Austenland: Leave the tea and biscuits at home

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Jane Hayes has a problem. She suffers from a severe case of Austenmania, and I mean mania. Her bedroom, littered with porcelain teacups, stuffed dolls, and a life-size cardboard cutout of Colin Firth in Darcy regalia, looks like a 5th-grader’s shrine to Pride and Prejudice. That this woman managed to go on dates boggles the mind. So it comes as no surprise that when Jane sees a commercial for Austenland, a themed British estate with period actors that promises romance with an Austen-type hero, she cashes in her life savings and flies her sad, sad self off to England.

Hayes gets a rude awakening on her arrival. The “bronze” package she bought — the cheapest available — seems reserved for Mansfield Park’s Fanny Price. The management snubs her, gives her drab gowns, a tiny bedroom on the top floor, and excludes her from fun activities. To make matters worse, the Darcy-type period actor, Mr. Henry Nobley, is in the extreme pre-Elizabeth Bennet stage. still-of-jj-feild-in-austenland

Mr. Henry Nobley (J.J. Feild) looking haughty.

Luckily, Jane can vent her frustrations with Martin, the handsome stable hand. Their relationship develops quickly — a little too quickly. One minute he’s pitching hay in the barn and the next they’re making out to the strains of a cheesy 80’s pop song.

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Jane (Keri Russell) and Martin (Bret McKenzie)

None of the other relationships evolve smoothly, either. Character development in this film sacrificed itself on the altar of time in favor of farcical scenarios. I found myself thinking, “When did that happen? And why?” I assume Jerusha Hess’s book, on which the film is based, elaborates more on this and Jane’s troubled romantic past, which is mentioned but never explained.

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Austenland tries too hard, but isn’t completely lacking in charm. That’s largely due to the cast, who strove to make this a watchable film. In the end, the plot good-naturedly pokes fun at “Janeites,” only to fall short of its potential and succumb to Hollywood rom-com predictability. If you enjoyed the 1995 Pride and Prejudice miniseries, though, you may find the film’s occasional nods amusing, as I did. Also if you’re a fan of Nelly. And that’s all I’m saying.

Beaver couldn’t make it to the showing, sadly, so I’m rating it by myself: 2 carrot sticks (out of five).

On the Waterfront

After weeks of procrastination (and a few legitimate excuses), here is the Mafia-related movie post. Sorry, Liz!

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 I love this poster — it’s so over the top. 

Liz: Waterfront workers line up every morning to unload cargo on the docks, but only those favored by union controller and mob boss Johnny Friendly get work. Those who stand against the mob end up dead. After the murder of a teen, a priest and the boy’s sister seeking justice find help in an unlikely source: Terry Malloy, kid brother of Friendly’s right hand man.

So, did Karl Malden ever play anything other than a priest? On the Waterfront, Poseidon Adventure, Pollyanna…

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Seriously though, he did a great job. And he was no quiet spoken priest with a tender touch. I loved his tough, not-too-polite, cigarette smoking, hit-you-when-necessary character as much as Marlon Brando’s simple, but charming in a diamond-in-the-rough way, Terry Malloy.

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Brando’s reaction when realizing he’d set up a kid for his death seemed underplayed to me. There wasn’t much reaction at all at first. Otherwise, I thought he did a great job, as did the other actors.

On the Waterfront is not my typical movie choice, but I enjoyed it. People standing up for what’s right is always encouraging, though the thought that people were actually living in such poverty and fear is rather shocking.

Conclusion: Definitely deserves all the awards it got.

Jaz: I have a confession to make: I didn’t know that the quote “I coulda been a contender” originated from On the Waterfront.

Go ahead, judge me. All those years of hearing my father quote it (along with “I thought you was hungry so I brought you a stick of gum” – no idea where that’s from), and me a self-proclaimed classic film fan!

Another confession … You know those movies you enjoy watching, then forget about? On the Waterfront was one of those for me. It’s poignant, well done, based on true events, and Brando and Eva Marie Saint delivered superb performances, blended with perfect chemistry.

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In spite of all this, it didn’t resonate with me. It’s not that I don’t appreciate this or different genres – I watch everything from martial arts films to sappy chic-flicks to mystery/suspense to Westerns to gangster films. Most everything except horror. If I want horror, I’ll just eat a MacBacon-CheeseLovinWhopper right before bed, no monthly Netflix fee required.

But back to the film. Beaver disagrees with me. He feels I’m not reading deeply enough into the film to appreciate its characters and nuances – it’s so much more than black and white. He’s right, I know. Later I’ll re-watch On the Waterfront … in addition to making that felt fedora hat the Beav’s been clamoring for since we watched it.

We give this 4 carrot sticks (out of five).