigo and The Birds (which includes a Shadow of a Doubt sighting as well).

Also, while this is totally unguided (I know, I know, but this tour fits in so well in this section!), tourism organizations in Philadelphia and DC have banded together to produce a National Treasure guide to the two political capitals.

And for more of a fun list of sights in NY and the movies shot there (from the Central Park reservoir and Times Square to those oh-so-realistic, palatial Manhattan apartments – and just because you’re on TV, don’t think we’re not looking at you, Monica Gellar!), click here. For movie location mistakes in NY (that’s the NY subway??), and other cities, click here.


Pride and Prejudice miniseries cheat sheet

October 20, 2007

For the beloved, and faithful, 1995 miniseries from A&E / the BBC starring Colin Firth and Jennifer Ehle.

Not to be too stereotypical (but, okay, I’m definitely being stereotypical), but I assume this is mostly for guys. If guys at large are anything like the guys I know, they’d rather roll around in a bed of hot coals (like Dwight from The Office) than watch this 5 hour Jane Austen-athon. Don’t quote me on this, but I believe my boyfriend recently used the term “loathe” to describe his feelings for this miniseries – although if it wasn’t loathe, it was definitely something like detest or abhor (as a random aside, I just love the words “loathe” and “abhor” – they really sound like total hatred).

Now, as I consider the miniseries to be among my favorite movies of all time, I thought it might be a good idea to help those poor guys out there stuck with girlfriends or friends who are girls who love the film and want them to love, or at the very least watch, it too. And now… they can pretend to!

MAJOR SPOILER ALERT

(NOTE THAT THIS IS A CHEAT SHEET FOR THE 1995 MINISERIES, NOT THE BOOK)

Title

Pride and Prejudice

Useful trivia: Austen’s novel was originally entitled First Impressions.

Who?

Because things are just never that simple, there is unfortunately not just one person who is “pride” and one who is “prejudice.” Besides the two main characters, many of the other people in the story are shown as having both deep prejudices and faults of pride.

Back to those main characters though. They are Elizabeth Bennet, played by Jennifer Ehle, and Fitzwilliam Darcy (almost always referred to as Mr. Darcy), played by Colin Firth. Elizabeth is both proud and prejudiced – simply put, her pride is injured at the beginning of the story when she overhears Mr. Darcy saying that she is “only tolerable” (ouch), leading her to be prejudiced against him. Mr. Darcy, on the other hand, is accused of being proud throughout the book, and he is often prejudiced against those who are “beneath” him.

Nice and straightforward, right?

Technical details that will help verify you’ve actually seen it

Produced and released by the BBC and A&E. Never released in theaters. Written by Andrew Davies, who also wrote the movie version of Bridget Jones’s Diary.

300 minutes long (yep, that’s a solid, and to the unitiated possibly deadly, 5 hours). The miniseries is split up into 2 DVDs: the first one ends after Darcy’s proposal and Elizabeth’s rejection of it, and the second DVD starts with Darcy storming away after the rejection.

The bonus features are seriously lacking on the DVDs (no Firth or Ehle in the making-of?) so feel free to complain about them to your girlfriend.

If you can’t beat ‘em…

Like Clueless with Austen’s Emma, Bridget Jones’s Diary is essentially a modern-day update of Pride and Prejudice. The book version of Bridget Jones has more of the elements of the original Austen, but the film keeps the gist. As an added bonus, Colin Firth reprises his role as Darcy in Bridget Jones as well.

Sure, it’s still a chick flick, but a lot less painful than a 5 hour period drama with fancy language, no? Read through this cheat sheet and then watch Bridget Jones to get the general idea, and to see who that guy is (Firth) that all the girls are swooning over.

Keep in mind: Bridget Jones = Elizabeth Bennet (but without the confidence), Daniel Cleaver (Hugh Grant) = George Wickham, and Mark Darcy = well, Mr. Darcy.

Other modern updates: Bride and Prejudice, the Bollywood take on the film starring former Miss World Aishwarya Rai as Lalita (aka, Elizabeth Bennet).

For more fun Austen connections, see my six degress of Austen post.

(Imaginary) modern day pitch

Think You’ve Got Mail mixed with Crossing Delancey combined with some of the tone from Shakespeare in Love, all set in 19th century England.

Who are all these people?

With so many people to keep track of, even those who have watched the miniseries all the way through can get confused.

Here’s a handy guide:

Pride and Prejudice character guide

(key: “Not known” – never mentioned in the film)

In PDF: Pride and Prejudice character guide

For The Republic of Pemberley’s complete list, with links to where the characters are mentioned in the novel, click here.

To see what some of the cast looks like, click here.

And where do they go?

Longbourn – where the Bennets live, a village in the area of Hertfordshire

Netherfield Park – the home that the Bingleys rent, also in Hertfordshire, near Longbourn

Meryton – a village one mile away from Longbourn, where the soldiers (including Wickham) are camped for a time

Pemberley – Darcy’s massive estate in the area of Derbyshire near the imaginary village of Lambton. Think the Chatsworth estate in England, where the scenes at Pemberley in the 2005 film with Keira Knightley were filmed. The estate, home to the Duke and Duchess of Devonshire, is thought to have perhaps been the original inspiration for Pemberley.

Rosings Park – Lady Catherine de Bourgh’s estate in Kent, in the village of Hunsford, which is where Mr. Collins is the rector.

Plot

The Bennet family of Longbourn, upper class, but not noble and poor compared to other gentry, are excited to hear that the wealthy Mr. Bingley, a single man, has rented out the nearby Netherfield Park. With five single daughters, Mrs. Bennet is desperate to get them married well, and hopes that he will marry one of them, particularly Jane, the eldest. Mr. Bingley, his sisters and his even wealthier friend Mr. Darcy soon attend a ball at Meryton. Although Bingley is liked and immediately taken with Jane, Darcy is thought to be haughty and proud. What’s more, Elizabeth and her best friend Charlotte Lucas overhear him telling Bingley that Elizabeth is not good enough for him.

Following the ball, Bingley continues to dote on Jane. Meanwhile, a cousin of the Bennets, Mr. Collins, comes to visit. A distant heir of Mr. Bennet, he will inherit the estate because Mr. Bennet has no male heirs of his own. Mr. Collins, who is obsessed with his patron, Lady Catherine de Bourgh, wants to marry one of the Bennet girls. As Jane seems to be “taken” by Mr. Bingley, he asks Elizabeth to marry him. She refuses, and he then proposes to Charlotte Lucas, who accepts him.

During all of this, Bingley has abruptly left for London and Elizabeth has met George Wickham, a handsome officer at Meryton. She is very attracted to him, and soon after they meet he tells her about his dealings with Mr. Darcy, claiming that although he was the steward of Mr. Darcy’s late father, Mr. Darcy refused to give him an inheritance that was due to him. This leads Elizabeth to now hate Mr. Darcy.

Elizabeth goes to visit Charlotte at Hunsford and, while there, meets Lady Catherine de Bourgh, who, it turns out, is Mr. Darcy’s aunt. He comes to visit, with his cousin, Colonel Fitzwilliam. Eventually, Darcy visits her at the Collins’s house when she is alone and proposes to her. She flat out refuses him and he storms away. However, the next day, he hands her a letter that explains how Wickham actually tried to elope with his 15-year-old sister, Georgiana, for her money, and that he did advise Bingley not to marry Jane, but he thought it was for the best.

Elizabeth returns home to Longbourn, shortly before Lydia leaves, invited to follow the soldiers (who are leaving Meryton) with her friend Mrs. Foster, the wife of the Colonel. Elizabeth leaves again for a trip through Derbyshire with the Gardiners. While there, they visit Pemberley and run into Darcy (who they think is away). He behaves very politely, without any sign of pride, and Elizabeth is very surprised and impressed by this behavior (and his extensive grounds). She also meets his sister, Georgiana, whom she likes very much.

Unfortunately, a letter soon arrives from Jane that says Lydia has run away with Wickham (very scandalous at the time, as they were not married). Elizabeth reveals this to Darcy, who is shocked and leaves, and Elizabeth thinks she will never see him again, since he hates Wickham and would never want to be associated with a family tied to him.

Elizabeth returns home to find the family in disarray. Her father has gone to London to try and find Lydia and Wickham. However, after her father has returned without luck, a letter arrives from the Gardiners, who live in London, saying that the two have been found and they will get married. Mr. Bennet thinks Mr. Gardiner paid Wickham to marry Lydia, but Elizabeth learns from Mrs. Gardiner that it was actually Mr. Darcy who found the couple and paid Wickham off.

Lydia returns to Longbourn to visit her family with Wickham, happily married (or in denial) and gloating that she has a husband, and then departs again almost immediately. Soon after, Bingley returns to Netherfield and begins to see Jane again. Darcy comes with him, but pays no attention to Elizabeth. Bingley eventually proposes to Jane and, of course, she accepts. Mrs. Bennet is overjoyed.

Shortly after the proposal, Lady Catherine comes to pay a visit and tells Elizabeth that she has heard that Mr. Darcy, her nephew, is going to marry Elizabeth. She wants Elizabeth to promise she won’t marry him. Elizabeth refuses. Lady Catherine communicates this to Mr. Darcy and, thinking Elizabeth might have changed her mind about him (since she refused not to marry him, get it?), Darcy stops by Longbourn with Bingley and he and Elizabeth end up going for a walk. He tells her he still wants to marry her and she accepts. They get married, and both couples live happily ever after (far away from Mrs. Bennet and Lydia).

Famous Scene

Something to do with a pond and a man’s shirt…

The wet shirt that launched a thousand sighs (and newspaper cover articles), this classic scene from the miniseries features Firth as Darcy plunging into a small pond on his estate, Pemberley, on his way back to his house, presumably to help him clear his mind of Elizabeth (this is after she’s already rejected him). Unaware that Elizabeth is currently visiting Pemberley, he walks back to his house soaking wet, in nothing but a wet white shirt and pants. They meet-cute on the grounds of his estate – he’s shocked and flustered, she’s horrified and embarrassed – and the rest is movie history.

The following scenes at Pemberley in general are crucial (and well-worn on my DVD), as a sort of turning point where Elizabeth starts falling for Darcy and he starts realizing she might not hate him anymore.

Crucial Quote

“She is tolerable I suppose, but not handsome enough to tempt me.”

Darcy’s (unfortunately overheard) comment about Elizabeth, early on in the book. Remember, if you can’t say something nice about the girl you end up wanting to marry, probably best not to expect a great response to your marriage proposal. For instance:

“You are mistaken, Mr. Darcy, if you suppose that the mode of your declaration affected me in any other way, than as it spared the concern which I might have felt in refusing you, had you behaved in a more gentlemanlike manner…

…I had not known you a month before I felt that you were the last man in the world whom I could ever be prevailed upon to marry!”

What Elizabeth says in response to Darcy’s first proposal. I think it means “no.” (of course, we all know what phrases like “the last man in the world I would ever…” eventually lead to at the end of a film)

Themes

Love, marriage, social class, status, vanity, family, money, reputation, and (I have to say it) pride and prejudice.

Gifts for the girl who loves P&P

Some other Austen films: Pride and Prejudice (2005), Emma, Mansfield Park, Sense and Sensibility, Persuasion, Clueless, Bridget Jones’s Diary, Becoming Jane, Bride and Prejudice, Jane Austen Book Club

Other period romances: Possession (with Jennifer Ehle), Jane Eyre, Ever After, An Ideal Husband, Much Ado About Nothing

Other Colin Firth films: The Importance of Being Earnest, Shakespeare in Love, Bridget Jones and the Edge of Reason (and, of course, Bridget Jones’s Diary), Love Actually, The English Patient, Girl with a Pearl Earring, What a Girl Wants

Classy Conversation Starters

I was watching Pride and Prejudice last night, and…

You know, my friends often tell me that I’m a modern day Mr. Darcy.


Favorite movie quotes

October 17, 2007

I received a comment yesterday from the eloquent blogger of Ripple Effects asking me for my favorite movie quotes.

By no means an unreasonable request – after all, how can I post quotes day after day without pointing out my own favorites?

So, here they are, the many, many quotes I know and love and quote incessantly to my friends (Eventually, that’s gotta make them love them too, right?… Right?). No “Rosebud” or “Frankly, my dear, I don’t give a damn” here, this is a list of personal favorites, ones that caught me for some inexplicable reason and somehow stayed among the various other miscellanies I seem to collect. They’re not necessarily classy, or even profound in any way (at all). But I just can’t get enough of ’em. They’re my guilty pleasure quotes, if you’d like.

This is personal, so be gentle – but not too gentle, of course. What do you think? Anything I missed? What quotes are your guilty pleasures?

Quote marks

Superman II

Oh, I’ve been, uh… working out.
[Clark Kent pumps his arms up and down a bit.]

The Incredibles

Edna Mode…
[a gun appears out of the ceiling immediately and aims at Helen]
… and guest.

– Everyone’s special, Dash.
– Which is another way of saying no one is.

Monty Python

I’m not dead!… I’m getting better!

Blue. No yel – aaaahhhhh!

Indiana Jones and the Last Crusade

He’s got a two day head start on you, which is more than he needs. Brody’s got friends in every town and village from here to the Sudan. He speaks a dozen languages, knows every local custom. He’ll blend in, disappear, you’ll never see him again. With any luck, he’s got the Grail already.

[later on in the film]

– But you said he had a two day head start. That he would blend in, disappear.
– Are you kidding? I made all that up. You know Marcus. He once got lost in his own museum.

Young Frankenstein
(Yep, this was the inspiration for the Aerosmith song.)

Walk this way. No…
[Igor hunches his back even more, shambling along]
this way.

Mystery Science Theater 3000: The Movie
(pretty much anything I put in my post on the film, but here are some of my favorites)

Into the weenie mobile. Weenie man awaaaay!

Leaves only the fresh scent of pine.

– Are you boys cooking up there?
– No.
– Are you building an interocitor?
– No.

Caddyshack

So I got that goin’ for me, which is nice.

Clueless

Daddy, some people lost all their belongings, don’t you think that includes athletic equipment?

Well, uh, I thought they declared peace in the Middle East.
[said over a shot of the TV news featuring turmoil in Bosnia]

My Big Fat Greek Wedding

I put some Windex on it.

Oh, that’s okay. That’s okay. I make lamb.

Star Wars trilogy
(the first one – or rather, episodes 4-6)

– No time to discuss this as a committee.
– I am NOT a committee!

And now, young Skywalker… you will die.

(Okay, I admit that might sound a bit disturbing as a favorite quote, but you just have to hear the way the Emperor says it. Classic.)

Ever After

Some people read because they cannot think for themselves. [wicked stepmother, of course]

– She is mute, my lord.
– Really? She spoke quite forcefully.
– Well, it comes and goes…

The Third Man
(you knew I had to throw a classic in there somewhere – couldn’t help myself!)

Hello, old man, how are you?

In Switzerland they had brotherly love, 500 years of democracy and peace, and what did that produce? The cuckoo clock.

Pride and Prejudice (2005)

Do these attentions proceed from the impulse of the moment, or are they the result of previous study?

Fight Club

The first rule of fight club is – you do not talk about fight club. The second rule of fight club is – you do not talk about fight club!

Galaxy Quest

By Grabthar’s hammer!

The ship is breaking apart and all that. Just FYI.

Roman Holiday

May I say, speaking for my own press service, we believe your Highness’s faith will not be unjustified.

Pirates of the Caribbean: Curse of the Black Pearl

Wait for the opportune moment.

The Mummy

– Well, if it ain’t my little buddy Beni. I think I’ll kill you.
– Think of my children.
– You don’t have any children
– Someday I might.

Aladdin
(You’re probably thinking – these? They’re even more random than the rest! Well, point taken, but, probably much to the dismay of my friends and family, these somehow pop up quite often in conversation.)

– Patience, Iago, patience. Gazeem was obviously less than worthy.
– Oh, there’s a big surprise.

Calm yourself, Iago.

PHENOMENAL COSMIC POWERS! Itty bitty living space.

The Princess Bride
(Saving the first for last – besides Aladdin, these are some of the first quotes I remember reciting.)

Well, it just so happens that your friend here is only MOSTLY dead.

Inconceivable!

(and, of course…)

Hello. My name is Inigo Montoya. You killed my father, prepare to die.

Quote marks


Six degrees of separation: Jane Austen in the movies

September 4, 2007

Starting to feel like Jane Austen is everywhere lately? Well, you’re not entirely wrong. All roads do seem to lead to Jane Austen these days. Here’s my (somewhat spooky?) six degrees of separation explanation:

One of the most popular adaptations of Jane Austen’s Pride and Prejudice is the 1995 BBC/A&E miniseries starring Jennifer Ehle as Elizabeth Bennett. However, Jennifer Ehle also starred in a slightly more scandalous (but still period) romance called Possession, with Jeremy Northam as her lover. Northam in turn played Mr. Knightley’s voice of reason to Gwyneth Paltrow’s matchmaking Emma in the 1996 big screen version of Jane Austen’s Emma (the inspiration for the film Clueless).

Paltrow, who, as it happens, is also one of the stars of the film Possession, is perhaps best known for bringing the theme of star-crossed lovers to new Oscar-worthy heights in Shakespeare in Love. However, making sure her love is star-crossed in Shakespeare in Love is Colin Firth (Lord Wessex), the British actor who famously introduced a dripping wet Mr. Darcy to a contemporary audience in that very same Pride and Prejudice miniseries with Jennifer Ehle.

Firth also played Mr. Darcy in a modern Pride and Prejudice adaptation, Bridget Jones’s Diary. Playing Mr. Wickham (or rather, Daniel Cleaver) to his Darcy in Bridget Jones was Hugh Grant, who also jilted women (but much more elegantly) in Emma Thompson’s Oscar-winning film adaptation of Austen’s Sense and Sensibility.

Hugh Grant’s part does not end there, however. Grant became famous for playing a confused but lovable character in Four Weddings and a Funeral. Playing an important love interest in Four Weddings was Anna Chancellor (Henrietta), an actress who also played the formidable Caroline Bingley in, again, Jennifer Ehle’s Pride and Prejudice miniseries. Anna Chancellor, who, probably unsurprisingly, is actually related to the real Jane Austen, is also related to Crispin Bonham-Carter (and thus, Helena Bonham-Carter as well, his cousin), who played Anna Chancellor’s brother, Mr. Bingley, in that omnipresent Pride and Prejudice miniseries.

Crispin Bonhman-Carter also had a small role in Bridget Jones’s Diary, although unfortunately many of his scenes were cut. Appearing in Bridget Jones as well was Gemma Jones, who played the mother in both Bridget Jones and another Hugh Grant film, the aforementioned Sense and Sensibility. Gemma Jones can also be seen as Madam Pomfrey in Harry Potter, which additionally stars Julie Walters as Mrs. Weasley. Julie Walters, incidentally, takes on the role of Mrs. Austen, the “real” Mrs. Bennett, in Becoming Jane, in which James McAvoy and Anne Hathaway (as Jane Austen) play, of course, star-crossed lovers.

James McAvoy can also be seen in the upcoming adaptation of Ian McEwan’s book Atonement (Dec. 7 in the US, go here for Empire’s review of the film), in which he stars alongside Keira Knightley. Keira Knightley herself got her first Oscar nomination for playing Elizabeth Bennett in the 2005 film adaptation of Pride and Prejudice, directed by Joe Wright (the director of Atonement). Knightley, in turn, also starred in Love Actually with Colin Firth (Pride and Prejudice) and three stars of Sense and Sensibility (Emma Thompson, Alan Rickman and Hugh Grant – Emma Thompson and Alan Rickman are also in Harry Potter together, alongside Julie Walters and Gemma Jones).

Back to Hugh Grant again then, the Brit plays an enamored bookstore owner in the romantic comedy Notting Hill, which also features Hugh Bonneville as the down on his luck Bernie. However, Bonneville can also be seen in a 1999 film adaptation of Austen’s Mansfield Park, which additionally stars James Purefoy. Purefoy himself seems to favor period dialogue, as evidenced in HBO’s Rome, where he played Marc Antony. Also starring in Rome was Ciaran Hinds, as Julius Caesar.

Besides doomed leaders, Hinds also does well portraying Austen men, as can be seen in the 1995 movie version of Austen’s Persuasion, in which he plays Capt. Wentworth, the former suitor of Anne Elliott’s main character. Persuasion also starred Samuel West as Mr. Elliot who, surprise surprise, also appears in Notting Hill with Bonneville and Grant as a, well, backside-obsessed actor.

Not to be forgotten, however, is Embeth Davidtz, who was also featured in Mansfield Park alongside Bonneville as the beautiful but scheming Mary Crawford. Davidtz additionally took on the role of romantic foil in Bridget Jones’s Diary, as Natasha. What’s more, the Bridget Jones movies were in fact written by Andrew Davies, who, it turns out, is the mastermind writer behind, yes, the Pride and Prejudice miniseries with Jennifer Ehle.


Becoming Jane: the aftermath

August 13, 2007

Faith Black of The Huffington Post is wrestling with the many demons of a Jane Austen lover: to watch or not to watch a movie that is not true to Austen’s life? See her struggles here.


Becoming Jane

August 11, 2007

Do not take guys to see this movie. Trust me on this one. Aside from the not-so-subtle snickers I heard from the guys in the audience when I saw it, and the fact that my boyfriend turns slightly white at the mere mention of names resembling “Darcy” or “Bennett,” this is simply just a chick flick. It’s got weepy romance, fancy outfits, period dialogue, and sweeping music – and if that doesn’t get them, the awkward skinny dipping scene with male nudity most definitely will.

If you’re still interested, and as an admitted Jane Austen junkie myself I certainly still was, this movie is basically the “true story” of Pride and Prejudice, loosely based on people and events in Jane Austen’s life. If you’re in the mood for it, it can be a thoroughly enjoyable and sort of cathartic romantic experience. It’s got everything: unrecognized and star-crossed love, meddling parents and would-be lovers, and of course, the premise of being based on real life (although no one, after seeing this movie, would mistake its story for a true story; this never pretends to be a biography).

Unfortunately, the film can’t quite decide what it wants to be. Does it want to be a dramatic romance, complete with “you’ve captured my heart and soul” type dialogue and gut-wrenching partings? Or does it want to be a slightly silly and risque romantic comedy, complete with blatant and somewhat foolish sexual allusions? (at one point, James McAvoy’s Tom LeFroy tells Anne Hathaway’s Jane Austen that she must “widen” her horizons with experience – and the emphasis on “widen” is not mine – after reading to her a description of birds engaged in, shall we say, naturally necessary acts) Or does it, as a Miramax movie, want to be a serious art-house film, with elaborate outfits and settings and grave discussions of class and women’s position in society?

Sadly, it never makes up its mind. But while it’s muddling that over, you can enjoy watching and crying over two pretty people having fun with complicated dialogue and passionate love scenes. Bring Kleenex and a (girl) friend.