Jane Austen in Manhattan James Ivory

Like Charlie Kaufman's Adaptation, Jane Austen in Manhattan strays from the subject of the text it is based on. Rather, it acknowledges Sir Charles Grandison (the play Jane Austen wrote in her youth) and creates an entirely different storyline around it. Unlike Kaufman's work, however, this film by director James Ivory is a total waste of time. Sean Young, in her first on-screen appearance, plays an actress who is dragged away from her life and her husband in favour of devoting herself to the theatre. While her husband is working with a classical dramatist, Lilianna Zorska (Anne Baxter), Young's Ariadne is linked with a more experimental group lead by the charismatic cult-like leader Pierre (Robert Powell). The two troupes are battling for the opportunity to stage the Austen play, both with completely different ideas of how it should be done. The juxtaposition of the plot of the film with the storyline of the play is the cleverest part of this movie, but that isn't enough to save it. The story is convoluted and the characters pretentious, making Jane Austen in Manhattan a film you should decidedly skip. The sole special feature on this DVD is Venice: Theme & Variations, Ivory's master's thesis from film school. Reminiscent of films shown in high school history classes, this short documentary on art and Venice is complete with a monotone voiceover and shots of art then water, art then water. Aside from the scenes featuring Saul Steinberg's cartoons of gondolas and the city, this extra is worse than the film. (Merchant Ivory/Morningstar)