Kate and Leopold

Ealasaid/ January 1, 2002/ Movie Reviews and Features

Originally published in The Milpitas Post.

In the present day, Kate McKay (Meg Ryan) is a career woman with everything she could want except a romantic man in her life. Back in 1876, Duke Leopold (Hugh Jackman) is a gentleman with what would be the perfect life if he weren’t being pressured to marry for money. When Stuart (Liev Schreiber), Kate’s ex-boyfriend, discovers a portal in time accidentally brings Leopold back with him, Kate and the Duke seem made for each other.
“Kate and Leopold” is a romantic comedy which succeeds on a purely entertainment-oriented scale. It is funny, sweet, and romantic; it’s even satisfying if you’re only looking to be amused for a couple of hours. Kate’s difficulties at work, which include a boss (Bradley Whitford) who is clearly interested in her for more than just her talents at market research, will bring a rueful smile to anyone who’s worked with unpleasant people.
However, the film has several pronounced flaws which are not necessarily obvious until one has gotten over the charisma of the cast and the sweet humor of the story. To begin with, the plot has a number of lose ends; the requisite happy ending for the title characters leaves most of the secondary characters up a proverbial creek without a paddle.
Worse, the title characters both have gaping flaws in their construction. Leopold, our 19th-century hero, is the sort of man who stands up when a lady does and is exquisitely well-mannered. He also, in true romance film fashion, sleeps with his beloved after having known her for less than a week. Coming from an era in which men hardly got to kiss the women they loved, this seems gratuitously modern.
More worrisome, however, is Kate, our career-woman heroine who discovers that what she really needs to make her happy is Leopold and his 19th-century world of precise etiquette and general chauvinism. Although some modern women do indeed long for romance, the film’s tacit point that one cannot both be a career woman and have the kind of sweeping romance Leopold provides is either insulting or overly simplistic. Possibly it is both.
However, provided one ignores these points, “Kate and Leopold” is a fun film. It is laugh-out-loud funny and filled with excellent performances by everyone involved. Hugh Jackman and Meg Ryan have great chemistry, and provide plenty of comedy in their very different roles. This is not, however, a film for moviegoers looking for intellectual stimulation or feminist sensibilities.

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