July 17, 2007

Jane Austen Redux

janeaustenpencilsketch.jpgCinecultist sometimes has a terrible memory. We know that we read The Jane Austen Bookclub a few years ago because it's sitting right there on the bookshelf and vaguely we recall enjoying it. But plot, characters and themes are all a bit fuzzy. There's a book club? They read Jane Austen's six books together? Romance, intrigue or something or other? Watching a trailer for the movie version which comes out on Sept. 21 rang a few distant bells. Oh well, with a cast this good (Maria Bello, Emily Blunt, Hugh Dancy, Amy Brenneman, Kathy Baker, Jimmy Smits and Maggie Grace) we'll probably be seeing it regardless of if we can remember the finer points of the story.

Another Jane Austen reworking on the movie horizon is Anne Hathaway's Becoming Jane, a fictionalized biopic which imagines that Jane's spinsterhood sprung from a disappointed great love. It is out Aug. 3. While CC always finds Hathaway charming and thought this was also a good role for the on-the-cusp-of-stardom James McAvoy, it plays a little too fast and loose with what we understand as Jane's life story. To suppose that one of the greatest romantic comedy wits ever had some sweeping movie-style affair in her life is just a little too Hollywood convenient.

In case you couldn't tell, Cinecultist is very protective of Madam Austen. We don't want to see her too tinkered with, just to tap into a continuing trend from the '90s. We take appropriations of her work and her person oddly personally. If you're going to riff on her, ye puny novelists and filmmakers, we demand you be smart about it. To get into what Jane Austen's writing means to CC would probably take more than just one blog post but suffice it to say, she's the patron saint of all smart girls and we've read all her books (even the childhood ephemera) more than once. Going into a mild-mannered Hollywood movie with that much baggage and pre-conceived notions is never going to turn out well. Or could it? Will our decade plus obsession make Cinecultist the perfect critical audience these two movies, one highly tuned into the potential pitfalls and pleasures of the subject matter?

Posted by karen at July 17, 2007 8:47 AM
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