Monday, January 14, 2008

Masterpiece? Not so much

You wouldn't guess it by the political bent of my usual posts, but I'm a longtime Jane Austen fan, and for months now have been happily anticipating the PBS Sunday night Austen-athon, which started last night with Persuasion.

What a disappointment. The plot was chopped up as with a hacksaw, and then jumbled back together, scenes invented which didn't appear in the book, dialogue shifted from one place in the book to an entirely different setting, and the "climax" featured the elegant and dignified Anne Elliot running all over Bath like a hoyden. And though I felt like turning off the TV, I hung around to the end just to see what they'd do. I won't spoil the awful surprise for you TIVO-ers, but I will say that the ending had me completely baffled. The decision to start with Persuasion in itself was strange, seeing as it's her final - and most mature - novel.

I agree with Lilian about the long-awaited kiss, which had me nearly giggling due to the over-the-top buildup. That screen time would have been much used to build tension in the leadup to Wentworth's proposal.

I'd love to know what other fans of her books thought of the new production, but if you're an Austen novice and thinking of tuning in, do yourself a favor and rent the 1995 version instead. I do hope the upcoming adaptations are more faithful to the books they're based on. Only a fool would imagine they could improve on Austen's original dialogue.

Evidently, I'm not alone.
    ...This brings me to the film’s problematic ending. I could have tolerated this shortened film version of Persuasion better if the director and writers hadn’t contrived to show Sally Hawkins sprinting through Bath at a full clip. No proper Regency Miss would be caught dead running around town like a common fishwife, let alone be seen in public kissing a man...


Lilian said...

Thanks for the comment and link! I also thought it was very strange that they started with Persuasion. It would be so much more compelling to me to watch the adaptations in the order the books were written. But then again hopefully the next ones will be better -- maybe they put the more risqué adaptation for the beginning and the others will be more faithful.

I already love the P&P miniseries as well as Emma. Now, the only one that will not have me already critically anticipating problems and comparing it to a previous cinematic version (I really like the previous Mansfield Park and S&S films) is Northanger Abbey. I read it such a long time ago that I can barely remember the plot. I'm considering re-reading it this week so I can be more critical next Sunday. :)

Susan said...

Completely agree, even though I don't know the book, so can't speak as authoritatively re the plot shredding. I could tell something was wrong, though!

As a Buffy fan, I enjoyed Tony Head's performance as the elder Elliot (even though Colin Firth was amazing!!) And it was interesting to see the slightly different takes on some of the characters, but Michell's movie was just so painstaking in terms of period detail and so measured and loving in its exploration of the depths of the characters.

The kiss, in and of itself, apart from questions of period propriety, was one of the SILLIEST I've seen on any screen!

Susan said...

Phooey! I meant CORIN REDGRAVE,not Colin Firth. This is what happens when you don't hit "preview!" LOL!

Anonymous said...

I thought the new production of Jane Eyre was much better than the previous one. The Golden Globe nomination for the actress playing Eyre (forgotten her name) was well-deserved in my opinion. I wondered what they could do to make this version different and I was pleasantly surprised.