Monday, January 14, 2008

The Complete Jane Austen: Persuasion

I was really excited to hear that Masterpiece Theatre was going to be airing adaptations of all 6 Jane Austen novels in the coming months, some of them new, but I kind of had some conflicting feelings, especially about Persuasion, the first one that aired last night, which is possibly my favorite of her novels and the 1995 version of which (with Amanda Root and Ciaran Hinds) is possibly one of my favorite movies, period. Do I really need to see a new adaptation? How could it be any better?

I kind of felt like this when the Keira Knightley version of Pride & Prejudice came out. I had huge allegiances to the Colin Firth/Jennifer Ehle version and was almost annoyed that they made yet another version when what I thought was the definitive one was already made. But in that case, I kind of came to appreciate both because there were enough differences. The miniseries was very complete and was nearly 4 hours long. The theatrical version was of course much shorter and condensed the story quite well. Also, the tone and look of the two versions were very different: the miniseries was a bit more light and whimsical, while the movie was a little...grittier? (If you can even use that word to describe Jane Austen.) My favorite is still the miniseries, but really the only thing I didn't like about the movie version was that terrible "Mrs. Darcy" ending. Yesterday's Persuasion had a pretty terrible ending too, but I'll get to that later.

Anyway, getting to the new Persuasion. I'm not sure that there were really enough good differences here to help me like it. The book is relatively short, so both the 1995 and 2007 versions include nearly all of the same scenes, with dialogue lifted almost straight from the book, so sometimes I felt like I was watching the same script just with different actors. This new one did seems strangely rushed though...too much time spent with Anne staring at the camera perhaps. But yeah, I wasn't really blown away by these actors. I really wasn't too sure about the actress who played Anne, Sally Hawkins. Both and she and the actor who played Wentworth, Rupert Penry-Jones, are much closer in age to what their characters should be, but I just wasn't really feeling them. This Anne was a little too... I don't know, delicate? Timid? I always thought that Wentworth was supposed to see that Anne had changed and was no longer the impressionable girl he knew before, that she was now strong and knew her own mind, which I thought Amanda Root did a wonderful job with, but I didn't see that here. Plus they changed the letter scene, which I don't understand at all. Wentworth was supposed to have overhead Anne and Harville talking about love, that's what drives him to write the letter!

As for the rest of the characters, Wentworth just didn't have enough charisma (even though he was pretty hot), and Mr. Elliot seemed kind of too obviously slimy...I always thought the Mr. Elliot from the 1995 version looked kind of ridiculous with his curly blond hair but you could at least see why Anne would have enjoyed his company. I don't really remember much about the Musgroves or the Crofts or Lady Russell but maybe that's just because I've watched the 1995 version too many times and have those portrayals stuck in my head. I did love love Anthony Stewart Head as Sir Walter though (yeah, Giles!).

And the ending...oy. I'm not sure who decided that it would be fun to see Anne literally running all around Bath looking for Wentworth. And that kiss was pretty painful. If she knows her own mind now, if she knows she wants him, just kiss him already! And the whole going back to Kellynch thing just seemed kind of random to me. I kind of now have an urge to watch the other version (which I really can since I have it on DVD).

So yeah, that kind of sounds like a lot of complaints. But it was still Jane Austen, and it was still the same story that I really love, so I wouldn't at all say it was a waste of my time. Next up is Northanger Abbey, which is actually the only Austen book I have not read (not sure why, I should), nor seen an adaptation of, so I'm definitely looking forward to it!

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