Tag Archives: Keri Russell

Into the Woods

Antlers

by Hope Madden

Hey, do you remember what a non-stop laugh riot Scott Cooper’s Out of the Furnace was? No? Well, compared to his latest — the long, long-awaited horror Antlers — it is.

The film takes us to depressed, smalltown Oregon at the height of the opioid crisis. Julia (Keri Russell) has returned after decades away. She lives with her brother, the town sheriff (Jesse Plemons), teaches middle school and deals with her demons.

Someone else’s demons are less metaphorical.

Cooper co-wrote the screenplay with Henry Chaisson and Nick Antosca, who adapts his own short The Quiet Boy. The short uses fairy tale language to cast an image of abuse and horror — an idea Antlers plays with but eventually abandons for more heavy-handed parallels between child abuse, addiction and economic blight.

At the center of the action is 12-year-old Lucas Weaver (Jeremy T. Thomas) in a remarkable turn. Hollow-eyed and tragic, he conveys secrecy and desperation in equal measure. And as soon as your heart breaks for Lucas, you see his little brother Aidan (a crushingly adorable Sawyer Jones).

The boys have a problem that seems unsolvable, but it might have played better if Cooper could have kept the focus a little more on the monster movie and a little less on the metaphor.

There is a monster —literal and figurative—in this film. The creature effects for the literal monster amaze and unnerve, thanks to an impressive design and to emotional seeds planted early in the film by actor Scott Haze.

Antlers looks great, whether cinematographer Florian Hoffmeister’s camera lingers in the woods, tiptoes down hallways, or witnesses red-flare lit doom in a mine. But Cooper is an odd choice for a supernatural film, and perhaps an entirely wrong-headed filmmaker to take on the perspective of a child to tell a horrific fairy tale.

Whimsical he ain’t.

In the end, the film suffers from a lack of imagination. Cooper and team lead us through a dour metaphor full of familiar genre tropes and leave us with a brutal, great-looking, well-acted lecture.

Stone Cold Jane Austen

 

by George Wolf

 

Though I didn’t read the 2007 novel that inspired Austenland, the premise of sending Jane Austen devotees off to their own fantasy camp is one that seems full of possibilities for satire-filled fun.

Consider them missed.

Keri Russell plays Jane Hayes, an Austen freak who blows all her money to attend Austenland, longing for life in a ” simpler time” and the promise of romance with her very own “Mr. Darcy.”

One she arrives, though, Jane learns she has only purchased the “basic” Austenland experience,  which means modest accommodations, poor social status and the new name “Jane Erstwhile.”

Still, she tries to make the best of it, buddying up with the obnoxious but wealthy “Miss Elizabeth Charming” (Jennifer Coolidge) and stealing kisses from the off-limits stable boy Martin (Flight of the Conchords Bret McKenzie). Eventually, Miss Erstwhile catches the eye of the standoffish “Mr. Nobley” (JJ Feild) and..

You can probably guess the rest, which is exactly the way the film wants it. In many respects, Austenland is a dumbed down Midnight in Paris, where the whimsical fantasy elements and sublime writing is replaced with forced humor and one joke obviousness.

The flat conventionality of it all is a bit of a surprise, coming from director/co- writer Jerusha Hess. Though this is her directing debut, she co wrote the screenplays for Nacho Libre, Gentlemen Broncos, and Napoleon Dynamite, three wonderfully offbeat comedies that were anything but crowd pleasingly safe.

There’s no sharp wit, satire or subtlety here, just sitcom humor and fluffy romance dressed up in period costumes.

For a more successful mix of romantic fiction and present day fandom, check out the 2008 mini series Lost in Austen, and leave Austenland on the shelf.

 

 

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