Kate Beckinsale – Love & Friendship

May 27, 2016 by  
Filed under Interviews

In “Love & Friendship,” an adaptation of author Jane Austen’s lesser-known epistolary novel “Lady Susan,” British actress Kate Beckinsale (“The Aviator”) stars as Lady Susan Vernon, a cunning widow and mother who takes refuge at her in-laws estate where she makes it her mission to secure a husband for both her and her reluctant young daughter.

During a satellite interview with me, Beckinsale, 42, talked about bringing this very unusual Austen character to the big screen and whether or not she feels the 18th century English novelist’s work still resonate with today’s contemporary, independent woman.

Talk to us about Lady Susan as a literary character. Why is she different than other Jane Austen’s protagonists?

She’s a very unusual character in that period of literature. She is somebody who is very self-interested, very charming, rather ruthless and very funny. In my experience of that period of literature, if you have a woman who is rather sexually liberated and a bit naughty, she usually meets a gruesome end. There’s a bit of a morality tale at the end of [“Lady Susan”], but she doesn’t [meet that end]. She gets away with everything she does.

Most of Austen’s female characters are dependent on a man his fortune to find happiness. Do you see this as a theme that still resonates with today’s modern woman?

[Lady Susan] is different in a sense that she is very pragmatic about it. Yes, in the time period it was essential for a woman to find a man who was financially stable. That’s absolutely true for Lady Susan. It’s just that I don’t think that she thinks that’s the only man she can have. She’s very clear-eyed about what each man is for in her life. I think we’ve come a pretty long way since then. I think as a woman [today], we have expectations to further our education and career and be able to marry for other reasons than not ending up in the poor house. I’m not saying we’re finished, but I think we’re definitely in a better spot with that stuff.

What was your relationship like with Jane Austen prior to shooting “Lady Susan?” Were her books introduced to you in high school like most people and, if so, did they resonate with you right away?

Yeah, I think probably in England, around 11th or 12th [grade] you start reading Jane Austen. I really like reading the books. I ended up playing Emma [Woodhouse] when I was about 20 or 21 [in the 1996 TV movie “Emma”]. I went into a deep dive in that novel (“Emma”) because I was playing her. I really liked playing her as a character. She’s another one. I think Jane Austen describes her as a character she had written that she didn’t think was very likeable, which I ended up disagreeing on. But she has a soul that can be annoying or meddling. I liked all that about Emma very much. “Lady Susan” is a sort of turbo version of that, I think.

You mentioned “Emma.” That Jane Austen novel and others like “Pride and Prejudice” have been adapted into different film versions for years. Why hasn’t the same been done with “Lady Susan” do you think?

Well, first of all, I don’t think very many people were aware of it existing. It was a novella that Jane Austen wrote around the age of 20 and then never published. It’s not really one of her best-known works. It was unfinished. I just consider it this little gem floating around that [director] Whit [Stillman] ended up finding and bringing to life. It’s wonderful. I never thought I would be able to say in my career that I was among the first to put a Jane Austen character on the screen. That seemed so completely unlikely because she has stuff adapted all the time. It feels like a really special privilege.

What did you think about Whit deciding that he would be the one to novelize the film into a new version of the story?

He was pretty faithful to [Jane Austen’s original novella]. It’s an epistolary novel, so it’s written in letter form back and forth. By the end of it, [Austen] kind of wraps it up without it being letters back and forth. He didn’t change much. He was a very good fit for Jane Austen in terms of his wit and his sense of humor and his observation of social and moral manners. I think he was the perfect person to do it.

If you, Kate Beckinsale, lived on an estate in the 19th century, how do you think you’d fare if you had to work your charm to secure a husband? Would you have them lining up in droves?

(Laughs) I have no idea! I don’t think it’s for you to say that about yourself, is it? It certainly isn’t in England. I’m glad I’m not, that’s all. I’m quite glad I went to university and got to choose.

Total Recall

August 3, 2012 by  
Filed under Reviews

Starring: Colin Farrell, Kate Beckinsale, Jessica Biel
Directed by: Len Wiseman (“Underworld,” “Live Free or Die Hard”)
Written by: Kurt Wimmer (“Salt”) and Mark Bomback (“Live Free or Die Hard”)

Remakes of movies people remember fondly are a tough sell from the start. Not only do you have to engage the audience with the story you’re telling, but you’ve got to do so in a way that doesn’t have the audience mentally checking off plot points from the DVD they have sitting on the shelf at home. Recently, the filmmakers behind the updates of “Footloose,” “The Karate Kid,” and “Charlie and the Chocolate Factory” have tried, with varying degrees of success, to strike the right balance between satisfying the fans of the original who are drawn to the name recognition a remake brings and the need to put a unique spin on the story to justify the existence of the new version.

The latest modern classic to receive the remake treatment is “Total Recall.” This new spin on the 1990 Arnold Schwarzenegger sci-fi/action film stars Colin Farrell as Doug Quaid, a post-apocalyptic factory worker suffering from vivid nightmares. In an effort to change his life, Quaid pays a visit to Rekall, a company specializing in implanting fake memories into the minds of their clients such as dream vacations or wild sexual fantasies. Quaid’s procedure is aborted, however, when the staff realizes that his memory has already been erased and a commando team blasts its way in, guns blazing. Upon escaping, Quaid returns home to find his wife Lori (Kate Beckinsale) is out to kill him and that their marriage is a lie that has been implanted in his head. Escaping for the second time, Quaid encounters Melina (Jessica Biel), a resistance fighter he shares a past with bent on bringing down the evil Chancellor Cohaagen (Bryan Cranston).

This version of “Total Recall” suffers from a fatal flaw: not getting its ass to Mars. Director Len Wiseman (“Underworld”) has crafted a slick, lens-flared world torn in two by chemical warfare, but keeping the action Earth-bound turns the film into a dull, anonymous sci-fi slog. The futuristic cityscapes populated with flying cars zipping through canyons of neon signs are never as effective as the papiermâché Martian caves from the original and feel like they could have been lifted wholesale from “Blade Runner” or “The Fifth Element” or even “Star Wars: Episode II – Attack of the Clones.”  Outside of the clearly-enjoying-himself Cranston, the cast doesn’t fare any better. Farrell’s Quaid is a bland, less tormented Jason Bourne, Beckinsale is merely playing an evil version of her acrobatic hero from the “Underworld” movies, and Jessica Biel is just a pretty actress wearing frumpy military-style clothing and shooting guns.  Implant a positive memory and watch the original version on DVD instead.


January 14, 2012 by  
Filed under Cody, Reviews

Starring: Mark Wahlberg, Ben Foster, Kate Beckinsale
Directed by: Baltasar Kormakur (“Inhale”)
Written by: Aaron Guzikowski (debut)

Ah, January – a month known to most critics as a dumping ground for heaps of cinematic trash. After spending the months of November and December pouring money, marketing, and efforts into their Oscar hopefuls, movie studios often reserve January for films they have less confidence in. Even still, occasionally January has had some bright spots, such as “Youth in Revolt” and “Cloverfield” in previous years. In “Contraband,” Mark Wahlberg follows his critically acclaimed film “The Fighter” with a by-the-numbers heist film that struggles to separate itself from other films of the genre.

After leaving the smuggling business to start a family, Chris Farraday (Mark Wahlberg) must get back into the life of crime when his brother-in-law (Caleb Landry Jones) angers Tim Briggs (Giovanni Ribisi) by screwing up a drug deal. Farraday leaves his wife Kate (Kate Beckinsale) and kids in the hands of his best friend and right hand man Sebastian (Ben Foster) as he goes to Panama to bring back millions in counterfeit money. However, when the deal goes wrong, Farraday must think outside the box to keep his family safe.

If you’ve seen any movie that Wahlberg has ever done, you’ll know what to expect out of him. While their performances aren’t necessarily bad, both Ribisi and J.K. Simmons both sport almost cartoony accents and voices, with Simmons in particular channeling his inner Foghorn Leghorn. Ribisi has the more successful character of the two, being legitimately strange and unsettling at times, but is too often over the top. Foster continues his run as one of the most frustrating actors in Hollywood. He is immensely talented, versatile, and underrated as shown by his performances in “3:10 To Yuma” and “The Messenger,” but yet continues to make choices to be in second-rate films such as last year’s “The Mechanic,” among others. The one thing that can be said about Foster is that he is always good in his role, no matter what the movie may be. “Contraband” is no exception.

Icelandic filmmaker Baltasar Kormakur’s direction, at times, shows a strong flair for action sequences, but it is also very inconsistent. Specifically, Kormakur makes use of handheld camera shots only in certain scenes of the movie, seemingly when wanting to pump up the dramatic effect. Unfortunately, not only is this distracting technique used in random times throughout the film, it is done with all the dexterity of someone who is trying to figure out how to use the zoom on their new video camera.

Perhaps the greatest downfall of “Contraband” is its predictability. It follows the typical “deal-gone-wrong” blueprint, contains easy to figure out plot twists, and forgoes every opportunity to do something different and unique. Still, it would be hard to argue that “Contraband” isn’t entertaining at times. There are decent shootouts and suspenseful scenes and Wahlberg carries a lot of charisma. There are also some good supporting performances to help it along. However, one could only wish they deviated a little from the norm.

Everybody’s Fine

December 4, 2009 by  
Filed under Reviews

Starring: Robert De Niro, Kate Beckinsale, Drew Barrymore
Directed by: Kirk Jones (“Nanny McPhee”)
Written by: Kirk Jones (“Nanny McPhee”)

If you don’t pick up the phone and call your mother and father and tell them how much you love them immediately after watching “Everybody’s Fine,” you just might be like that rotten ol’ Grinch with a heart three sizes too small. While there are moments in the Christmas dramedy that might feel familiar, the film’s sweet-natured doctrine – along with Robert De Niro’s reserved performance – is cozier than a pair of warm cotton socks.

In “Everybody’s Fine,” De Niro plays Frank Goode, a retired widower, who we learn has supported his family his entire life working in a factory where his job was to coat telephone wire to protect it from the harsh elements. In essence, Frank is one of the small cogs that make telephone communication possible across the country.

But while Frank has spent his life connecting families with each other, he can’t seem to break through to his own grown kids. All four of them – who live in different cities – have called at the last minute to cancel their trip to see him for Christmas. Instead of waiting around for the next holiday visit, Frank decides – against his doctor’s orders – to drop in an surprise each of them. Frank wants to know that everyone is fine. It’s going to take more than a phone call to convince him. He wants to see it for himself.

But as he make his one-man adventure, much like Jack Nicholson in “About Schmidt” but without the dark humor, Frank realizes there is something wrong although he can’t quite put his finger on what it is. His first visit to his son David in New York City comes up empty when he never finds him at his apartment. The rough start doesn’t let up as Frank continues his journey to visit his two daughters – Amy (Kate Beckinsale) in Chicago and Rosie (Drew Barrymore) in Las Vegas – and his other son Robert (Sam Rockwell) in Denver.

Each city brings with it its own letdowns. Amy’s home life isn’t perfect, Rosie’s dream to be a dancer has fallen short, and David isn’t the conductor of an orchestra like his father thought he was. They’re all revelations that had been kept from Frank since it was always his late wife his kids opened up to. Frank wonders what else his own children haven’t told him. “I tell you the good news and spare you the bad,” Amy tells her father during one scene.

Adapted from the 1990 Italian film “Stanno tutti bene,” which stars three-time Oscar nominee Marcello Mastroianni, “Everybody’s Fine” is a subtle drama that’s glossed over a bit too much by director Kirk Jones (“Nanny McPhee”) but manages to pluck enough heartstrings without becoming cloying.

There’s plenty of tonal indecision by Jones especially on a metaphorical level, but there is still a nice message that gets through all the excess baggage the script carries: No matter how hard you support and love your children, sometimes things don’t work out quite the way you anticipated. The central theme to “Everybody’s Fine” is a great one for the holiday season when families should always reevaluate their priorities for the New Year.

Snow Angels

April 12, 2008 by  
Filed under Reviews

Starring: Kate Beckinsale, Sam Rockwell, Michael Angarano
Directed by: David Gordon Green (“All the Real Girls”)
Written by: David Gordon Green (“Undertow”)

In only two films in the past four years, director David Gordon Green (“All the Real Girls”) has proven to have one of the most intriguing viewpoints of any young filmmaker behind the camera. Add the heart-wrenching “Snow Angels” to Green’s short list of accomplishments.

The story follows the intertwining and rocky relationships between Annie (Kate Beckinsale) and her ex-husband Glenn (Sam Rockwell) and their four-year-old daughter lost in bickering; Arthur Parkinson (Michael Angarano), a shy high school kid with an innocent crush; and his parents, Don (Griffin Dunne) and Louise (Jeanetta Arnette), who are recently separated.

Based on the novel by Stewart O’Nan, “Snow Angels” is rich in characterization and impressive in its metaphorical delivery of painful human emotion.