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Hollywood brings good old Jane Austen and a brand new Red Riding Hood

Anuj Kumar



Of women and love games: While the cinematic adaptation of Jane Austen's ‘Sense and Sensibility', ‘From Prada to Nada', fails to impress, film-maker Catherine Hardwicke attempts to prolong the success of vampire movies and win teenage hearts through her newly-found ‘Red Riding Hood'.



Of women and love games: While the cinematic adaptation of Jane Austen's ‘Sense and Sensibility', ‘From Prada to Nada', fails to impress, film-maker Catherine Hardwicke attempts to prolong the success of vampire movies and win teenage hearts through her newly-found ‘Red Riding Hood'.

RED RIDING HOOD

Hollywood continues to give simple fairy tales an allegorical twist, a dark turn to rather straight stories infested with simple fears of wilderness and werewolves. Here you have director Catherine Hardwicke, who gave us a dark romance in Twilight, trying to rekindle similar magic in similar terrain. It largely works for the target teenage audience and anyone who is in no hurry to grow up.

So Red Riding Hood loses little from her name and a lot from the original story by Grimm Brothers. Set in an eerie atmosphere, it has been given the form of a whodunit with red herrings strewn around to keep you interested in the outcome. Finally the girl in the red cape has got a name, Valerie (Amanda Seyfried). She is the most fetching feature in the computer-generated snow-filled scenery where dashes of colours make subtle statements from different corners. Known for her deft usage of colour manipulation techniques harmonising with the narrative, Hardwicke gives ample exhibition of her strength. There is an element of serenity even in the vehemence of a werewolf, which talks and talks a lot. Yes, on the one hand it is not meant to be taken seriously and on the other you have to keep an eye on the deeper meaning, the witch hunts, the feminist tone, the inner demons and the like. This contraption works well with an audience belonging to an age when a little knowledge may be a dangerous thing but an exciting proposition. Hardwicke knows how to mount the story between the real and surreal.

On the surface it is a love triangle with a wolf thrown into it. Valerie is in love with a brooding woodcutter Peter (Shiloh Fernandez), but her parents have fixed her marriage with Henry (Max Irons), a silent admirer, because her mother thinks he could give her a better future. The mother has a past and doesn't want her daughter to go through it.

As always, love knows no reason. The two are about to break free when Valerie's sister becomes prey to a werewolf. The villagers have been keeping a pact with the beast by offering him an animal every month. As the wolf breaks its side of the promise by attacking a human, the villagers call Father Solomen (Gary Oldman), an expert at lynching lycanthropes, to hunt it down. An oddball, Solomen gives the issue at hand a twist by revealing that the werewolf takes the human form by day and could be one among them.

As the death count begins to rise with every passing moon, the needle of suspicion becomes restless. Valerie's granny, a crucial character in the original tale, doesn't get as much screen time but Julie Christie makes a lasting impression in the small.

Things reach a pass when after one of the attacks Valerie begins to suspect that the wolf is somebody she loves. Hardwicke handles her confusion of being torn between two men with flair with a thumping background store and production design lending a mystical appeal.

However, apart from Oldman's antics and Steyfried's obvious appeal, the actors prefer to gel with the scenery: freezing cold! They don't seem interested in the compulsions of the characters and together with some lame dialogues make the proceedings plastic. But if the success of Twilight is any indication one doesn't feel the teens are interested in looking through it and Seyfried exudes just enough charm to take them for a silly ride!

FROM PRADA TO NADA

Once again a director makes a hash of Jane Austen's Sense and Sensibility. Angel Gracia tries to give it a Mexican twist but ends up with a shallow romantic comedy which has all style but little substance. The only reason film-makers from across the world turn to Austen is that her works retain contemporary relevance; there is plenty of potential to read and play between the lines. Gracia fails to deliver the goods as he goes with a checklist of scenes and emotions that constitute an assembly line Hollywood rom-com where everything is labelled.

The posh lives of Nora (Camilla Belle) and Mary (Alexa Vega) turn upside down when their father passes away. Left penniless, they are forced to move from Beverly Hills into their estranged aunt Aurelia's (Adriana Barraza) modest home in East Los Angeles. Soon BMW and Prius become no more affordable as they have to make do with local buses and used cars. The career conscious Nora gets used to the new life easily but the loss of parents turns her into a control freak, somebody who is not ready to give in to love and romance even if it seems genuine. The contrast is provided by the Prada and pasta-loving Mary, who continues to live in denial. She refuses to admit that she is of Mexican descent and aspires to return to her erstwhile address by hook or crook.

As expected, they take time to mingle but gradually as they discover their roots, their community, the sisters discover the true meaning of romance and family values. No issues with the premise but Gracia goes about in such a stereotypical way that you keep on muttering – no, no, not again!

The cultural caricatures are too glaring to ignore and the tactless comic situations make one wonder how could the work of three scriptwriters plus Austen be so inane, so unimaginative.

There is no sisterly chemistry between Belle and Vega but the girls have the panache to rise above the clichés. And in fact it is the performances (including Nicholas D'Agosto as the sweet-faced lawyer who keeps pinning for Nora without much success), that somewhat redeem this flawed adaptation of the classic.

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