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Posts Tagged ‘movies’

MP – I liked it!

I was dreading this version of Mansfield Park (aired on “Masterpiece” on Sunday, January 27), but it was good. What a relief.  I was thinking it was impossible to do a good job with MP because so many people (not me!) dislike Fanny Price.  In Patricia Rozema’s 1999 version, she conflates Fanny’s character with that of Jane Austen and departs radically from the themes of the book.  I didn’t hate it, but it wasn’t Mansfield Park.  The current version retains the bones of the story but cheats by making Fanny much more winning – she is athletic, spirited and lively while still remaining in the lightly-drawn, yet subservient role of Fanny.  Aunt Norris is so diminished as to make very little impression, while Lady Bertram’s part is kindly augmented to give her a modicum of sense and foresight.  Once I adjusted to Fanny’s vibrancy, the casting was pretty well done.  The Crawfords are especially good, and the scenes of them together give a sense of their relationship and their values.  I don’t remember much about the 1983 BBC version, but it would be fun to check it out and make comparisons; I get the feeling they were more true to Fanny’s character, which can seem sanctimonious and priggish, than the more recent versions.   In my years of reading and rereading of Austen’s books, MP, like Fanny Price’s standing at Mansfield Park, has risen steadily in my estimation.  

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Thankfully the new adaptation of Northanger Abbey was done by Andrew Davies who hits all the right notes.  Admittedly, this book has not been adapted as much as the others, so there is nothing stellar to compare against, but he makes excellent use of Austen’s own dialogue (not every director is able to do this), adroitly showing the humor in the characters and situations, and the casting is great – Felicity Jones is perfect as Catherine, pretty, innocent and lively with a bit of spirit.  J.J. Feild does justice to Henry Tilney (one of the best of Austen’s heroes!).  Just looking at the previews for Mansfield Park has me filled with dread – that blonde, pouty girl to play Fanny Price! 

To see more about the PBS productions of all of Austen’s works, visit http://www.wgbh.org/article?item_id=3792119.  You can also take the Austen Quiz – I got 100%! (Nitpicking:  they have Sir John Middleton as Sir John Littleton in the quiz ).

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Persuasion – ouch!

I hated the new version of Persuasion, which aired on PBS last week  as Masterpiece Theatre becomes “Masterpiece Classics” and an all-Jane Austen slate of programs is kicked off.  Sally Hawkins is no Amanda Root, who played Anne in the 1995 movie version. She has a slumping, shuffling way of walking, gapes constantly like a fish out of water and in no way conveys Anne Eliot’s character, self-reliance or elegance.    I guess there would be no point in making a new version that didn’t try something different, but why amputate Wentworth’s letter to Anne from her moving speech to Harville that occasions it? Without his having overheard Anne say that all she claims for women is the power of “loving longest, when existence or when hope is gone,” his passionate, almost involuntary response by letter — “You pierce my soul.  I am half agony, half hope.  Tell me not that I am too late, that such precious feelings are gone for ever” — loses all impact.  The very climax of the book is taken away and replaced with idiotic scenes of Anne running here and there across Bath in search of him. And the ending showing Wentworth and Anne arriving back at Kellynch Hall which he has purchased for her as a wedding gift, is just wrong.  Austen revered the navy, two of her brothers were in the navy and one of the themes of Persuasion is how much better this new class of self-made men are than the landed gentry represented by Sir Walter.  To put the newlyweds in Kellynch at the end, rather than on board a ship as in the book, is simply ridiculous.  That said, the character of Sir Walter was well played and resulted in the best scenes in the movie.  Next up on Masterpiece, Northanger Abbey.

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