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Posts Tagged ‘Anne Hathaway’

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This book had been sitting on my shelf for a few years, and I finally decided it was time to read it for several reasons: I enjoy reading Shakespeare and learning about his life, I enjoy watching his plays, historical fiction (particularly when interwoven with fact) is a favourite genre of mine, and recently there have been the celebrations of 400 years since he died. Which I suppose is a slightly strange thing to celebrate, but still.

Not a lot is actually known about Shakespeare’s life, or to put it more precisely, there are large gaps in his biography. This book takes the facts that we do know and weaves a fictional story around them. It never claims to be anything but fictional, but clearly the author has done a lot of research to get as much accuracy in as possible.

I am in two minds about it. On the one hand, there was much to enjoy – the writing was elegant and at times rather beautiful, but also slightly too flowery for my personal tastes. It felt as though 20 words were often used when one would have sufficed. Nonetheless I felt it gave a descriptive portrayal of Shakespeare although there is no way of knowing truly how accurate the portrayal was. Morgan draws him as a serious minded, elusive man who wins everyone’s (almost) admiration, yet never really allows anyone to get too close, except for one person who he regrets letting into his life.

One thing to point out about this book is that it is as much about Shakespeare’s wife Anne Hathaway as it is about him, and a fair amount of the story is also given over to Shakespeare’s friend and contemporary, Ben Jonson. Shakespeare is seen through both of their eyes, and out of all three characters, Anne probably comes across as the most sympathetic.

Overall I would say that this was a middling book for me – objectively I’d say it was wonderfully written, but subjectively I’d say that it wasn’t the best fit for me; however, I enjoyed it enough to want to pick it up each day, but it was so wordy that I couldn’t read great swathes of it in one sitting. Interesting though, and I would recommend it to fans of historical fiction and especially to anyone with an interest in William Shakespeare.

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This film is very loosely based on the life of Jane Austen, prior to her becoming a successful author.  Jane (Anne Hathaway), whose mother wants her to marry a rich man, meets and falls for penniless lawyer Tom Lefroy (James McAvoy).  Their relationship inspires her writing, and in particular, her novel Pride and Prejudice (called here by its original title of First Impressions).

If you are looking for a biography of Jane Austen, this film is not it.  In fact, the real Jane only referred to Tom Lefroy in a couple of letters to her older sister Cassandra, so this film merely seems to take that as a jumping off point, from which to create a love story.  The subject of the story could just as easily have been a fictional character, but I imagine that to make it about Jane Austen drew in fans of the author (it’s what made me want to watch it).

Although it received quite bad reviews, I did enjoy the film for what it was.  Anne Hathaway is an unusual choice to play Jane Austen, but I thought she did well, and her accent was convincing; had I not known that she is American, I would have believed she was English based on this film.  James McAvoy was also very good as Tom Lefroy, and I thought the two of them had good chemistry.  The supporting cast consists of several well known names, including Maggie Smith, Julie Walters, Laurence Fox, James Cromwell and Anna Maxwell Martin – unfortunately all of them were somewhat under-used, but made the most of their parts.

I found it interesting that the first part of the film mirrored somewhat the plot of Pride and Prejudice – a headstrong and intelligent girl is determined to marry for love, while her mother implores her to marry a rich man, who can support her and her family.  Indeed, Jane is portrayed very much as a Lizzie Bennet type character, and there were also some witty lines and comic scenes.

The second part of the film is more dramatic, and anyone who knows much about Jane Austen’s life, will know whether or not the romance with Lefroy works out.  I thought the ending was a bit too long, and the film could have ended about 30 minutes earlier, but all the same, it tied up all the loose ends nicely.

Overall, an enjoyable film – if you are a Jane Austen fan, approach with caution and be aware that it is very much an imagined version of this part of Jane’s life, but if you are okay with that, then give it a watch.  You might be pleasantly surprised.

Year of release: 2007

Director: Julian Jarrold

Producers: Jeff Abberley, Julia Blackman, Nicole Finnan, Tim Haslam, Joanna Anderson, Robert Bernstein, Graham Broadbent, Noelette Buckley, James Flynn, Morgan O’Sullivan, Douglas Rae, James Saynor

Writers: Jane Austen (letters), Kevin Hood, Sarah Williams

Main cast: Anne Hathaway, James McAvoy, Maggie Smith, Julie Walters, Laurence Fox, James Cromwell, Ian Richardson, Anna Maxwell Martin, Lucy Cohu, Joe Anderson

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This film is not the first big-screen adaptation of Victor Hugo’s novel, but is probably one of the most talked about versions.  Having seen the show on stage years ago, I was eager to see the film, although I did approach with some caution, knowing that it was well over two hours long, and that there is virtually no spoken dialogue in it; this is a musical in the fullest sense of the word.

Briefly, the story, which is set in France in the 1800s, is about a man named Jean Valjean, who gets out of prison after serving a lengthy sentence for stealing bread for his sister’s baby.  He breaks parole and becomes a successful business man (and Mayor).  However, when he agrees to take care of a dying lady’s child, the decision changes his life forever.  He also has to deal with a policeman named Javert, who is obsessed with tracking down his former prisoner Valjean.

The main stars of this film are Hugh Jackman as Valjean, Russell Crowe as Javert, Amanda Seyfried as the adult Cosette (the young girl who becomes Valjean’s ward), and Eddie Redmayne as Marius, a young man who falls in love with Cosette.  Supporting roles are played by, amongst others, Helena Bonham Carter and Sacha Baron Cohen, as Monsieur and Madame Thenardier (the cruel couple who look after the child Cosette until Valjean rescues her from their clutches); despite being unpleasant characters, they also provided a fair amount of comic relief, and Anne Hathaway, in an Oscar nominated (and deserving) performance as Fantine, Cosette’s mother.

The film is a sweeping epic, covering not just the stories of these characters, but the story of the French revolution, with the tragedy and bloodshed that it brought.  The singing, for the most part, is excellent.  Jackman and Hathaway in particular, have beautiful voices, and both brought tears to my eyes.  Jackman has been nominated for an Oscar for this role, and deservedly so.  (As I write this, the Oscars are nearly two months away, and my money is on Daniel Day Lewis winning for his portrayal of Abraham Lincoln.)

As shocking as it is to me, the weakest link in this film is the usually reliable Russell Crowe.  However, that is not to say that he was not good, or that he did not play the part well – he did, but he is surrounded by people who took my breath away with their performance (In other words, the weakest link is still pretty strong!).  Crowe’s singing voice is not the best, but he holds his tunes well, and acquits himself in the role.

This is not a film for everyone – it’s sad, it requires investment from the viewer (this is not a film to kick back and relax with), and if you don’t like musicals, you should avoid it at all costs!  But I think it’s one of those films that if you like it, you will love it.For my part, I found it moving, glorious and unforgettable.

Year of release: 2012

Director: Tom Hooper

Producers: Nicholas Allott, Liza Chasin, Angela Morrison, F. Richard Pappas, Tim Bevan, Eric Fellner, Debra Hayward, Cameron MackintoshBernard Bellew, Raphael Benoliel, Francesca Budd, Thomas Schonberg

Writers: Victor Hugo (novel), Alain Boubil, Claude-Michel Schonberg, Herbert Kretzmer, William Nicholson

Main cast: Hugh Jackman, Russell Crowe, Amanda Seyfried, Eddie Redmayne, Smaantha Barks, Helena Bonham Carter, Sacha Baron Cohen, Anne Hathaway

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Anne Hathaway plays Andrea (‘Andy’) Sachs, a young woman who hopes to become a journalist and gets a job working at the globally successful Runway fashion magazine, as second assistant to Miranda Priestley (Meryl Streep). Initially the other staff feel that she doesn’t fit in, because she does not believe that fashion is the be all and end all, and because she is a size 6 (equivalent to a UK size 10) which is considered fat – and she doesn’t even diet!!  Andy does find herself fitting in, after a little help from fashion designer on the magazine, Nigel, but she discovers that working for the famed and feared Miranda Priestley means that you are not allowed to have a personal life.  Andy is expected to be ready to bow to Miranda’s often totally unreasonable will at any time of day or night, and finds herself struggling to maintain her relationship and her friendships.  She also notes that Miranda herself sacrifices much in the way of family life for her job – and Andy will eventually have to choose what is most important to her…

I enjoyed this film – but not as much as I expected to.  Anne Hathaway was sweet and perfectly cast, and Meryl Streep was superb as the ruthless Miranda. Mention should also be made of Emily Blunt, who played first assistant to Miranda, and Stanley Tucci who played Nigel, a designer on the magazine.  Both of these actors were terrific in their roles.

Possibly the reason why the film underwhelmed me was also to do with the whole message it was making.  I found the obsession with the fashion industry which is depicted in this movie, to be very shallow – but that’s kind of the point! And I totally understand that in such circumstances as this film is set, Andy’s perfectly gorgeous and healthy size 6 frame would be scorned (and that people would be scandalised that she would dare to do something so shocking as EAT CARBS!!), but it was an attitude that I can’t relate to.

Andy is basically a decent person, but she realises that in the industry in which she is working, people will step all over each other to get what they want, and she herself behaves in ways which she is not proud of.

Now – I know this is what the film is basically trying to say…fashion is nice, but is it worth sacrificing your personal life for?  And is it ever worth treating your friends and family badly for?  But despite a great cast, this movie just didn’t really do it for me.  Don’t get me wrong – it’s not awful, it’s just not really all that great.

One final word – I was expecting this to be a very funny film…it isn’t.  Some of the things that happen are funny, but only because they are so superficial.  But overall it left me somewhat dissatisfied.

Year of release: 2006

Director: David Frankel

Writers: Lauren Weisberger (book), Aline Brosh McKenna

Main cast: Anne Hathaway, Meryl Streep, Emily Blunt, Stanley Tucci

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This is a really beautiful movie. It tells the story of Ennis Del Mar and Jack Twist, two young cowboys who meet in the summer of 1963, up on Brokeback Mountain. They forge a connection which stays with them throughout their lives. This film is wonderfully acted, and watching it now just reminds one of what a wonderful talent has been lost with the tragic death of Heath Ledger. He is outstanding in this movie, as is Jake Gyllenhaal.

The film is widely known as ‘the gay cowboy movie’, but it is so much more than that.  Ennis and Jake fall for each other so deeply, and at a time and in a culture where such a love would be heavily frowned upon (indeed, Ennis suspects that Jack is murdered for being gay).  It’s clear that Ennis in particular is taken completely by surprise at his feelings for Jack, and is not sure how to deal with his emotions.  He has always bottled his feelings up, and additionally, has always been taught that homosexuality is completely wrong.  He struggles with his feelings throughout his entire life, and eventually at the cost of his marriage. It is interesting to note that early on in the movie (before anything physical has happened between the two men), Ennis is talking to Jack about his childhood. Jack notes that Ennis has just said more words in that conversation than he has said in the whole two weeks that they had spend together up until that point. Ennis then says that he has just said more than he has said in the past year. This demonstrates how he finds it difficult to open up to people, but has started to learn to trust Jack.

Jack is more open about his feelings, and even at one point suggests that he and Ennis could live together.  Ennis states that that could never happen – he knows what can happen to men who are openly gay, and still doesn’t seem able to accept his own feelings, let alone be prepared for anyone else to accept them.  Ennis’ inability to accept his own feelings (and to a lesser extent, Jack’s inability to do the same) is a constant thread throughout the film.  Often Ennis’ frustration manifests itself in violence.  Indeed, when Alma, he ex wife reveals that she knew about his and Jack’s relationship, it looks as though he is going to punch her.

The final meeting between the two, where Jack makes it clear once again that he wants more than an occasional mountain break with Ennis, and laments that he wishes he knew ‘how to quit’ Ennis is very tender and sad.  Ennis’s reaction to Jack’s statement is even more emotional.

The ending, where Ennis goes to see Jack’s parents after learning of Jack’s death, is beautifully acted, and extremely moving.  It’s apparent that Jack’s father knows, or at least suspects his son’s homosexuality, and he takes almost a twisted kind of pleasure in informing Ennis that Jack used to talk about him all the time, but had more recently started talking about another man.  Ennis surely has to wonder whether Jack had finally found a way to quit him.  But then the discovery of two shirts shows that Jack never could and never did quite Ennis.  They really were each other’s one true love, and the tragedy is that they could never be together properly.

The acting in this film is excellent all round.  The two leads are outstanding, and Michelle Williams and Anne Hathaway are brilliant as the wives of Ennis and Jack respectively.  I really found myself caring about these people and wanting to know how their story would turn out.

I know that this is a film I could – and will – watch over and over again.  A tender, touching love story, which is wonderfully acted and directed.

Year of release: 2005

Director: Ang Lee

Writers: Annie Proulx (book), Larry McMurtry, Diana Ossana

Main cast: Heath Ledger, Jake Gyllenhaal, Michelle Williams, Anne Hathaway

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Click here for my review of Annie Proulx’s book ‘Close Range’ which contains the short story ‘Brokeback Mountain’.

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