kate & leopold(2001)
director: james mangold
meg ryan, hugh jackman,
natasha lyonne, breckin meyer

. Thereís a Taliban-lite logic to the premise of Kate & Leopold, a romantic comedy starring Meg Ryan as a hard-bitten career woman who finds love with a man from the past.

As Kate, Ryan reprises her stock character from films such as Sleepless in Seattle and Youíve Got Mail -- the frustrated romantic, sour from too many run-ins with clueless modern males. Itís a role Ryan might be advised to retire, sooner than later. 

Like too many actresses her age, Ryan has lost her once-fetching perkiness in favour of a lean, overtrained gauntness. Since Kate is at the bitterest extreme of Ryanís archetype, the sinewy look is actually appropriate, but itís a cruel truth that her days as a gamine might be over.

As Leopold, Hugh Jackman is as charming as he needs to be; a good thing, since the whole movie hangs on his ability to sell the audience on the desirability of the 19th century gentleman of leisure. His job is a hard one, ranging from running down a mugger in Central Park on horseback to cooking a gourmet rooftop dinner to acting as t.v. spokesman for a diet margarine, but he actually pulls it off, with equal parts Ashley Wilkes and Rhett Butler.

The plot device that catapults Leopold from 1875 to the present is best ignored -- a romantic comedy doesnít demand nearly as much semi-plausible science as sci-fi -- and the ending, while a necessarily happy one, is perhaps one step too far out of the realms of logic. 

Under pressure to marry a woman with money, you wonder how the titled but poor Leopold will fare after marrying a woman whoís left her family, job and money a hundred or so years in the future. Something to do with inventing the elevator, apparently. 

The film is at its best when comparing the elegance and grace of the past with the crude but convenient present. Jackman does his job well, tapping into the romantic fantasy of the male protector, cultured and kind. Itís probably no accident that Ryanís Kate is a successful marketing research executive -- the contest is a fixed one, the outcome ordained. You have to wonder how Kate will get along in the 1870s, away from diet sodas and DKNY, in a time when a women had real curves but few opportunities for a corner office. That would be another movie, though, and one very much less romantic, or comedic.