Tuesday, January 15, 2008

After a long absence, Persuasion

I've not posted for a while because I just didn't have anything to say. But I've been engaging in a series of conversations with various female relatives about the latest Jane Austen adaptation on Masterpiece (the program formerly known as Masterpiece Theatre). It occurs to me that I should post it here.

So, Persuasion. I have to preface this by saying that I think the Amanda Root, Ciaran Hinds version made some years ago was just about perfect so I didn't really have high expectations that this would be memorable.

And they were confirmed. In some ways it was worse than I imagined. In other ways, not so bad. Of course, I always enjoy Jane Austen, so I was glad to see it.

First complaint: Ann, played by Sally Hawkins. Aside from her disturbing hairdo and what is possibly the worst wardrobe ever worn by a heroine in a BBC drama, I felt the actress just didn't work. There was nothing about her that made it seem reasonable that Captain Wentworth would still have loved her. She spent the whole film weeping and writing in her diary, except at the end when she was running through Bath, inexplicably pursued by her invalid friend. Part of this was the hairdo/wardrobe, the script and the director, of course, but a better actress could at least have shown some ... charm or character or something. There was also nothing that showed why Mr. Elliot suddenly preferred her to her sister, who was prettier and had better clothes and seemed perfectly happy to receive his advances.

Second complaint: It seemed rushed, though it was only 14 minutes shorter than the Amanda Root film version. Possibly, if less time had been spent weeping, writing in the diary and running around Bath, there would have been more time for character development. But it was oddly unconnected.

Third complaint: casting. The Amanda Root version was full of interesting faces and sharp characterizations and memorable performances. In this version, pretty much everyone blended together and looked the same. Even some quite familiar faces, who I like very much in other settings. Julia Wossername who played the older sister, Alice Krige who played Mrs. Russell Stella Gonet, who was Mrs. Musgrove and others.

Fourth complaint: The end when Captain Wentworth had bought the house - what was it called - for Ann. Ick. Stick to the text, please. At least there was no kissing. I hate kissing in Jane Austen.

Things I liked: watching Rupert Penry-Jones in his black and white evening clothes. Watching Rupert Penry-Jones in his blue jacket. Watching close-ups of the lovely Rupert Penry-Jones in his lovely white linen shirt and cravat. He looks great in Regency dress. But it made it even more mysterious why he liked Ann. Of course, some of the countryside, the exteriors and interiors were nice. It made me happy to see Anthony Head, it's like seeing an old friend from Buffy days. The breakwater at Lyme is always worth seeing.

The Son of COG told me this story while we were watching. Tennyson visited Lyme and his host wanted to show him the precise spot where the Duke of Monmouth landed. Tennyson said 'Don't talk to me of the Duke of Monmouth. Show me the precise spot where Louisa Musgrove fell.'

Next week, Northanger Abbey.


Vivi said...

Thank you for relating exactly my own views of this version, and saving me the trouble. Except that I'm not sure that the prettiness of Penry-Jones made up for the lack of chemistry between the two leads. After the Hinds' version of Wentworth, who was handsome in a dashing, believably-weathered-by-the-sea way, it's hard for a pretty-boy (no matter how very very pretty) to stand in for the captain.

There *was* a kiss, by the way. I fast forwarded through it, but because it was in slo-mo I had to endure it almost real time.

An online friend referred to the end as a period remake of Run, Lola, Run ("Run, Ann, Run").

The Bride said...

I averted my eyes during the kiss, so it didn't happen.

The Bride said...

Oh, and I didn't think Penry-Jones prettiness made up for the lack of chemistry. I just thought it was nice that he was there for me to look, since there wasn't much else to delight the eye.