Sunday, December 20, 2015

Movie Review: Kate and Leopold (2001)

What do you get when you cross Somewhere in Time with Hugh Jackman and twenty-first century writers?
A good movie, that's what.

Yes, Hugh Jackman stars as Leopold Alexis Elijah Walker Gareth Thomas Mountbatten of Albany, a brilliant but poor duke living in the 1870s. An odd but also brilliant creature named Stuart (just Stuart), a rather ill-bred man from 2001, discovers a gap in time that allows him to visit Leopold's era by simply jumping off the Brooklyn Bridge. The curious duke sees him a few times during the day and follows him back to the twenty-first century.
That's where he meets Kate McKay (Meg Ryan), a disillusioned, hard-working New Yorker and Stuart's ex-girlfriend.
You can guess what happens next.

A Movie Review

General Opinion (actors and etc):
I call this a redeemed Somewhere in Time. The romance is sweet, the storyline well-written, and the characters unique.
But to continue with the synopsis...
Stuart explains to Leopold what has happened. Leopold, being a scientist himself (and faced with no other explanation), believes him. Stuart leaves the apartment to take out his dog, falls down and elevator shaft, and breaks a lot of bones. This leaves Leopold on his own for the majority of the movie.
Kate comes to the apartment shortly after Stuart leaves, and there meets Leopold. As the dog obviously still needs to be taken out, they both exit the apartment building together. Leopold takes care of the dog (see link below to watch this hilarious clip), and meets Kate's brother Charlie after his return.
While Leopold explores NYC and learns all of its strange objects (toasters, for instance), we see Kate at work in an advertising company. She is endeavoring to advance in the company, no matter what pond scum she has to deal with.

Speaking of pond scum:

I loathe this man. Kate's coarse, sleazy boss, J.J. is ignorant, rude, and ill-bred in every way. He is the antithesis of Leopold. His arrogance, his treatment of Kate... This guy deserves any insult you feel like bestowing on him. No, really. I just love it when Leopold calls him out on his ignorance at a dinner once. J.J. has been horridly flirting with Kate, and talking about this opera La Bohéme which helped him learn French fluently, and blah blah blah.
"This guy's charming, Kate," J.J. says, "The Duke of Margarine thinks me a serpent." Leopold's retort, "No, not a serpent; that's too grand a word. Simply a braggart and a cad, who knows less French than I, if that's possible. And by the way, there's no Andre is La Bohéme, it's Rudolpho. And though it takes place in France, it is rarely played in French, as it is written in Italian." HA! So THERE.

This guy, though:

Stuart too, has treated Kate poorly. At his line "Those were your best?" my whole family winces (if you watch the scene you'll understand how horrid it is).  But he does help Kate in the end; and you get the idea that he isn't a really bad sort (coughcoughJJcoughcough), only selfish (as most human beings are), plus wrapped up in/sensitive about his scientific experiments.  He also has a cute dog and plays the piano. I can't dislike the guy too much. Also Liev Schreiber is a good actor (and apparently he and Hugh Jackman take the leading guy roles again in Wolverine?)

I couldn't resist showing the dog.
But back to the storyline. Kate and Leopold continue to spend time with each other, as Leopold (I refuse to call him Leo) and Charlie make friends, Leo disapproves strongly of J.J., and Kate decides to use Leopold as an advertisement actor person. 
The situation between Kate and Leopold's opposing upbringings, personalities and habits is a thought-provoking one. When Leopold tastes the butter he is a selling, he is outraged that he has to lie to help her sell something so disgusting. I think his position is one worth considering. Advertising is often straight-out lying. Is it right? Kate retorts that he hasn't had to work a day in his life and he can't understand her position. She basically says, "I am tired, and if I have to peddle a little pondscum to get some rest, I'll do it". Her side also has some validity. Does Leopold have a right to demand higher standards when he's always been in a position where those standards are easy to keep? 
Personally... I think he does. More on that in a minute.

This scene was a HOOT. "Dogs are colorblind, Gretchen."
This (below) is Darci. She is also very funny. She's a hopeless romantic, funny and sweet. My sister Matilda (my new blog-name for our middle sister; see this page for thoughts on that) and I decided that Stuart helps her get back in time, too, and she marries a fairy tale prince of her own.

Honestly, I don't like Kate very much. She isn't really a ladylike lady. Charlie (Kate's brother) says at one point, "I know she seems pretty tough but she hasn't had it easy. She's always getting stuck with people who don't hold up their end — like me." So I understand why she is the way she is, and I feel bad for her, but she still isn't very likable.
A big reason I like this movie, then (besides TIME TRAVEL), is Leopold. I love the sweet way he woes her and breaks through her tough shell with his gallantry. As I mentioned above, I think he does have a right to higher standards. I think his attitudes and manners ARE applicable in this time period. It DOES work to treat ladies nicely and be courteous and honest. Kate's point of view is certainly something to consider, but in the end I think I side with Leopold.

There is a regrettable amount of swearing in this movie. I counted half a dozen s-words, two or three each of a--, d---, and improperly-used hell, plus one use of p--s and another half-dozen uses of God's name in vain. The word "whore" is used once (in an appropriate way, not in a weird conversation or anything). This is the only reason for which I would hesitate to recommend this movie. I guess that's why it's rated PG-13, but it was all entirely unnecessary. There is a Clearplay version (and perhaps other clean cut versions), so that would be an option.
Someone is referred to as being thought "gay" (he isn't), Charlie has a brief weird comment about some show he saw, and J.J. asks Kate "are you sleeping with him?" at one point. This is all pretty minor, but once again an edited version would take it right out.

Another thing I didn't like: after Kate and Leopold are falling for each other, they sit on her balcony and chat a little. Kate gets tired, Leopold carries her to her bed, and turns to leave. Kate says, "No, stay,". So, he lies down next to her (fully clothed). Now, it's implied that nothing happens. It doesn't go any further than her not wanting him to leave. But you know what? I don't care. Leopold would never do that. I'll give you two good reasons this shouldn't have happened.
1) Consider his time period. That would NOT have been okay. I don't care if he is adjusting to the twenty-first century, that would seriously endanger her reputation. He would NEVER do that.
2) The fact that he treats her differently is the whole POINT of this movie. J.J. might stay with her, Stuart might have done that, but this is Leopold, and he treats her like a LADY. He does not sleep in her bedroom. It's not like this is a desperate situation where this would be necessary (say, they're on the run and have little money so they only get one hotel room). This is a totally normal, safe night, and she just asks him to sleep in her bed. It's unrealistic, weird, pointless and out of place. In my mind, it didn't happen at all and that was a serious directorial mistake.

There is also a fair amount of drinking in this movie. That doesn't bother me but I know it does bother some people.

The soundtrack is nothing stellar but pretty and suited to the movie. The costumes in the 1870s are lovely, but since the majority of the movie takes place in 2001 we don't get to see much of them. The 2001 costumes are nothing to speak of. I honestly don't like any of Kate's clothes. The last scene gray-purple dress is kind of pretty, and the black lace dress (see above) is also okay, I guess, but her taste is very different from mine.

A brief note on historical accuracy: it isn't. Leopold references things from after 1876, the costumes in various pictures are no in 1870s styles, even the language of flowers that he mentions is incorrect. But personally that doesn't really bug me in this movie. This isn't a Jane Austen novel or some other period drama where accuracy would be important (it mostly takes place in the 2001 anyhow). 

Aww, don't they look happy!
Listing the unpleasant parts of this movie seems like a lot (and honestly, it could have done with a lot less), but on the whole this is a really sweet movie. Leopold is so... he's just great. The development of the characters is well-done. His experiences in twenty-first century New York City are hilarious. So I definitely recommend it, with the cautions above.

And it's always nice to finish with a trailer:

Merry Christmas!

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