Arts Fact and Slushy Stuff in the Movies
posted by August 8 at 16:12 PMon
After reading some recent articles pertaining to movies I reviewed last week, I feel compelled—though no one has asked me—to defend a seeming contradiction.
Becoming Jane is full of bullshit. For instance, the lifelong spinster Jane Austen was probably quite ugly; at any right, she did not resemble Anne Hathaway.
(Or, if you prefer, the more flattering but probably inauthentic squinty-eyed portrait I referenced in my review.)
And Ms. Hathaway:
My review pointed this out, but really my beef was with the plot. I strongly dislike the Shakespeare in Love method in which a story conceived by an author is fancifully superimposed on a few facts from the author’s life, and this is a particularly egregious example—Austen tried to elope with a suitor and then wrote a novel in which someone who does the same thing is portrayed as a brainless little twit? I don’t think so. (For more about the fact and fiction in the movie, see Slate and the LA Times.) Still, Becoming Jane is supposed to be fiction.
Arctic Tale, on the other hand, looks like a documentary. (It’s being marketed as a “wildlife adventure,” but no one will notice that.) Here’s the Slate article that has everyone talking about the film’s sneaky agenda; my review is a few below Becoming Jane here. I don’t disagree with many of writer Daniel Engber’s contentions. Yes, the film is obviously a liberal response to March of the Penguins. It’s no mistake that the polar bear family is headed by a single mother, or that “storyteller” Queen Latifah calls the baby walrus’s second guardian an “auntie.” It’s an unashamed agitdoc about global warming, and I too took note of the epilogue in which a little kid tells his peers in the audience to nag their parents about buying a hybrid car. Ultimately, though, I don’t think it’s a problem that the animal characters are composites of many animals photographed in the field—I can’t imagine how difficult it must be to shoot a single polar bear family over the course of a year, much less amphibious walruses! In nonfiction nature writing, a typical anecdote drawn from several examples wouldn’t raise any hackles—why does it bother us in film? And Engber obviously doesn’t realize what liberties the first, French-language version of March of the Penguins took. That movie wasn’t a documentary at all—the animal characters had their own lines of dialogue. (You can read my review of that DVD here.) Anyway, Arctic Tale may not be entirely literal, but I recommend it.
And I still despise Becoming Jane: Unlike Arctic Tale, its ideas are pallid and ridiculous.