Photo: Associated Press. From Left to Right, Stephenie Meyer, Jerusha Hess, and Shannon Hale… three mighty Mormon women!
Despite the battering that the film Austenland took with critics (33% at Rotten Tomatoes), my wife Anne and I were determined to go out last week and support the film. Unfortunately, it was a limited release so it wasn’t playing ANYWHERE in Arizona, not even Phoenix (What? Not a single showing in the producer Stephenie Meyer’s and the star Kerri Russel’s home state?! They both hail from Mesa!). So, alas, we weren’t able to catch it, despite a frantic search on the internet for it. If we catch the whiff that the box office warrants a wider release, however, Anne and I will be there, with red vines and a tub of popcorn ready in our laps.
Yet my reason goes far beyond the fact that I laughed myself silly through the Hesses’ Napoleon Dynamite and Nacho Libre (my sense of humor is quirky, to say the least); am a big fan of Shannon Hale’s novels (especially her young adult fantasy novels like Goose Girl and Enna Burning); I think Keri Russell is an adorable and uber talented actress (I was particularly impressed with her performance in Waitress); and, although not a Twi-hard, I did actually enjoy Stephenie Meyer’s much admired/much maligned stories about glistening vampires. Ironically, as a guy’s night out, one of my best friends Nate Drew and I went to see one of the Twilight films together… without our wives. Don’t judge us. And I’m actually a big Jane Austen fan. Persuasion is my #2 favorite novel, just barely behind C.S. Lewis’s Till We Have Faces, and just barely ahead of Charles Dickens’s Our Mutual Friend (I also just finished writing a stage adaptation of Sense and Sensibility). I had seven sisters who brain washed me into the cult of Austen, so despite my Y chromosone, I was a goner.
So I probably would have gone to see this film anyway. But my main reasons for wanting to see the film are three fold:
1) I briefly met Shannon Hale and Stephenie Meyer at an Artists Retreat, and although I’m hardly intimate with either of them (I doubt either of them would really remember me), I was super impressed with both of them. Hale was a woman of sunshine, humor, and warmth, and Meyer was a woman of grace, humility and kindness.
2) It’s a rare thing to see a film that is produced by, directed by, and starring women. Even many rom-coms are directed and produced by men. In a testosterone laden industry, I’m always very happy to find the welcome diversity of a woman’s touch in Hollywood.
3) And, finally, Meyers, Hess, and Hale are all, like me, Mormon. Heck, even Keri Russel has Mormon roots, having been raised LDS in a Mormon hub like Mesa, AZ until she was 15 years old. Continue reading