Lady Jane (1986)

Helena Bonham Carter (Jane Grey), Cary Elwes (Guilford Dudley), John Wood (John Dudley), Michael Hordern (Dr. Feckenham)

Directed by Trevor Nunn (Twelfth Night)

From IMDB: "The death of King Henry VIII throws his kingdom into chaos because of succession disputes. His weak son Edward, is on his deathbed. Anxious to keep England true to the Reformation, a scheming minister John Dudley marries off his son, Guildford to Lady Jane Grey, whom he places on the throne after Edward dies. At first hostile to each other, Guildford and Jane fall in love. But they cannot withstand the course of power which will lead to their ultimate downfall."

Oh, swoon. Oh, swoon. Oh, frickin' swoon. What is sexier than a strong, willful, hot guy? A strong, willful, hot guy who stands behind his queen as her servant and protector, who supports his woman to the fullest extent of his abilities. Cary Elwes, doing his best Dread Pirate impression, played Guildford (one small drawback -- the name) as an arrogant hothead who channels his arrogance to serve a noble cause. He is the passion and street smarts; she is the brains and morality. Together, they love and plan and dream -- and then die.

But just as I love Han Solo and Princess Leia, this movie plays up the dynamic between a strong female in a position of power and the man in her life, the man she needs. She depends on him in order to be her strongest person. I know that sounds terribly anti-feminist, and ideally a woman should be strong within her own person, but I know I am not as strong by myself as I am with my husband. Is this anti-feminist or simply common sense? Two heads better than one. Or maybe, behind every good woman there's a good man? In finding a complimenting soul, one who fills the gaps in our own perceptions and experiences, people can become better, stronger, more determined. In the case of this movie, they become so determined as to sacrifice their lives, but that just adds to the romance of their love.

An aside: It's probably a good thing I didn't see this movie until I was in college. The substantial effect it had on me then, and the way I responded to it with this viewing -- bad enough. I can handle and process and enjoy the "Don't Fear the Reaper" failed romance aspect without contemplating suicide for love. As a 14-yo, I would have been a goner.

Another aside: I know too much about Tudor history to take any of the love stuff as red. But screw it.

This movie plays like my favorite kind of romance (except for the ending, naturally). At only one point do they border on a misunderstanding. Here goes: she is crowned, she accuses him of having known the plan and plotting with his father, he shouts "What do you take me for?" -- and they fall into each other's arms. Awesome! A romance novel would have made so much more of that potential for misunderstanding, to the detriment of the story. Jane and Guildford never, ever waver. INXS comes to mind, in that "they could never tear us apart." Once they are in love, they are in love, with the pressures and mechanizations of the world standing between them. I compared it to The Terminator, strangely enough, because Reece and Sarah are the same way -- and I prefer to make up an alternate, happy ending for both films.

Anyway, back to Cary Elwes. When Jane is crowned, with Helena Bonham Carter looking waifish and 150% eyes, he is her rock. She walks ahead. He walks behind, all clad in black and staring down every opponent. I loved the juxtaposition of an alpha male in a position of submission -- without losing any of his masculine power, without abusing his power by taking advantage of her dependence. He needed her just as much, someone to give him purpose and direction. Perfect compliments. Sigh.

Can you tell I liked this one? But what happened to Cary Elwes? I mean, why didn't he become at least as big a star as Hugh Grant?? Between this and The Princess Bride, with that smirk and that stare -- damn. Now he just battles psychos and plays cops. No leading man roles in years and years. Sucks.

The library doesn't want my copy of Lady Jane back until Wednesday. Maybe I'll watch it again -- at least the mushy parts.


Lyvvie said...

Princess Bride is one of my all time favourite movies. Love it. But I think This may be the reason we've not seen much of Cary in recent years. He does, however, do a lot of cartoon voices. Particularly the Studio Ghibli ones. If you scan through those pictures om IMDB do you get the sense his wife is a snooty-patootie?

I must go rent this, thanks!

carrie_lofty said...

Lyvvie, that was just mean. I'm tempted to delete it entirely!! But just as I can imagine happy endings for Lady Jane and even The Terminator, I shall remain stubbornly ignorant. Nope, nope -- that is not the same person, not by any stretch.

Ann(ie) said...

Wow, he's turning into Val Kilmer. I still think he's kinda cute, though, even chubby and scruffy.

carrie_lofty said...