Austen Month is quickly coming to a close and I’ve managed to make a little progress with the somewhat ambitious list of shows/movies I wanted to watch.
Mansfield Park – 1983
This was a BBC mini-series of 6 or 8 episodes. It dragged in some parts and others I found amusing. The short answer is that I wouldn’t recommend it, even for an Austen fan, unless you love these old BBC productions.
I know I’m not the biggest fan of Fanny Price to begin with – she’s no less pathetic, simpering and weak to me in this version than I found her in the book. I did find Edmund (Edwin? Whatever the leading man’s name is) to be mildly charming. Most of the other characters blended together for me – it wasn’t until about the 3rd episode that I realized who everyone was. Granted, I wasn’t just sitting and watching, I was multi-tasking, but still. Mrs. T was another amusing character – I couldn’t tell if she was supposed to be drunk or crazy. I don’t recall her behavior from the book so I don’t know how accurate she was, but she gave me a few laughs. Mr. Rushwood (Rushworth?) is also a well-meaning goober and I feel bad because everyone treats him like crap and sees him as a fat dork.
I’d forgotten about all the drama revolving around a play most of the characters want to perform, as an amusement. Edmund is vehemently against it and so is Fanny. But everyone else is so desperate to act, they’re like a bunch of kids teasing for it. Then of course, Edmund is persuaded, but then it doesn’t happen, so it was all for naught. I feel like they could have cut that part out of the adaptation.
There’s also an incredibly awkward scene where a brother and sister kiss on the lips. I’m not sure if that was in the book, considering couples don’t even kiss, but boy, did I not need to watch that.
Near the end there’s a scene where Fanny absolutely loses her mind and is scream-sobbing about something (dry-eyed) and it was amazingly bad. It looked a little like she was having a seizure. Best scene in the movie, if you like bad acting.
In all, it did make me want to read the book again, to get a better sense of the story and the characters. I do want to give Fanny another chance, but I’m not sure I’ll ever really like her.
Bonus pictures of the hats in this movie, because wtf!?
And Edmund’s teeny book:
Miss Austen Regrets – 2008
TL,DR: This is a sorta cute, sorta film, good for Austen fans and those who enjoy watching period pieces.
I thought this movie was well-cast and everyone’s acting was solid. I wasn’t paying enough attention at the beginning (look, I can’t just sit and watch a movie or show in most cases, I gotta be doing something else too) so I felt like I was playing catch up. But I learned the movie starts with a brief scene where Jane accepts a proposal from Mr. Bridges (the dad from Downtown Abby) and then it cuts to the ‘present’ and we see she’s broken off the engagement and has remained single.
The movie follows Jane and her niece Fanny during the time when Jane was working on Emma (so she already had some work published and she is known somewhat in her social circles as an authoress) and Fanny is looking for advice on the man she wants to marry. To my surprise, Tom Hiddleston plays this man! I have to say, his hair wasn’t flattering.
The end is sad, but not heart wrenching – if you’re unaware, Austen died of an illness at what I’d consider a fairly young age and she was still single and her family suffering financial hardships. It’s bittersweet, knowing she never knew the success her novels would achieve and that while she wrote happy, romantic endings for her heroines, she never got to (or chose not to) experience that for herself.
Sense & Sensibility – 1981
Another BBC mini-series that appears to follow the book pretty faithfully, but sadly didn’t hold my interest. I stopped watching at episode 6 of 8 and decided not to pick it back up. I know the story and the acting wasn’t compelling enough for me to continue.
None of the actors were particularly cute or charming (I know, I know, looks aren’t everything, but still) and, while faithful, I still felt there could have been some stand-out scenes or set-design or something. It’s almost too by-the-book that I’d rather read the book! Miss Steele was over the top in her cluelessness. Someone has a screaming fit in this one (BBC likes crazy gals, I guess) and it was almost as amusing as Fanny’s breakdown, but marginally better acted.
They did cut out the youngest Dashwood sister though, so I guess the adaptation isn’t that faithful – not that her role in the book is a huge one. It makes for decent Austen Month background noise, but not much else.
I’ve already decided I don’t want to watch the older Northanger Abbey, given my lack of success with the other BBC productions. As I write this, I have the non-Firth Pride and Prejudice going in the background. Lizzy is super cute, but I’m two episodes in and the acting really isn’t grabbing me.
I think I’m learning these straight-forward mini-series aren’t for me. I am looking forward to the updated Sense & Sensibility though, given how much I loved the recent Emma adaptation. I’m not sure what else I’ll make an effort to watch though, because Netflix released Umbrella Academy and I really want to watch A Discovery Witches too.