Hot Guys in Period Costume

Does just what it says on the label

They don’t get much frothier than 2003’s Down with Love. A bit of an orphan in more ways than one, Down with Love is both a pastiche of and loving homage to the Rock Hudson/Doris Day films of the 60s that you never new you wanted a pastiche/homage to (homiche?). But you don’t have to familiar with those films to find something to love in this film, complete as it is with jaw-dropping fashion, delightfully ludicrous plotting and four excellent, entirely self-aware performances. Despite being directed by Peyton Reed (director of your all-time favorite cheerleader film, Bring it On), it underperformed at the box office and just quietly slipped out of the public consciousness.

And why? It’s cute, it’s funny, and it’s exceedingly well done.

Small-town girl Barbara Novak rolls into swinging, sexist New York city with a book deal under her belt and a world to own. Her manifesto is dedicated to teaching women how to enjoy commitment-free sex, her thesis being that the moment women realize they don’t need to be in love to enjoy sex, they’ll become the equal of men. Catcher Block, a hunky ladies’ man reporter, dedicates himself to bringing Novak down by making her fall in love with him… by pretending to be a chaste astronaut. Novak’s and Block’s editors both get tangled up in the scheme and, ultimately, all four find happiness and some measure of equality.

Renée Zellweger can be a marmite-y actress (you love her or you hate her), but she’s charming as Barbara Novak - although occasionally out-acted by the brilliant Sarah Paulson as Vikki, her neurotic editor. The same is true for Ewan McGregor’s predatory Catcher Block; he’s completely irresistible, (and incredibly hot) but, like Zellweger, occasionally overshadowed by the scene-stealing David Hyde Pierce. 

If you like your hair flipped and your comebacks snappy, you could do worse than Down with Love.

Hot guys: Ewan! David! And some excellent horn-rimmed glasses!
Period costume: want.
Forbidden sexytimes: This is a film about anticipation and innuendo. And there’s a lot of both.
Other movie review things: good dialogue, good acting - utterly incomprehensible plot.

The Last WordThe dialogue is quick, the fashion makes me weep with desire, and the dudes are really, really good looking.Down with Love is a gem ripe for rediscovery. Vintagedudes says check it out.

One of my top-ten favorite period dramas, full-stop, the 1995 adaptation of Jane Austen’s Persuasion may not be as flashy as the 2007 version, but it feels (to me, at least) better lived-in and more intimate than its more recent sibling. And, frankly, the acting’s better, too.

Recap time! Anne Eliot is 29 and absolutely, 100% a spinster. The eldest, unappreciated daughter of a profligate minor noble, Anne has relegated herself to a life of caring for her worthless family at the expense of her own happiness - having missed her one shot at love years before when her friends and family talked her out of marrying a promising, albeit penniless, naval officer. Forced to leave her quiet life and beloved family home behind when her father finally outspends himself, Anne’s pretty certain things can’t get much worse. Until that once-penniless, now very rich man she once threw over winds up back in her life. And, apparently, gunning for someone else’s hand.

The book is not my favorite Austen, but I like this adaptation in part because it smoothes out the rough patches I object to in the novel (particularly Anne’s utter doormattiness and the incredibly problematic Lady Russell). But, far and away, the film belongs to Amanda Root and Ciaran Hinds. Root is utterly believable as the ground-down Anne, and her transformation by the film’s end does not appear to be the result of flattering makeup and angles, but rather her ability to tap into the character’s growing agency and happiness. Hinds, meanwhile, is ferociously intense and, indeed, absolutely believable as an intense and able man who earned his fame and fortune honestly. Their coming together is not necessarily inevitable; there’s a lot of history between the two, and the actors do a fantastic job making that history feel, at times, insurmountable.

This is Austen, so there’s not much in the way of sexytimes - but there’s a lot of smouldering and hand-touching and meaningful-glancing, which is really all we period drama junkies live for, isn’t it?

Hot guys: many.
Period costume: loads!
Forbidden sexytimes: of the smouldering variety.
Sweeping panoramas: a few, though this is a fairly small-scale, domestic film.
Other movie review stuff, like good acting and things: oh, yes!

The last word: A delightful, thoughtful adaptation of Austen’s last novel. Ciaran Hinds may not be as obviously, stunningly good-looking as Rupert Penry-Jones, but he’s still my first choice for Wentworth. Vintagedudes says check it out.

If you like your period drama to be as much about Enlightenment rationalism as about forbidden lust and/or Mads Mikkelsen’s astonishing cheekbones, you won’t find a better film than En kongelig affære (A Royal Affair) 2012.

I won’t recap the plot much beyond the basics - the mad king of Denmark, Christian VII, marries a bright young English princess, Caroline Mathilde, who finds herself intellectually and emotionally suppressed in the conservative 18th century Danish court. While on a kind of royal progress, Christian engages the services of Johann Struensee, a radial German doctor, who is able to keep the king calm and controlled. Christian brings Struensee back to court where the good doctor and Caroline discover a shared interest in radical Enlightenment principles ranging from freedom of the press to the abolition of slavery. As well as a shared interest in each other, which probably goes without saying. (And, frankly, who can blame Caroline? The ferociously independent Struensee is, after all, played with characteristic intensity by the afore-mentioned zygomatically-blessed Mikkelsen.) Things go about as well as might be expected.

Alicia Vikander plays Caroline’s intelligence and loneliness well (and without the requisite, Kiera Knightly-esque blank affect and parted lips). Though I didn’t adore the framing device the filmmakers chose, Vikander did her best by it. Mikkelsen, it should be clear by now, is a firm favorite of mine. You may know him as the blood-weeping villain Le Chiffre in Casino Royale, but he’s a legitimate superstar in Denmark, and well worth chasing down in other films. (Try Flammen & Citronen.)

Based on a true story (that’s worth reading up on), A Royal Affair is a pleasure. It’s a film that’s as much about trying to make the world a better place as it is about beautiful people in beautiful clothes and their forbidden sexytimes. And let’s not forget Mikkel Følsgaard as Christian, who could have hammed up the role of the mad king but made him instead nuanced, likeable and just as sympathetic- and tragic - a character as Caroline and Struensee. 

Hot guys: yes.
Period costume: yes.
Forbidden sexytimes: yes.
Stunning panoramas: yes.
Actual movie review stuff, like good acting and things: yes.

The last word: Overall, a beautifully produced, beautifully acted period piece. With several hot guys in period costume. Vintagedudes says check it out.

As long as we’re talking about all the hot dudes in The Mummy… here’s an appreciation post. Happy Saturday!