The fairytales. The fantasy. Girls from a young age are romanced by princess love stories. Wonderful movies, books, folk tales color our dreams of love practically from birth. It’s no wonder we look for a Prince Charming to sweep us off our feet.
Two art-house films explore this very theme in wildly different manners this summer – Woody Allen’s stunning, “Blue Jasmine,” starring the powerhouse Cate Blanchette, and Jerusha Hess’s “Austenland” starring the charming Keri Russell.
Allen examines the “I’m nothing without a man” subject head-on through the looking glass of our economic meltdown. In “Blue Jasmine,” Blanchette plays Jasmine, the ultra-rich wife of successful businessman, Hal (Alec Baldwin). Jasmine has hitched her star onto Hal – dropping out of college for this charismatic man, and loving every piece of wealth and luxury item this man offers.
It matters not to Jasmine whether Hal plays free and loose with the law in his business dealings and extra-curricular activities. She has a blind eye as long as she can live the life of wealth, including multiple homes, jewels, and other extravagances.
But when it all comes crashing down, Jasmine is completely lost (and not so completely innocent). She cracks up. Her entire self-worth is built upon Hal. When she’s forced to move west to San Francisco and crash at the modest apartment of her sister, Ginger (a winning Sally Hawkins), there’s the very real question of whether Jasmine can pull herself together and enter the real world.
Struggling with no real skills in regards to career or managing her own life – Jasmine attempts to become a licensed interior designer through an on-line course, but doesn’t have any idea on how to use a computer – things look pretty dismal for Jasmine. The only bright spot is when, at a party, she meets a U.S. diplomat, Dwight (Peter Sarsgaard). Jasmine spins yet another yarn to make herself attractive to a man who can rise her up out of reality.
It’s a tour de force performance that’s sure to effect women much more strongly than it does men.
“Austenland” is a 180-degree turn from “Blue Jasmine” as far as tone. In theme of “finding the perfect man” it could be considered a sister film, albeit told via a backdrop of a fantasy excursion. The question here is are affections real or manufactured.
Mr. Darcy of Jane Austen’s “Pride and Prejudice” – what women hasn’t dreamt of winning over this brooding man with a past? Certainly modern-day Jane Hayes (Keri Russell) has. In a comical montage, we see Jane’s obsession with Mr. Darcy – from memorabilia to “I Heart Mr. Darcy” notebooks and even life-size cardboard figures – no “real” man can match Darcy.
So when Jane hears of a magical vacation getaway at an English manor that caters to Austen-crazed women (one must dress and act as if in an Austen novel), she jumps at the chance to spend her life’s savings and live in a world that she wishes she were born into.
Based on the novel by Shannon Hale and co-written and directed by Hess who co-wrote “Napoleon Dynamite,” “Austenland” takes a playful look at women (Russell, Jennifer Coolidge, Georgia King) living out their dreams of love. The only problem is that the perfect man is an actor. Whether the women wish to remember this detail is entirely up them.
Don’t worry, since “Austenland” is whimsical tale, the harsh realizations are mixed with romantic conclusions.
“Blue Jasmine” is PG-13 and currently in theaters; “Austenland” is PG-13 and opens August 16 in LA and NY.
For other film articles by Lori Huck, check out:
‘Before Midnight’ Review: Linklater, Hawke, Delpy Wondrously Reunite
‘Love is All You Need’ Review: Oscar Winner Susanne Bier Plays Romantic Matchmaker