31 January 2008

Adapt This

So I've been watching all the recent Jane Austen TV adaptations on PBS's "Masterpiece" (they took Theatre out of the title and you don't see the hall of books anymore; I kind of miss that.) I have mixed thoughts on the first three offerings.

I would have to say that so far Persuasion is the most disappointing. To me, Persuasion is in the top three of my favorite Austen novels, along with Pride and Prejudice (P & P) and Sense and Sensibility (S & S). For years I've been satisfied with the Ciaran Hinds/Amanda Root version from the BBC, but I thought I'd watch the new version just in case. Truly, it was butchered. Literally. They chopped up scenes, dialogues, and characters completely. Anne Elliott had a terrible habit of looking sadly at the camera, like some sort of Regency-era Emo. The ending was terribly rushed - Anne is running through the streets of Bath with people popping up out of nowhere to deliver lines that should have been drawn out and appreciated. Seriously, people. My sisters and I had plenty of sugared and caffeinated items in a few hours' time during our day trip to Bath. It was our only day to be there and, I can tell you, there was no running involved. Why would the mature Anne Elliot make such a scene of herself? Though Captain Wentworth was okay, the kiss at the end was probably the most unromantic, gagworthy thing I've ever seen. Please skip this one.

Northanger Abbey is the best so far. Mind you, I haven't read the novel since 1996 and the only other adaptation I've seen was horrendous. The 80s Catherine Morland was bucktoothed and beyond goofy. I suppose anyone would be delightful in comparison. Well, the new Catherine is pretty but a little eager-looking: just enough but not painfully so. Otherwise, it was fun to see her wild imagination, gleaned from the Gothic "horrid" novels, lead her into rather silly assumptions. This one was also rushed, and some explanations left out, but I would recommend this one above the rest.

Mansfield Park - well, I'd put this one somewhere in the middle. It was certainly better and more accurate than the 1999 version, but too many characters were toned down (Mrs. Norris was practically invisible, which made no sense), and Fanny's return to Portsmouth was completely left out. What gives? Former pop singer Billie Piper was too modern-looking and lively to be a true Fanny Price - I'd see her more as S & S's Marianne maybe. I'd watch this one over the other two I've seen (the old BBC version was almost verbatim of the novel but that's a bit of overload.)

I'm looking forward to Sunday's 'Miss Austen Regrets.' It could be awful, but no more than the dry heave that is the new Persuasion. As for the new S & S: well, I shudder to think of it, but I must watch it anyway.

DVR rocks!


Marie said...

DVR does rock. Sounds like it's the case with anything we really love...when they re-do it, it's just not as good. Why do we keep trying to reinvent the wheel?

As far as books go, sometimes they are best played out in our mind.

Hope the next one is not too disturbing.

Anonymous said...

As I've only seen Persuasion, I can only comment on that one. And yeah, there was no chemistry between Anne and Capt. Wentworth (worst onscreen kiss EVER!) and the looks at the camera were ridiculously annoying. Maybe Rustom was right; maybe the actress playing Anne is in real life seeing the cameraman. That at least would explain the constant stares at the camera. I did like the BBC version of Persuasion better, even if the actors were not too aesthetically pleasing, the acting and chemistry was much better.

Anonymous said...

Yes I'd have to agree with beautiful Bonnie, the BBC version was much better.