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Kate & Leopold

Entry updated 24 January 2017. Tagged: Film.

Film (2001). Miramax Films presents a Konrad Pictures production. Directed by James Mangold. Written by Mangold and Steve Rogers. Cast includes Hugh Jackman, Natasha Lyonne, Meg Ryan, Liev Schreiber and Bradley Whitford. Theatrical version 113 minutes; Director's Cut 118 minutes. Colour.

In present-day New York a maverick inventor (Schreiber) discovers a time portal (see Time Gate) to 1876, but is pursued back to the present by an aristocratic British futurist (Jackman) who romances the inventor's ex-girlfriend (Ryan), a market researcher on the cusp of a major promotion but discontented in her personal life.

With a setting star meeting one on the rise, this piece of fluff was a late and minor specimen of a one-woman brand of machine-tooled romantic comedy Ryan had trademarked through the nineties, but a significant film for Jackman's attempt to carve a career outside his Wolverine character from the X-Men Films, as Somewhere in Time (1980) had been for Christopher Reeve's less successful attempt to escape from Superman; the period-dandy character would be one of Jackman's regular turns, not least in The Prestige (2006). Like the H G Wells of Time After Time (1979), Jackman's "Leopold, Duke of Albany" is a future-facing inventor and visionary, and his squeeze a heroine out of time who ultimately allows herself to be transplanted to a more romantic age – though Ryan's character is here older and more embittered than this genre has generally felt safe. The Time Travel machinery and plot logic are driven by the rom-com engine; the film takes the opportunity to reflect on the clash of genres as well as eras in its attempt to make a film against cynicism, drawing on pointedly old-fashioned notions of romance. The Director's Cut restores the heroine to the opening sequence – difficult to defend logically, but by that token a much more interesting anticipatory twist – and reinstates the film's most trenchant scene: an extended satirical mise en abîme in which the director of a romantic comedy, played by Mangold himself, clashes at a test screening with Ryan's, and through her Hollywood's, ruthlessly market-driven quantification of aesthetics in such anti-artistic (and implicitly misogynistic) concepts as the heroine's "likability". Mangold and Jackman would reunite on The Wolverine (2013) (see X-Men Films). [NL]


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