Page to Screen: The Jane Austen Book Club (2007)

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The Jane Austen Book Club
based on the novel by Karen Joy Fowler

★★★½☆

2007 • 106 minutes • Sony Pictures Classics

I don’t know if I have anything particular to say about The Jane Austen Book Club, a film wherein six members of a Jane Austen book club find that Austen’s writing sheds insight on their romantic conundrums, as a film unto itself.

I mean, the extended montage of just how difficult modern life is (or was, in the far-off past of 2007) that opens the picture does make its point a little too heavily before launching into the story proper. Some of the jokes are a little broad for my tastes. And I did definitely spend the bulk of the film telling Emily Blunt to absolutely not sleep with her student. (I don’t think it’s a spoiler to reveal that Blunt’s character follows my wise advice.) But, largely, it’s a very comfortable romantic comedy that balances its large cast well, treats all its characters with respect, and chugs along to a pleasant conclusion where everyone, now happily matched, accepts the wisdom of the classics and decide to start reading the Aubrey–Maturin series so they’ll never run out of material. It’s fun, it’s not infuriating (as mainstream American romantic comedies can tend to be, through no inherent fault of the genre), and it’s a little dated. (Two words: flip phones.) What’s not to like, even if it doesn’t make much of an impression?

But I do have something to say about The Jane Austen Book Club as a film in context of female representation in American cinema. Continue reading

At The Movies: Only Lovers Left Alive (2013)

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Only Lovers Left Alive

★★★★½

2013 • 123 minutes • Sony Pictures Classics

There are videos and photographs in this world that show the slow, inevitable movement of the stars and the planets in slowly increasing speeds. Their orbits first become obvious, and then they become streaks of light. At the highest speeds, they all fold in on themselves, becoming halos. Eventually, everything circles in on itself in infinity. To quote Natalie Angier, remember that time and space are curved, and you will come back to me.

This fact (or observation) is very studiously echoed in the opening shots of Only Lovers Left Alive. The camera circles Tilda Swinton’s Eve as she twirls slowly, dancing to either some ecstatic inner music or. The camera circles Tom Hiddleston’s Adam as he plays a droning guitar, the muddy, drawn-out, and only appropriate music for such a scene. The film cuts neatly between them so that the circle is never broken—they’re intertwined, despite the vast distance between them. (The film later verbalizes this as Einstein’s spooky action at a distance theory, but this is much more elegant.)

It communicates so much with so little—that Adam and Eve are our eponymous lovers, that they, as vampires, are tied to strange, eternal rhythms, and that this film is about mining those outer reaches of immortality—the horizon at which everything begins to flatten and the singularity looms beyond it.

Continue reading