Sunday, January 13, 2008

Masterpiece Theatre's lack of Persuasion

O.k, so who watched the beginning of the Masterpiece Theatre's Jane Austen Season? I did. I've been looking forward to this for months and after the 90 min. episode tonight I am...decidedly underwhelmed.

First of all I should clarify by saying Persuasion is one of my favorite Austen novels. (Well, with Pride and Prejudice, and Northanger Abbey, and Emma. It's so hard to choose a favorite! All I know is Mansfield Park is my least favorite.) And I also hold the 1995 version (starring Amanda Root) in very high esteem. So maybe I was too prejudiced going into tonight's show. I haven't read any of my favorite blogs or Austen spots to see what anyone else is thinking yet, but here are my first impressions:

- Maybe Anne would have felt prettier if she would have washed her hair. Like, even once. Seriously, Sally Hawkins (who played Anne) looked like she had bacon grease rubbed over her head before every scene.

- Could Anne close her mouth, please? Prince Charming (who proved how charming he is by watching this with me tonight) and I laughed in every "romantic" or tense scene because her

- Where did Anne's cousin's accent come from? London, Texas? Mr. Eliot is supposed to sound Posh not, um, I'm not sure, just not whatever that guy sounded like tonight. Here I'll admit that I'm a dumb 'ol American who probably just doesn't recognize a true posh British accent when I hear one, but his grated on my nerves.

- Anne's school friend, Mrs. Smith, is gallivanting around Bath? Shame on her for pretending to be an invalid! Or maybe those waters (Nurse Rook?) are truly miraculous. If so, I could use some right now.

- No more staring directly into the camera. Ever. It's been done. I'm well over it. Don't do it again. This pretty much goes for any period film. Stop looking at the camera - it isn't clever anymore.

- Music in an Austen adaptation is always tricky but here's a hint: It isn't Charlotte Bronte so we don't need overbearing, overwrought, over the top music. Less is definitely more.

- (Spoiler alert if you haven't seen it yet) Captain Wentworth buys Kellynch for Anne? I don't think so. Persuasion is not about Anne clinging indiscriminately to the past. And taking your new husband back to the home of your (rather) unhappy childhood is clinging tenaciously to the past. Move on!

My summary? For a movie not made in Hollywood this was an awfully Hollywood-ized adaptation. Watch the 1995 movie instead. Better yet, read the book.

Anyone else see it? Despite my misgivings I will still be watching the rest of the season. If they disappoint I've always got my favorite versions on DVD to watch. Just what I needed, another excuse to get wrapped up in Jane Austen marathons!

A Small Postscript, after reading a few other "Austen Spots" around the web: Not only is it unlikely that the gallant Captain would buy his Anne her family home, it is most likely impossible. What I know about British Regency property law and succession would hardly fill a blog title. I do know that you couldn't just go around buying whatever piece of property caught your fancy, especially if it was entailed on someone else. Anyhow, it's a ridiculous ending.

If you'd like to compare the versions, here's my favorite:

And here's the latest:

And, of course, don't forget the original book. It is a true jewel in Jane Austen's literary crown.


Ms. Place said...

I, too, prefer the Amanda Root version of Persuasion, and I detest the fact that film makers felt the need to change Jane's plot around. (Mrs Smith gallivanting around town? Hah!) Sally Hawkins did a creditable job; it's not her fault that the director chose to film her in closeups, and with such an extreme angle that her nose and mouth became the most prominent features of her face. Very annoying and distracting. I hated the ending. On second viewing the movie does get better, but perhaps that's because the shock is gone.

Lisa of Longbourn said...

Well, it made me ready to read the book again!
To God be all glory,
Lisa of Longbourn

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