When you were young, did you read all the time? Did you have dreams of growing up to be an Author? Do you still love books? Have you tried your hand at writing (fiction or non-fiction)? Then you probably were, or are, a bookish girl or boy! There are many movies that have tried to capture the joys and pains of being a book lover and/or writer, and a number of these have historical settings. Here, we count up our top 5 historical costume movies for book lovers — movies where reading and/or writing figure prominently:
Midnight in Paris (2011)
Woody Allen’s Midnight in Paris is more concerned with nostalgia than the act of writing, but it’s also a veritable who’s who of important early 20th-century authors. A screenwriter (Owen Wilson) who is visiting Paris manages to go back in time to the 1920s, where he meets Zelda and F. Scott Fitzgerald, Ernest Hemingway, Gertrude Stein, Djuna Barnes, T.S. Eliot, as well as a number of artists. Furthermore, Wilson makes his excitement — at getting to rub elbows with these people in the cafes and parties of Jazz Age Paris — contagious.
Becoming Jane (2007)
If you can accept this film as fiction, and think of the character of Jane Austen as a character, you will probably really like this story of a young woman struggling between her desires to write and to fall in love in the Regency era. And, at least it’s Anne Hathaway and not Keira Knightley! Essentially, take a good Austen film and add “aspiring author” to the main character, and you’ve pretty much got your movie here.
Little Women (1994)
Jo March longs to be a writer, a fact that’s emphasized in this adaptation of the famous Louisa May Alcott novel. We see her moving from writing potboilers in the attic, to going it semi-alone in New York City as a working author, to writing the story of her own family. All the while, we watch the intertwined lives of four really interesting sisters and their family. Listen to our recent podcast for the full scoop!
I Capture the Castle (2003)
From the opening lines — “I write this sitting in the kitchen sink” — both this film, as well as the novel it is based upon, truly capture the yearning of late girlhood/early womanhood, where you feel stuck waiting for things to happen. Things do happen in this gorgeous coming of age story set in 1930s England. Cassandra is an aspiring author (and daughter of a famous, and eccentric, author) who deals with first love, genteel poverty, writer’s block, and frustrating family dynamics in the most fabulously twee (but in the best possible way) story. If you like the writings of the Mitford sisters, The Secret Garden, Jane Austen, or pretty much anything British and oldey-timey, get thee to this movie and its source novel, and prepare to enjoy.
My Brilliant Career (1979)
This. Movie. Is. The. Best. The immensely talented Judy Davis plays Sybylla, who lives on Australia’s frontier at the turn of the 20th century. She’s frustrated by her family’s poverty and the hardships of life, particularly because she’s extremely intelligent and wants to write. She gets the opportunity to stay with well-off relations, where she falls in love, and faces the ultimate choice: love or an independent life of the mind? SO. GOOD. Have tissues ready, not because it’s tragic, but because it will resonate so deeply.
What did we miss? Are there other great costume movies for book lovers that also make historical costumers’ toes curl? Let us know in the comments!