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MPAA Rating: PG-13
Running Time: 141 minutes
Starring: Helena Bonham Carter, Cary Elwes, John Wood, Patrick Stewart, Warren Saire, Joss Ackland
Screenplay by: David Edgar
Directed by: Trevor Nunn
Retail Price: $19.99
Features: Photo Gallery
Specs: 1.85:1 Anamorphic Widescreen, English Dolby Surround, French Stereo, English Subtitles, English Closed Captions, Scene Selection (26 Scenes)
Released: February 18th, 2003
When King Henry VIII passes away, things in his kingdom begin to go awry. His son Edward is very sick, but John Dudley, the Duke Of Nothumberland (John Wood), wants to keep England just the way it is. By doing that, he decides to marry off his son Guliford (Cary Elwes) to Lady Jane Grey (Helena Bonham Carter) - a cousin to King Henry VIII. Yet at only sixteen, she was crowned Queen of England for a mere nine days. Yet at that time, she actually did make some worthwhile changes to the country (who knows what she could have done if she was Queen longer?). While "Lady Jane" isn't exactly a no-holds-barred political movie, it has its moments in that arena. Rather, the approach here is that it is a love story as Guliford and Jane aren't exactly thrilled with one another first, but do fall in love... and of course, something happens to test that very love that intertwines the political tides that have washed over them and England (ooh, I like that sentence!).
"Lady Jane" seems like the perfect Hollywood movie. The story itself, about a young girl rising to such amazing power, is quite interesting and unbelievable - something that audiences eat right up as if it was some fun fairy tale. But "Lady Jane" is not a movie for everyone, and thankfully does not fall into that tempting trap of overglossing it, making it so grand and much more fictional. While I am familiar with the story, I do not know well enough to know how true the movie stays to the real-life events. Given that this is a movie, I'm sure it strays a bit for narrative purposes.
What I liked about "Lady Jane" is that it tends to be quite realistic and goes for a straight-forward accuracy rather than being over-flamboyant, incredibly melodramatic and dumbs things down - but at times some of the movie is a bit simplified and feels like filler. Still, I'm sure a lot of people will find - and have found - this movie to be dull and dry, even if it does have some pretty strong elements. I liked how the political aspects of the movie were played, and how the romance tied in quite nicely. Both aspects are pretty even and nicely developed throughout, which gives you a lot to think about when it comes to the character of Jane, and what special qualities she really did hold.
Helena Bonham Carter, in her first theatrical film (dear Lord, look how young she looks!), does an impeccable job as far as filling the main character's shoes. She brings to life a young girl who is intelligent and in-touch with herself, all topped with the anxieties of falling in love and what an incredible opportunity that came her way. Carter is just as good now as she was in her first movie, showing signs of major talent here. Carter shares some good, believable chemistry with Elwes. Elwes would also go on to become a semi-big star, and his acting chops here are very nice to watch (he's also a good fit for his character).
There are also some very strong supporting performances (including Patrick Stewart, as this film seems to be right up his alley), but at the heart there is Carter and Elwes, who really makes this movie work. Director Trevor Nunn does a good job in balancing the film's focus (as I mentioned earlier), but at times the movie is a bit slow and can drag. Yet on the plus side, he does capture some really love exterior shots so that we get a feel of the state England is and what transformations take shape. David Edgar's screenplay (from a story by Chris Bryant) is on par with Nunn's directing as he lets the characters develop and breathe (complete with nice dialogue exchanges), so by the end of the film, we do care about what happens to some of the characters. Again, not all of you will enjoy "Lady Jane." But if you're interested in this part of European history or like a good historical piece, then "Lady Jane" is worth checking out.
"Lady Jane" is presented in its original 1.85:1 anamorphic widescreen, and it does look pretty good. The film is slightly grainy which does not distract as much as you'd think. Still, the transfer does retain a little bit sharpness despite it's slightly faded, soft look. Fleshtones and detail look very lovely, while the color saturation is pretty good. It's pretty bold, yet rather fitting given all the drab, "dirty" colors and whatnot. Scratches, blemishes and dirt pieces pop up a good deal too, but not to the point where it is unmatchable.
I must say the English Dolby Surround track was much better than I anticipated. While there are some action-based moments within the film that do pack a few punches here and there in a very solid manner (plus some subtle background surrounds that create a nice effect), but fidelity is surprisingly high for this track and the wonderful musical score fills up room nicely and is quite forceful (just check out the opening credit segment!). Dialogue is clear and sounds nice, as there is a lot of dialogue in this movie. Still, what bothered me with this track was that from time to time it seemed the track was a bit uneven as there was a focus to the right side a bit more. I don't know if it's a defect, supposed to be that way or my speakers but it's not too bad. Also included is a French stereo track, English subtitles and English closed captions.
Nothing much here: only a Photo Gallery with some very nice stills. Some from the movie, some from on-the-set and some seem to be for publicity. Worth looking through. There's a good amount of photos here too.
"Lady Jane" is a nice historical movie, complete with strong acting from now major Hollywood actors and a good story about unusual circumstances involving politics and love. The disc sports only a good photo gallery as a supplement, but the sound and widescreen transfer are pretty nice. And in a good move on Paramount's part that was a long time coming, they've finally started to price bare, new releases at a mere $19.99 (meaning you can pick this disc up for about 15 dollars). A purchase for this movie is more easily justified if you like it and want to own it, but for everybody else, a rental will suffice.