Tag Archives: Kate Beckinsale

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The Disappointments Room

by Hope Madden

What’s in The Disappointments Room? Is it a monkey?

Nope. The room is as good as its name.

Kate Beckinsale is the damaged woman who may or may not be imagining ghosts in her new home – a rambling, crumbling old estate that has at least 70 rooms too many for her family of 3. But they moved from Brooklyn to this isolated, overgrown, creepy mansion for a fresh start.

And do you know why? Because that is the most clichéd way you could possibly begin a ghost story.

Beckinsale’s Dana begins to believe there’s something amiss in her new digs when she uncovers a secret room in the attic and the door slams behind her! Plus, a cat! And a dog!! Or are all these domesticated animals and secret rooms the fault of those prescription pills she keeps eyeballing in her medicine cabinet – but not taking! Those are prescription drugs. I bet she needs those.

Luckily there’s a woman in town working in some sort of historical society who happens to have a file handy on the old Blacker home because, you know, lazy writing.

Beckinsale struck gold earlier this year with Whit Stillman’s Love & Friendship. Blessed with maybe the best role of her career, she outshone an already impressive cast and displayed her wicked sense of humor we haven’t seen since Cold Comfort Farm.

You’ll see precious little of that here. On the whole she handles the film well, although the emotional climax is beyond her. It’s even farther beyond Mel Raido, who plays Dana’s well-meaning dumbass of a husband, David.

The film was co-written by Wenworth Miller, the Prison Break actor who also penned one of the most interesting inverted serial killer films in recent memory, Chan Wook-Park’s Stoker. Where is all that nuance, subversion, originality? It’s somewhere else. It is not here.

There’s nothing seriously wrong with The Disappointments Room, but there is not a single new idea or interesting twist on an old trope. No, this is exactly the same movie you’ve seen at least a dozen times, handled this time around with nothing to distinguish itself, no flair, no pizazz, and not nearly enough scares to keep your attention.



Whit & Venom

Love & Friendship

by Hope Madden

Love & Friendship may be the film most likely to satisfy both the truest Jane Austen fan and the passerby who finds her material little more than finely written rom/coms.

This is partly due to writer/director Whit Stillman’s uncanny flair for Austen’s dialog, but more because of his power to mine her prose for more than simple romance and righteous indignation.

The widowed Lady Susan Vernon (Kate Beckinsale – never better) must rely upon the generosity of her social circle since her husband’s passing. Because of a minor indiscretion at handsome Lord Manwaring’s residence, she finds herself obliged to visit her late husband’s brother and his wife for a time.

Not that any of this suggests a terrible inconvenience for the charming Lady Susan, who’s machinations and maneuvers are a constantly moving chess match with those around her – both the unsuspecting (men, generally) and the aware (women) – serving as her pawns.

It’s a criss-crossing, matchmaking plot of the most delightfully acidic sort. Stillman’s purpose, like Austen’s, is to point out the social barriers and tethers that make true freedom nearly impossible for women of the age. But instead of bucking the system quietly but proudly like Pride and Prejudice’s Jane Bennet, for instance, the film celebrates a heroine who has so mastered the intricate societal rules that she wields them to her benefit.

Lady Vernon is a mercenary, unfeeling charmer – a truly amazing character done proper justice by Beckinsale’s lilting performance. And while watching her bend, cajole and shepherd her pawns to her will is endlessly fascinating, it’s the intimacy shared only with her one true friend Lady Johnson (Chloe Sevigny) that gives the film it’s most wonderfully venomous bite.

As an added bonus, Whitman has stocked his supporting cast with some of Britain’s finest comic talents. A scene-stealing Tom Bennett, in particular, is a laugh riot as lovestruck dolt Sir James Martin.

Since his breakout 1990 film debut Metropolitan, a Jane Austen adaptation seemed somehow inevitable for Stillman. Where most revisions of the author’s texts have accepted her earnest rebellion and longing at face value, though, Stillman finds a wicked wit that suits both the author and his film.