I don’t, of course, count the endless BBC miniseries and Masterpiece Theatre serials that you know perfectly well I consume with the regularity of a heroin addict. A heroin addict who loves period drama, that is.
What I mean is I’ve been watching movie movies. You know, like they show in the movie theatre. Mainstream movies. Movies that the rest of the world has heard of. Those kinds of movies.
See, I don’t normally watch these kinds of movies, mainly because I have a deep-seated aversion to sitting in a movie theatre with a million and a half other people, each of whom is noisily breathing holy shit right next to me seriously will you STOP.
But I will occasionally watch something on pay-per-view, or Netflix, or some such thing, because this I can do in the privacy and solitude of my own home. So much less unnecessary breathing. So many fewer arrests for assault with a popcorn bucket.
Of course the movie must also be about something that interests me, which as you know generally involves (1) a setting in the 19th century, (2) some vague proximity to either 19th century London, Boston, or New York, and (3) one or another of a handful of male British actors whom I respect and admire.
Ahem. Yes. Admire.
Now what happens on only very rare and special occasions is that I become particularly enamored of a particular actor and I feel the need to investigate other, perhaps less cravat-intensive representations of said actor’s oeuvre.
Because of my profound respect for their actorly craft, you understand. I operate only from the highest of moral planes. As do you, I am sure. As do you.
Such has been the case of late with the esteemed young thespian Mr. James McAvoy. Indeed, I have watched a breathtaking five movies starring that dapper wee scotsman in the last week. Now, this might seem like nothing to you habitual mainstream movie watchers, but I can assure you that for me it is unprecedented.
What can I say. My nature is just the slightest bit obsessive. Had you noticed?
Why, how kind of you to say so.
And so, to avoid the need for an interminable series of individual posts on these movies, I will give you my brief, insightful, and altogether mature analyses of each of these five films now, in easy-to-read paragraph form.
Just the way you like it, baby.
Watched it on pay-per-view one dark and lonely evening. Pretty sure this was before I knew I was hooked on McAvoy, and I still innocently thought that I merely felt the need to watch some rollicking courthouse drama involving Lincoln’s assassination, southern rebel conspirators, and the constitutionality of using military courts to try civilians. Because yeah, that sounds like my idea of a good time.
I know. You’re saying Actually, Beth, that sounds like EXACTLY your idea of a good time.
Sigh. You know me so well.
Very well acted, of course. McAvoy stars, alongside a gravitas-laden Robin Wright and an absolutely unrecognizable Kevin Kline. Seriously. Watch this movie and tell me if you can discern Kevin Kline under all that makeup and fake hair. The locations were marvelous, the costumes spot-on, and the subject matter deftly handled, I thought. Loads of critics said this one was plodding and dull, but folks, it’s a movie about a military tribunal at the close of the Civil War. Good luck sexing that one up.
I loved it. Deeply satisfying to the history junkie, doubly so to a Yankee sympathizing Grant fetishist like me.
I already wrote about this one, of course, but in my usual way I spoke less about the movie and more about my own endlessly fascinating personal history. Well, what’s a blog for?
This one also flew on all cylinders. It technically was set in the early 20th century (around 1910), but since this is pre-Stalinist Russia we’re talking about, I think they get a pass. Russia, after all, had a slightly longer 19th century than the rest of us did. Poor old Russia.
McAvoy ripped my heart out in this one, he was so fresh-faced and idealistic and sweet and naive and OMG Full! Of! Emotions!
He cries a fair bit in this one, too, and you know how I feel about crying British men.
At least I hope you do. Are you new here? Nice to meet you. My name is Beth, and crying British men are my porn.
Oh yes, and Helen Mirren and Christopher Plummer and Paul Giamatti and crying James McAvoy and oh just watch it. It’s seriously got it all. Love, death, literature, fame, duty, sex. All wrapped up in a tasty lettuce leaf of unspoiled Russian countryside.
Hey! I learned a new joke, too:
How do you sum up the history of Russia in three words?
It got worse.
So after watching The Last Station, I pretty much knew I was screwed. As I said, actorly obsessions like this one don’t strike me very often, but when they do they are ferocious. So at this point I just sort of shrugged, gave in, and ordered the whole damn list from Amazon.
Might as well just get it out of my system, right?
So, right about here is where I stopped pretending it had anything at all to do with cravats, or Serious Themes in Literature, or even the merest shred of 19th century history. I just… stopped pretending.
And ordered X-Men. Which, as you recall, I would not have seen in the theatre. Due to all of the goddamned proximal breathing, you see.
McAvoy cries in this one, too. As does Fassbender. It’s good times all around. Crying handsome British men, sexy and occasionally sexually manipulative telepathy, dastardly plots to rule the world, and freaky mutant orgy sex.
Weeeeeelll, I might have imagined parts of it. Not sure. Pretty certain I don’t want to know. I generally prefer my own version of reality, thanks very much just the same.
If you haven’t seen this, and you just don’t get the McAvoy thing, I strongly recommend that you give it a whirl. The accent alone ought to win you over.
And, of course, the eyebrows. I very much enjoy the eyebrows.
By rights, I should really dedicate an entire post just to this one movie. It’s that much of a standout. Fairy tale with elements of Cyrano de Bergerac mixed with Sleeping Beauty. And there’s even a fair bit of Jane Eyre in there, if you know where to look.
McAvoy plays a pretty seedy character, but one who ends up having a tremendously good heart and a real sense of integrity and he totally gets the girl in the end. But only after enduring several heart-wrenching scenes in which there are fabulous tears in his fabulously dark-circled, red-rimmed eyes.
It just does it for me, okay?
Also, Christina Ricci is her usual knock-me-down talented and gorgeous self, Catherine O’Hara is unutterably delightful as a completely mental mother, and there are cameos and supporting roles by a large handful of British actors who have gone on to fame and glory, quite often accompanied by the wearing of cravats.
And not to put too heavy a hand on it, but the story is empowering and feminist without being too damn messagey. Truly – watch this one. It’s officially a favorite.
I have to admit, I watched this one with great reluctance and trepidation. I travel in enough Regency and Austenite circles online — never mind all of the time I spend on Tumblr — to have heard all about this film’s reputation.
Which is to say, it’s not exactly considered a worthy addition to the Jane Austen canon. Like, at all.
Although everybody does seem to agree that McAvoy appears to great advantage in his green velvet frock coat. So there was certainly that to look forward to.
I finally gave in, because yes partly because of the frock coat but also because I happen to really like Anne Hathaway. I just think she is stunning, but in a totally friendly and awesome sort of way. I don’t know how to describe it. I think I feel about Anne the way I was supposed to feel about Julia Roberts, or about Jennifer Aniston. All of that crap that people used to say about them — that they’re so pretty, but like you could totally see being best buddies or drinking pals with them. Sister, please. I never even came close to feeling that for Julia and Jen. Wow. Not even a little bit, you guys. But Anne, I love. I’m guessing her, ah, whaddyacallit… talent… has at least a little to do with it. Go figure.
What can I say about Becoming Jane. It’s… it’s like I always felt about carob. You know, the chocolate substitute? Right. If you’ve ever tried to eat carob, telling yourself it’s almost sort of just as good as chocolate, then you know what I mean. Carob sucks as a substitute for chocolate. But taken on its own merits, when it is not desperately trying to masquerade as chocolate, it is actually quite tasty!
Becoming Jane is like that. As long as you fix it in your mind that this is not actually about Jane Austen, but rather about a completely fictional character who also wrote novels and lived during the sort of vaguely Regency era, then you stand a decent chance of enjoying the everloving heck out of Becoming Jane.
But if you bite into it expecting chocolate, my friend, you are entering a world of pain.
Also, there is that green velvet frock coat, which McAvoy does in fact wear beautifully. And there are elegant balls and country dances and cravats and true love and elopements and tragic death and starchy old elders played by Maggie Smith and pretty much everything else you could want out of life.
And McAvoy cries in it, and he initiates and receives several deeply enjoyable and satisfying kisses, and have I mentioned he also occasionally wears a green velvet frock coat, and also he cries.
Five points to Gryffindor.
What’s Next You Ask
What an excellent question! I have quite a few more McAvoy movies yet to consume, avidly and greedily like a pint of Ben and Jerry’s after a really bad date. Last King of Scotland, Atonement, Starter for Ten, Wanted, Rory O’Shea Was Here. I will tell you all about them, if you like.
Or, you know, if you seem to care. I mean. Not that this has ever concerned me before. You seem to like the same kind of stuff I like, else why are you still here?
It’s because of the green velvet frock coat, isn’t it.
God, you are so shallow.