Movie Monday: The Hours

By Alexandria Harris

Premise: Three different generations of women are interconnected by the novel Mrs Dalloway by Virginia Woolf.

Best Quotes:

“A woman’s whole life in a single day, and in that day her whole life-” Virginia Woolf, writing Mrs. Dalloway

“Today, sort of like black fire. Sort of light and dark at the same time. There was one like an electrified jellyfish. They were singing. It might have been Greek,”-Richard describing how his guests looked.

“We shall publish no more new authors. I have to tell you I found ten errors in the first proof.”-Leonard, Woolf’s husband.

“Because I wanted to be a writer, that’s all. I wanted to write about it all; everything that happens in a moment, the way the flowers looked when you carried them in your arms in this towel, how it smells, how it feels, this thread. All our feelings, yours and mine. The history of who we once were. Everything in the world. Everything all mixed up, like it’s all mixed up now. And I failed–I failed. No matter what you start with, it ends up being so much less-” Richard, explaining why he didn’t want to be honored.

“I think I’m only staying alive to satisfy you-” Richard.

Pause: All right, basically anything said by Richard is quotable gold.

Suicide. That is how the story begins, which immediately pulls its audience in because now we need to know how and why the story ends from this. Set in the 1900s with flashes forward to 2001, this film boasted an all-star cast. I was hoping it would live up to the way I’d already hyped it up in my head.

It did.

Seriously, five seconds into the actors scrolling past, I was thinking in amazement to myself “Who ISN’T in this movie??”

The film continues with the kiss of death for a writer–starting a story where the character is waking in bed. In spite of this, it was interesting. At the beginning, I became confused with the multiple perspectives of the three women: Virginia Woolf in 1923, Laura Brown in the 1951, and Clarissa Vaughn in 2001.

Laura Brown, in 1951, is unhappy with her marriage. You know something is wrong when a man gives a woman flowers on his birthday, and she walks on eggshells like he is an axe murderer.

Vaughn is the energizer bunny book editor, running around and making preparations for her friend, Richard. He is to receive a lifetime achievement award for poetry, and he is very ill from AIDS.

Richard has a dry, self-deprecating humor and refers to Vaughn as “Mrs. Dalloway.” He is fascinating to watch. He has a controlled craziness about him, although I think a writer has to have a little craziness in them if they are touched in the head by the stroke of genius.

Ed Harris played him well–I didn’t know what he was going to do next. Richard wonders if he got the poetry prize because his work was good or because he’s sick.

Woolf is basically put on house arrest by her husband, who runs a publishing company out of their house just to be near her. She has a passive-aggressive show-down with her cooks, which was really impressive, considering the fact that she didn’t look up from the floor.

Meanwhile, Brown is making her husband a birthday cake with her young son, Richie. He asks to sift the flour and tells her that making a cake isn’t difficult. She tells him that they are making the cake to show Daddy they love him. Richie asks–in that sweetly innocent ‘leave-it-to-Beaver voice’ that all movie children have–“Otherwise he won’t know?” And Julianne Moore’s character is undeniably but unintentionally chilling when she answers yes.

The cake failed. Epically.

Apparently the audience needs to know that it’s ridiculously easy to make a cake, and Brown just can’t do it. This probably has more to do with the relationship with her husband and not whether or not she can actually make a cake.

It actually hurt to watch the women in 1951. Exhibit A: “You can’t call yourself a woman until you’re a mother.” I know it was a different time period, with a different set of values, but I had an urge to reach inside the screen and drag those women off to a women’s shelter. It was a cross between the Stepford wives (creepy, fakely bright happiness) and the mentality of a POW.

Kidman (who was barely recognizable as Woolf) spoke in a soft monotone the whole movie. This woman had genius inside her brand of madness. Woolf’s sister visits with her children and they find a dead bird. The sister asks if Woolf is better, if she is listening to her doctors.

The bird funeral, and corresponding conversation between Woolf and her niece is hauntingly beautiful. I got the sense that the suicide scene wasn’t far off, and the stakes started to raise for all of the women.

The film contained many references to reading, the writing craft, and death. Lots of quirky sayings about death. These women all seem trapped in their respective time periods. One by illness, another by convention, and another by fear and denial.

I am definitely watching this movie again, if not solely for Richard’s character. This movie was exactly what a movie about writing should capture. The score was beautiful, cinematography was excellent, the dialogue was amazing, it kept me engaged, and the acting was convincing. And there is a twist!

The film gives the sense that writers are in this world, but barely of it. Both Richard and Woolf seem to be empty of life as they imbue life into their characters, almost as if they are pouring their life force into their work. Brown wants escapism into someone else’s life to hide from her own by reading. And Vaughn doesn’t need a book, she uses Richard and staying busy to hide from her own.

The film also gives a wonderful commentary on why we read and write. I loved the underlying meaning. The only complaint I had is that the beginning sequences seem a little chaotic and rushed. Also, the fact that the women were all depressed and repressed. I don’t want to completely spoil the movie, so you’ll have to watch to see if and how they rise above those issues. I would give this movie a 9/10 for that.

Alexandria Harris is a writer and former reporter on WSUM 91.7. When she isn’t watching the Lord of the Rings trilogy on repeat, she tweets regularly as @_ALHarris. Alexandria lives in Milwaukee, Wisconsin.

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Movie Monday: Man of La Mancha


By Alexandria Harris

Premise: Cervantes and his manservant are imprisoned by the Spanish Inquisition and the prisoners put him on trial. His defense is a story.

Best Quotes:

“Reality–a stone prison crushing the human spirit. Poetry demands imagination and with imagination, you may discover a dream.”- Cervantes

“Miguel de Cervantes I charge you with being an idealist, a bad poet, and an honest man how plead you?” Prisoner
“GUILTY!”-Cervantes

“We both select from life”-Cervantes, referring to how poets and madmen are alike.

“Madness most of all is seeing life as it is, not as it should be.”-Cervantes

I know this is a musical, but I thought I stepped into a distorted production of the Wizard of Oz or The Wiz with all of the tin men and straw people jumping around and Catholic monks as the wicked witches in the first scene.

But no, it just happens to be Cervantes putting on the play “Don Quixote” in the square–and gets arrested by Inquisition soldiers five seconds later.

I love when movies dive right in and get to the point.

Cervantes and his manservant look like they’re headed to prison, especially because of a dungeon like structure they are escorted to, but apparently they only wait for their trial in two hours.

Cervantes goes into this hilarious monologue where he tells the prisoners that he’s been to prison many times (how mobster of him), that he finds the world a prison at times, and then gets attacked by the inmates!

Cervantes begs the prisoners to “try” him when they almost put his manuscript in flames and he almost dives in to save it. He tells them he presented an entertainment and is to go before the Inquisition. The prisoners put him on trial.

Cervantes and his servant put on Don Quixote for the prisoners and he transforms into the part (meaning Peter O’ Toole looks like he does presently, only in grey and with a longer beard) and breaks out into song.

Warning: the songs are catchy (and really cheesy) with donkeys and other animals doing some fancy footwork. I found myself singing “I’m Don Quixote, yes Lord of La Mancha” over and over.

The first song apparently has magic powers because suddenly Cervantes/Don Quixote and Sancho/his manservant are in a field and living the scene where Don Quixote sees a giant and it’s actually a windmill.

I think Sancho and Don Quixote are both right and it’s a giant windmill. The windmill fighting scene alone will either have you in stitches, give you a slight case of vertigo, or both.

The movie flashes back to the prison where Cervantes picks prisoners to be in his next scene. He goes among the women and picks his Al Donza, saying she could be a tiger crouching with fire and the scene turns back into Don Quixote land.

Sophia Loren’s Al Donza is FEISTY. I admired her character until she started singing. She was literally attacked by all these horny mean to the point that I was for sure I was going to see a rape scene for a hot second. But she sang her way out of it.

The prisoners wonder if Cervantes is trying to distract them from their purpose instead of mounting a defense. Cervantes affirms that it’s exactly what he’s doing and asks to continue. He chooses more for his cast and the audience delves deeper into the world of Don Quixote, into his family.

His niece is soon to be wedded and wants to hide her uncle’s apparent madness from her fiance or he might break the engagement. Thus the intrigue and plotting begins.

Watching the movie helped me to appreciate how much of a storyteller Cervantes was, how much of a genius he was at setting the scene. I usually enjoy a play within a play. It was a nice twist to have the prisoners perform Don Quixote and have it seem drawn from Cervantes’ life.

The fact that Don Quixote looked like the malnourished, human, and ten years older version of Victor from The Corpse Bride only enhanced the movie for me.

It was too long at a little over two hours, but at least it was interesting. If you cut the songs out you’d probably get rid of thirty minutes. The singing didn’t exactly blow me away, but it did the job. I’m not much for musicals, but this one kept me thoroughly entertained. The dialogue was great, O’Toole makes a very convincing, off-his-rocker Don Quixote.

The story was well put together and it makes a good movie. I give it a 6/10 mainly because it does a great job at connecting the writer/story/and reality but the story would have flowed better if it wasn’t a musical. But what an ending! (in a good way)

Alexandria Harris is a writer and former reporter on WSUM 91.7. When she isn’t watching the Lord of the Rings trilogy on repeat, she tweets regularly as @_ALHarris. Alexandria lives in Milwaukee, Wisconsin.

Movie Monday: Somewhere in Time


By Alexandria Harris

Normally romantic movies are not my thing, but the allure of seeing Christopher Reeve NOT play Superman was too much. Plus I’m a sucker for time travel. And Dr. Quinn Medicine Woman. So Superman plus Dr. Quinn and time travel equal a good time.

Premise: A Chicago playwright uses self-hypnosis to find the actress whose portrait hangs in a hotel

This movie was a mash-up of The Time Traveler’s Wife, The Lake house (especially because of the Christopher Plummer link), and a dash of The Phantom of the Opera.

Quote:
“Evening, Ms. McKenna. You don’t know me, but you will.”

Richard Collier is a budding college playwright, and has just finished debuting a successful play. While he’s basking in the glow of his success, an elderly woman moves through the crowd to him, pushes a pocket watch into his hand and whispers “Come back to me.”

Awkward. Especially because he has no idea who she is and everyone becomes silent to watch the awkwardness.

Even more awkward is having to watch the old woman go to the Grand Hotel, shut herself in her room, and cradle the playbill to her chest in a rocking chair because we immediately flash forward eight years.

Richard has now written many plays, but has apparently hit a rut because he decides to go on a vacation after breaking up with his girlfriend and hasn’t finished his newest play.

And of course, he ends up staying at the Grand Hotel. The bell hop Arthur provides a nice example of overly helpful customer service and has a weird case a deja vu where he thinks he might have met Richard before.

Richard settles in and wants to eat something, but apparently he arrives forty minutes before the dining hall opens. As he tries to kill time, he notices something called a Hall of History (which I now wish all hotels had) and goes through it.

After browsing a few things, he’s mesmerized by an unidentified portrait of a gorgeous woman. He tracks down Arthur, the eager to please bellhop, who tells him all about the woman, Elise McKenna.

Then the audience witnesses his not-so-slow descent into obsession when he goes back to mope at the portrait, then ogles the pocket watch in the middle of the night, stares at the portrait more, tosses and turns in bed, then take a wild guess at what he stares at again.

Next (I would consider this modern Facebook stalking but she’s dead so I guess she can’t care about it) he goes to the library to dig deeper into her life because he found out from Arthur that Elise was a famous actress. After more digging into her later years, he comes across a picture from the end of her life. It’s the same woman who gave him the pocket watch.

*gasp* Dun-dun-DUN! Sorry wrong movie genre.

But now we take obsession and stalking up one more notch and he visits the woman who wrote the book about Elise’s last years and who was also with her the night she died, eight years ago, on the opening night of his play.

She has a sharp reaction to seeing the pocket watch and by this point, I really just wanted to know how far we were going to go down the rabbit hole. The more Richard learns about Elise and her life, the more I wanted Jane Seymour to just come out in all her glory.

Richard finds a book about time travel that his philosophy teacher wrote that Elise apparently read non stop. A music box Elise had made plays the soul wrenching musical score evident throughout the movie that is Richard’s “favorite music in the whole world.”

This drives Richard back to his old philosophy teacher, who suggests self-hypnosis and mind suggestion via some scientific yada, yada, yada as a way of time travel.

The most lovely part of this is that during this conversation, you literally see Christopher Reeve snap, disregarding the dangers and entranced by the whole possibility. And afterward you get to see glaring evidence of just HOW hard he snapped.

I have to say, watching the scenes of Reeve trying to hypnotize himself were worth seeing the movie alone. It was like watching Superman fight against the effects of kryptonite. He was truly a fish out of water in a different time, which made for some very funny material.

Also, the manager-actress relationship could have been a prequel to the Christine-Phantom relationship from Phantom of the Opera. Reeve makes a great Raul and Plummer has the stern, “I’ll kill you in your sleep” intimidating demeanor down pat.

You’ve got cryptic dialogue, creepy stalker dialogue, laugh out loud moments, the danger element, a sense of mystery, and the taste of an epic period romance with some modern sprinkled in. All of this made it a little more than your run of the mill romance. And the time travel helped.

Jane Seymour and Reeve had fabulous chemistry, there was a wonderful sense of spontaneity. I really enjoyed that the movie outlined the pressures of being an actress, of having the responsibility of bringing someone’s world to life.

I mean there was an Inception-like moment/inconsistency that I felt was Christopher Nolan worthy and usually happens with many movies trying to tackle time travel. Who had the pocket watch first?

I have to give this movie a 6/10. I wasn’t too fond of the ending because the movie gradually grew unconvincing. Furthermore, it took them about an hour to show Jane Seymour in action. Who does that?

It also didn’t really get into Richard being a playwright-he just happened to be a playwright who was in love. So basically the moving was less about writing and writing processes than I thought it would be. I thought I was really going to like it, but it made for an adequate love story, plot-wise. The good news–the talent and the soundtrack were fabulous.

Alexandria Harris is a writer and former reporter on WSUM 91.7. When she isn’t watching the Lord of the Rings trilogy on repeat, she tweets regularly as @_ALHarris. Alexandria lives in Milwaukee, Wisconsin.

Movie Monday: Missing


By Alexandria Harris

Premise: An American writer goes missing in a Latin American country and those close to him spend the entire movie trying to find out what happened to him.

Best Quotes:

“They can’t hurt us, we’re Ameericans!”-Charlie

“I guess he’s trying to be a writer.” -Mr. Harmon, when asked about his son’s occupation.

“Sometimes I honestly think that that boy is incapable of doing anything, except of course give idealistic speeches or write novels that will never be published.”-Mr. Harmon

I honestly don’t know what I was expecting out of this movie. In the very beginning, they had a voice over stating the movie depicted true events and names had been changed to protect people and the film. It was hard to be funny or lighthearted about the film because it made no attempt at being one. It was chilling and was almost separate from any emotion I tried to muster up to connect with it.

It starts in chaos. We’re in an unnamed Latin American country (supposedly Chile) and fear is in the air. Latin American military troops are everywhere, killing, sacking, and keeping order. For some reason, tons of Americans are in this Latin American country and trying to leave.

In the first scene, Charlie Harmon and his friend Terry are rushing to get back before curfew. They stay in a hotel because they can’t get home. Terry asks Charlie if he thinks it’s a good idea to be taking a lot of notes, to which he makes an entry saying that very thing.

In the morning, they go home to Charlie’s wife Beth. She was very worried about them because gunfire could be heard everywhere. Beth wants to leave with Charlie and Terry and so all three of them go to try and get to the airport.

Beth goes on ahead of them while Charlie and Terry try to leave another way. They are stopped by the military when two men have Terry at gunpoint and walk her over to a secluded area where they search her.

Terry and Charlie get out of that situation safely and take advice from a freelance writer from New York to hole up in a safe place until they can get out of the country and not to go to the consulate because it’s a mile away and the streets were literally murder.

Beth goes to see Frank, who is a friend of hers and Charlie. Frank is an American and explains that the country has turned into a free fire zone.

She leaves, but misses her bus and isn’t able to get another. She tries to get a taxi, but they are either hurrying trying to get back before curfew or they won’t take her where she needs to go.

The curfew announcement sounds and Beth sticks to the shadows, hiding along buildings. She bumps into a store display and the lights come on because the store owner is hiding there. She begs him for help, but he refuses so she hides in the street between buildings.

She arrives home to meet Charlie, but the house is ransacked. A neighbor comes to tell her that the soldiers came in the night. He did not see Charlie, but warns Beth to leave because they might come back.

Meanwhile, Charlie’s dad Mr. Harmon is trying to find him through efforts in Washington but isn’t getting anywhere through various state departments. He decides to go down to the country and meet with the ambassadors to find out what’s going on.

Charlie hasn’t been captured by the military, he isn’t in any hospitals, and all the neighbors have been interviewed. He seems to have literally disappeared.

Mr. Harmon does not trust Beth, because she is married to Charlie and apparently has the same idealistic spirit that he does.

Beth is rude to the ambassador and U.S. government officials when visiting them because they have stonewalled her for the past two weeks. Mr. Harmon thinks she is being unreasonable and is irritated with her.

The two meet with Terry, who describes the last time she saw Charlie and how they ran into a man in the navy who was pretending to be French and apparently spilling military secrets with them. They took notes, and Terry explained that Charlie told her how odd it was that the American navy man would tell them so much.

Terry and Beth tell Mr. Harmon about meeting an American official who told them if they needed anything to call him. They do so after Charlie disappears, but the intoxicated man tries making passes at both of them. They lock the door to their room and hide from him.

With this Mr. Harmon finally believes that things are not what they seem in this unnamed Latin American country.

Suffice it to say, I was bored forty minutes into the movie and I had another hour and forty minutes to go. It is very dark and has the same monotonous tone through the whole thing.

The audience can tell who the villains are, but that there is no hope. The thing that holds the movie together is the relationship between Beth and Mr. Harmon as they try to find out what happened to Charlie.

The movie is very political–and the art of writing is portrayed in a negative light. Mr. Harmon seemed to imply that Charlie had gotten himself into the whole mess because he was a writer  I would also argue that writing is just another metaphor for freedom. In the same way Mr. Harmon disapproves of Charlie’s writing and idealism, the Latin American government disapproves of their people having freedom of expression.

It’s very interesting that the beginning of the movie says these are all true events and the end of the movie has an official statement by the Department of State declaring that these events never happened.

I didn’t enjoy this movie because it was more about the shadow of a writer instead of how writing affects our lives. Mr. Harmon didn’t approve of his son’s writing and it made for a toxic relationship. The movie was also way more political than I thought it would be.

The emotion was there, but because of the corrupt nature of the government, you already knew what was going to happen. You know there’s not a happy ending and the road there is just shy of suspenseful, just slightly off kilter. Sissy Spacek and Jack Lemmon give great performances, but if I evaluate it from my current system, I’d have to give it 3/10 stars.

Alexandria Harris is a writer and former reporter on WSUM 91.7. When she isn’t watching the Lord of the Rings trilogy on repeat, she tweets regularly as @_ALHarris. Alexandria lives in Milwaukee, Wisconsin.

Movie Monday: The Raven


By Alexandria Harris

Premise:  A killer is using Edgar Allan Poe’s tales to bring to life unspeakable horrors.

Best Quotes:
“Is imagination now a felony?”-Poe

“I know there is a darkness to Edgar, but they’re all up here (points to head) every woman he’s ever loved has died in his arms. I believe that God gave him a spark of genius and quenched it in misery…” -Henry Maddox, newspaper owner

“Feels as if I’ve gone from author to character in one of my tales, trapped in the devil as any of the hapless bastards that I’ve created.”-Poe

It was time for us to delve into the mind of a poet. However in “The Raven” Edgar Allen Poe is portrayed as a washed up poet, drunkard, and sometimes contributor of a newspaper where he takes it upon himself to criticize the likes of Longfellow, Emerson, and brilliant contemporaries. Apparently the well of Poe’s genius has run dry.

The audience witnesses the extremely bloody pendulum killing (don’t eat and watch this) and then we go from bloodcurdling to sappy with Emily, who Poe is in love with.

Poe is brought in as a specialist by an inspector because the killer is following Poe’s tales to the minute detail to terrorize the city of Baltimore.

Poe’s new fiancee Emily and he decide that they will make their engagement public at a masked ball her father (who hates Poe) is hosting. It is the social event of the year for Baltimore. However, that is the same night that the killer chooses to strike again using “The Masque of the Red Death.”

They shoot the interloper and catch him, but not before the real culprit has disappeared with Emily. Now that Poe is really personally invested, it is up to him to save Emily and find the killer before time runs out.

I’m sure every writer wants to see their stories come alive in real life, but these are particularly gruesome stories to bring to life. The stories are no longer safe with imagination, they are contaminated by reality, fixating our minds with horror.

Then to relive the monsters of your own making, to craft them into more gruesome detail–it’s no wonder Poe was crazy.

It was fascinating to see Poe driven to produce stellar art, being a master at his craft the way sometimes we all are driven to produce amazing pieces of work. Even though he was driven by life or death, sometimes writing and the art of producing literature is a life-consuming passion.

Poetry is food for the soul, a soul wrenching endeavor and so it makes sense that the movie was a little melodramatic. There were a few quotes and glimpses into the mind of a genius. However, I think the movie would have been better served as a biography of Poe’s life. He certainly had an interesting one.

The costumes were bright at times but mainly dull, mimicking the movie setting. Outlandish chases mixed with interesting points of deduction, it was basically watching a mystery movie a la Sherlock Holmes without the Watson and mixed in with a little Saw. Oh, and at two points I was getting Phantom of the Opera deja vu.

It was adventurous of the script writers to add a fictional twist to Poe’s life, but there needed to be more turmoil, more raw emotion. The movie was definitely suspenseful, but too predictable which is why I felt as though there was something missing. A twist at the end made me give it a higher mark, but for the most part you could guess along with Poe.

I would give this movie a 6/10. You don’t need to rush out and buy the DVD, but it’s good for a one-time watch and literary types will appreciate it for what it is–an interesting and mostly fictional take on Poe’s life.

It was intriguing because Poe is generally a mystery/detective gothic-style  fiction writer. The writers tried to turn the movie into that very thing, but taking the mold from his stories didn’t allow for enough imagination to really keep an audience riveted for the entire movie. The way his life, especially the end of his life, was incorporated and tweaked was thought provoking.

Alexandria Harris is a writer and former reporter on WSUM 91.7. When she isn’t watching the Lord of the Rings trilogy on repeat, she tweets regularly as @_ALHarris. Alexandria lives in Milwaukee, Wisconsin. 

Movie Monday: American Dreamer

By Alexandria Harris

So far we’ve done a period movie about a playwright and an autobiographical movie about a novelist. This week I was feeling a little restless and the title seemed fitting because we’ve just ended the Olympics in London. Be prepared for some twists and turns in this week’s movie.

Premise: a woman is trying to win a writing contest. The prize–a week in Paris for two. Sounds like a dream right? However, she may get much more than she bargained for.

Quotes:
“I don’t know what’s real anymore. I don’t even know if you’re real.” Alan/Dimitri

“I should’ve taken her to a hospital but why is she starting to make sense?” Alan/Dimitri

It starts out with a bang, almost literally. A man dressed as a woman and a woman dressed head to toe in furs pursues him and cuffs him with a gun. Of course then the audience finds that this is all a part of the writer’s book.

Cathy is a very likeable main character. She’s really invested in her craft, a mother of two fun loving boys who encourage and support her writing. However, she’s cursed with a dull husband, Kevin, who only has eyes for his work and sounds completely disinterested in everything. His motto is “let’s think on it.”

Cathy wins the contest, the reaction to which is worth watching the movie alone (the silent “I won, I won” is endearing and precious). But big surprise here, Kevin doesn’t want to go because of his job and then has the audacity not to want her to go to Paris alone. And all this arguing is done while sweat covered Kevin exercises on a flimsy stationary bike that clearly isn’t helping him.

Cathy basically tells her sexist husband to kick rocks and makes future generations of women everywhere happy when she packs her bags and goes to Paris.

The audience goes on a tour of all the sights of Paris you typically see in a movie involving Paris but in the middle of all the excitement, a biker swipes her camera and Cathy, desperate to preserve all her rose tinged memories, runs after him and gets hit by a car.

She wakes up as Rebecca Ryan, a character from the books the contest is named for, and this is when the action gets kicked into overdrive.

Picture a sophisticated Bonnie with amnesia and without Clyde. It’s the most hilarious case of the author stepping into the shoes of a character instead of a character being formed by bits of the author. A who-dun-it adrenaline rush that keeps the energy and laughs soaring.

What struck me most about this movie is that was the story of a dreamer, a talented woman who didn’t give up and in the end didn’t settle for half-living her life. She went from pleasing other people to pleasing herself and even though the journey to that wasn’t conventional, it made it was done creatively and with a refreshing twist.

I would give this an 8/10. It was hilarious, had its sweet moments, really pushed the envelope between fantasy and reality, and immersed its audience into the world of a book. The only reason I gave it an 8 is because I don’t really agree with the ending, but it ended well enough and nothing is perfect.

Alexandria Harris is a writer and recent college graduate. When she isn’t writing, watching the Lord of the Rings trilogy on repeat, or working in her father’s company, she tweets regularly on her account @_ALHarris. Alexandria lives in Milwaukee, Wisconsin

Movie Monday: An Angel At My Table


By Alexandria Harris

 This movie was a soap opera gone wrong. It was an emotional roller coaster of awkwardness, pain, and sadness. It was also a bit abrupt and choppy, which could be because it was meant to be viewed as a miniseries instead of a very long movie.

The premise of this movie is the life of New Zealand writer Janet Frame who looks like the could be the twin sister of Orphan Annie. Her love of reading is shone at an early age when she reads books to her siblings and her teacher assigns their class to write poems. After this, her dad gives her a notebook for more poems.

Fast forward into her teen years, Janet is still reading to her younger siblings and the oldest child has died in the river. At the ripe of age of twelve, Janet decided she wanted to be a poet instead of a teacher.

Part two begins with Janet going to college to study teaching at the wishes of her parents. Apparently college-age Jane liked to spend time in cemeteries waxing and waning about poetry and the meaning of life. Jane found herself teaching and pretending that it was what she wanted to do.

She has a series of breakdowns and is admitted to the psychiatric ward of a hospital at the prodding of three of her professors. Her favorite professor Mr. Forrest tells her that she has a real talent for writing and I think this is when her talent truly comes alive.

Then she suddenly comes home to her family and announces that she has schizophrenia. Mr. Forrest visits her and says that he’s submitted her stories to some big name people and they’re impressed. He tells Janet that when he looks at her, he thinks of Van Gogh (which I’m not sure is really a compliment) and says that lots of great artists have schizophrenia.

Someone tells her they have a treatment for her decaying teeth at a hospital, and before long I realized that they weren’t talking about her teeth because she ended up back in the loony bin and they gave her electric shock treatment.

Shortly after that Janet gets told that she has to have a lobotomy and that her mother approved it. Then one of the doctors comes in and says that he likes her book of short stories and she’s not having the operation, but she needs to stay in the hospital for a little while longer.

Then she finally gets out of the nuthouse and ends up back home again where her brother and sister take her to see this random author named Frank who apparently arranged her release, and she  stays with him. He eventually organizes a literary grant for her to travel overseas and get more experience.

Part three begins with Jane arriving to London and panicking because they have no record of her staying there. She eventually finds a shady part of town with old, run down apartments where the landlord tells her he hopes she isn’t staying long through the winter because one of the women staying there died and got pneumonia.

Jane visits writers and poets who are impressed that she has her short stories and novel published in a book. They volunteer to show her around. She returns to her landlord, who is way too invested in her life and angry that she’s keeping the company of poets and writers.
Jane travels all throughout the world and experiences many different cultures. They influence her and her writing, but she is very awkward with them.

Jane finally returns to England, where her busybody landlord tells her she needs to find work. She tries to apply for a job as a nurse, but is rejected because she tells them she’s had psychiatric treatment for schizophrenia. She voluntarily admits herself into a hospital where they conclude that she’s never had schizophrenia.

She gets money to write about her time in hospitals and the new book gets favorable reviews. She meets her publisher and he offers her an apartment to write the next bestseller in. Jane returns home and continues writing.

Overall I would give this movie a 5/10. At times when I watched it, I was confused because things abruptly happened and the audience was expected to go with the flow with little to no explanation. I sympathized a lot with Janet being institutionalized and that part of the film was very dark. To think that this literary genius could have been lobotomized just because she was freaking out about wanting to write instead of teach? That was very chilling.

 Another part of the movie that impacted me was her wanting to be a writer at twelve and knowing in her being that it was what she wanted to do. Though all the deaths, institutionalization, living poor, and people ignoring her because of her awkwardness, her fame slowly grew and she ended up doing exactly what she wanted to: writing in peace.

Alexandria Harris is a writer and recent college graduate. When she isn’t writing, watching the Lord of the Rings trilogy on repeat, or working in her father’s company, she tweets regularly on her account @_ALHarris. Alexandria lives in Milwaukee, Wisconsin