marspeach

IMDb member since May 2005
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    IMDb Member
    14 years

Reviews

Jane Eyre
(2011)

Needs a director's cut
I had very high hopes for this film, despite thinking it was too soon for another adaptation. I mean, the 2006 BBC miniseries was released less than five years before this one! As much as I love Jane Eyre, I do think think there's such a thing as adaptation overload. I can't help but feel that they could have adapted another work instead.

Overall, my view on the film is that it is a disappointment. It could have been great but it did not meet my expectations. One of my main problems was the structure. The film starts out with Jane fleeing Thornfield and being found by the Rivers. Any scenes from before that point are flashbacks, occasionally coming back to a scene in the "present" at Moor House. I remember reading about this choice before the film came out and being hesitant, but I thought it might come out better than I expected. Unfortunately, it did not. The flashback structure was confusing for my friends who did not read the book. To me, it was just an annoyance. I get that they were trying to do something different, but it just didn't work for me in practice. I think that the film could have benefited from about 10-20 extra minutes of run-time. A lot of the explanations and backstories are cut out. What really bothered me about this is that it looked like more things were actually originally filmed, but left on the cutting room floor. The DVD confirmed my suspicions on some of this- plenty of deleted scenes on it should have been left in the film, IMO! I do not know why some of them were cut. Because I saw the film with several people who did not read the book, I know that a lot of it was confusing. And for me, even though I knew the backstory, I was just irritated not to see it! One major thing I felt they should have done with extra time would be to show more buildup to Jane and Rochester's relationship. Some of their scenes together are great, but they needed more of these before they actually got engaged to show and explain their growing attraction more.

As to the actors, I found much of the acting to be understated. In some cases I liked this approach more than in others. Mia Wasikowska is not plain, but I thought they made her look the part well enough in terms of age and stature. I found her acting, however, to be underwhelming. I thought her performance was too restrained. In the proposal scene, in particular, I thought she held back too much. I don't want Jane to be over the top, but I wanted a little more passion. A lot of focus in this version seemed to be put on Jane wanting freedom and developing into a woman, but I could have done without the scene of her examining the painting of a naked lady. Not that I had any issues with the picture, but the scene accomplished nothing (that time could have been better spent elsewhere) and this "nude image" was part of the reason the film got a PG-13 rating. While Michael Fassbender was also a bit more restrained than some other actors (especially compared to Timothy Dalton, my favorite), I liked his performance more than Mia's. The two did have good chemistry, but there just weren't enough scenes to show them falling in love. Bertha, I felt to have not enough of a presence. Grace Poole was really just in the background and so there was never any of Jane suspecting her. Bertha herself was not as menacing as she could have been. I suppose they did not want to be offensive but she just wasn't scary enough. The Rivers siblings were all good in their roles, but I was not a fan of the change made to their relationship with Jane.

I don't want to make it seem like I completely hated this film, because I didn't. I thought that the scenes of Jane's childhood were particularly well-done, especially given the short time-frame. Many individual scenes were great. On the whole, I just found it to be slightly lacking. I want a director's cut!

Jane Eyre
(1996)

Lackluster
This movie is really just not very good. The story was largely rushed and truncated- especially the ending. I know things have to be cut to fit it into such a short time frame (less than two hours) but I feel it was just handled clumsily. The first two thirds of the movie were just mediocre, nothing to write home about, but the last part was just a mess. The acting was nothing special either. Those who were good were wasted in their too-small roles. Those who were featured more were not very good. The two words that appear most in my notes are "flat" and "emotionless." It was an all around disappointment, devoid of all of the passion and fire of the book.

Fiona Shaw was very good, but was entirely wasted as Mrs. Reed, in her very limited screen time. Gateshead was way too rushed. Anna Paquin is very good as Jane, but the character is even more feisty than in the book. Even though she was near 25, Charlotte Gainsbourg did look the right age for Jane and they did a pretty good job making her look plain. She was way too tall though (with an very long neck) and although she had everything to make a good Jane, she was pretty dull actually. She was even more reserved and quiet than the book Jane, which, given how passionate her younger self was in this, was especially jarring.

If I thought Gainsbourg's Jane was lackluster, that was nothing compared to William Hurt's Rochester. My original feelings on him were "block of wood" and my opinion remains unchanged upon the latest viewing. My above mentioned "flat" and "emotionless" apply to him more than anyone or anything else in this film. Not only did he and Jane not have any chemistry (I'm unsure how they even fell in love in this, since they have so few scenes together), he just didn't seem to care at all. He was so dull! The proposal scene was so passionless, and even their kissing looked staged (i.e. their lips did not really touch). He did not show Rochester's brooding/angry side or the humorous side. He just played a block of wood.

Jane Eyre
(1983)

Faithful but not perfect
I like this version more each time I watch it. Like the 1973 version, it is very faithful to the book. I preferred it, on the whole, to that one as well. The acting is much better, overall, and it does not have such intrusive, redundant voice-overs. Some very minimal narration by Jane was used at times, but only for transitional purposes- not in the middle of scenes so that the characters have to work their conversation around it. This version includes even more scenes than 1973 as well- such as more of Bessie's personality from the book, Miss Temple's marriage, the grown-up Eliza and Georgiana, and more of Jane's journey on the moors before being taken in by the Riverses.

Zelah Clarke was a little too old for Jane but other than that, looked the part, and gave a decent performance.The real star of the show is Timothy Dalton's Rochester, however. Yes,he's too good-looking. But he really embodied the role. He made the character come to life and his scenes with Jane oozed chemistry.

It was not perfect, however. In addition to the usual stagy production values of the time, there were a few flaws throughout that bothered me. Not every single thing from the book was kept, of course. One cut scene, in particular, really upset me- Helen Burns' death. This was a crucial scene from the book, which for some reason was not kept in this version! Yet we did get an added scene of Rochester meeting with Briggs after Jane has left Thornfield, trying to make sure she is alright. I found that scene very odd, because Jane wasn't present. We should have kept Helen's death instead! So much was kept in that the cuts they did make irritated me even more than they would have otherwise.

Jane Eyre
(1970)

Pretty good but hampered by time constraints
This version was originally aired in theaters in the UK, but only on television here in the US. Although the DVD claims to be "digitally remastered," the quality is still, quite frankly, terrible. Apparently the story goes that the original film was lost somewhere along the line, so the video releases use the TV version. That is apparent with bad, cuts and jumps in scenes that pop up occasionally throughout the movie, most likely at points where there were commercial breaks. After the fire in Rochester's room, Jane asks him if Grace Poole started the fire. One problem with that- there was no mention of the name "Grace Poole" at any time in the movie before this! That must have been a scene to have gotten cut, or the writers are morons. Take your pick.The picture isn't good, and despite boasting a score by John Williams, the sound isn't either.

Despite being only an hour and a half, the film starts with a length opening credits scene before young Jane arrives at Lowood. What the purpose of that was, I'm still not sure! Susannah York as Jane was gorgeous and at nearly 20 years too old, but her performance was pretty good. I liked that George C. Scott's Rochester was not very good-looking, but the lines about him not being handsome were cut for some reason! So disappointing. I thought Ian Bannen was too passionate as St. John and not enough the cold, unfeeling character of the book.

Overall, this version was actually pretty decent. I couldn't find many negative things to say about it, really, which is a good thing. . Despite being too old, the cast did a pretty good job overall. Ultimately it suffered from time constraints. Other than the horrible picture and audio quality of the DVD, it's really not bad It's a shame that the original film was supposedly lost! Maybe it will somehow be miraculously found one day?

Jane Eyre
(1973)

Faithful but Slightly Lacklustre
Arguably the two most faithful Jane Eyre adaptations are the BBC miniseries from 1973 and 1983, respectively. The fanbase is divided over which is the better one on the whole. While I have previously seen the 1983 version, this was actually my first time watching 1973, for this review. It is comprised of 5 episodes of approximately 50 minutes each, and stars Sorcha Cusack as Jane and Michael Jayston as Mr. Rochester. This is the only production I have seen either one of them in.

I do have to say, it is true that this version is very faithful to the novel. This was quite refreshing after seeing all of the older adaptations that changed so much! A lot of the dialogue is lifted right from the book, and most of the characters remain intact and true to their original book selves. The entire series is actually narrated by Jane as well, almost as if she is really reading the book. The result is a faithful adaptation that is sure to please purists, but it didn't exactly come to life for me, either. The production values are not up to par with modern adaptations, as usual. The narration, while true to the book, was often redundant and just plain unnecessary. There was no need for Jane to tell us what was happening on screen when we could see it ourselves! The actors at times seemed to pause their conversation to make room for the narration. It even made me LOL at a couple points.

The acting was alright. Sorcha Cusack as Jane seemed to think that raising her eyebrows throughout the whole adaptation equaled acting. It was incredibly distracting. Couldn't the director have pointed this out to her? Michael Jayston was decent as Rochester, but looked like he was wearing eyeliner. St. John Rivers was nowhere near good-looking enough. But the actress for Blanche was very beautiful, which I was pleased about, for once.

This adaptation was definitely true to the book, so much so that when things were cut out or changed, it was almost shocking. I enjoyed it on the whole, even though it wasn't magical or anything.

Jane Eyre
(1943)

Very Gothic
My first impression- it was very Gothic. Quite dark and ominous with eerie music adding to the look and feel. This was quite a stark contrast to the 1934 version, that's for sure! It was much more faithful to the novel than 1934, but it still changed quite a bit as well.

I found Joan Fontaine to be slightly too subdued in her performance as Jane. I know Jane is suppose to be reserved, but I think it was taken too far- almost to her having no emotions at all. Orson Welles as Rochester's performance stressed Rochester's dark and troubled side- completely ignoring the character's sense of humor. Once again, stressing the Gothic elements.

Look out for a very young Elizabeth Taylor in an uncredited role as Helen Burns! This version was certainly more faithful than 1934 and much better made on the whole, yet I'm afraid I don't share the love a lot of people seem to have for it. It still changed a bit too much for me and was at times overly dark.

Jane Eyre
(1934)

Has curio value, but that's about it
So, I've finally seen it- the first talkie Jane Eyre, from 1934. It was…different, to say the least. First off, it's only an hour long, so a lot was cut and rushed. Jane's years at Lowood (an orphanage in this version) are condensed to her arrival and then the page from the book describing those years! (Yes, they just filmed the book page). There's no Helen Burns or illness outbreak. Aside from the main characters, those smaller parts that are kept are blink and you'll miss it. Other transitions are done with Jane writing in her diary.

Secondly, it's very watered down. It's not a screwball comedy like the 1940 Pride and Prejudice by any means, but it's definitely much lighter in tone than the book. The characters are happier and the darker stuff from the book is either cut or just watered down. I'm no movie buff, but I think I read somewhere that this was because it was the Great Depression and they didn't want to depress people more. Also, aside from Colin Clive, the majority of the cast is American and most of them don't do that great of a job hiding their accents.

Instead of a "Plain Jane," we got a Blonde Bombshell in the form of Virginia Bruce. I'll give them credit though- they made no secret of it. Unlike other adaptations to cast pretty actresses, they didn't even try to pretend she was plain. They openly acknowledged that she was pretty. It was kind of weird, but at least they were honest! Her Jane is very outspoken and not at all reserved. She never advertises so I don't know how she gets the job at Thornfield, but she says she has a small inheritance from her uncle. There's never anything with her uncle Eyre or the Rivers being her cousins. Colin Clive's Rochester is always quite cheery and polite with Jane. All the passion between them is gone. Nothing like the book character at all. I thought they were going to cut his blindness at the end completely! But, no, they didn't go that far. They didn't have him lose his eye or hand, but I think most of the adaptations have done that.

The adult actors were decent with what they were given, but let's be honest- this is a sugar-coated version of the story. I can't say it's a good adaptation (God, no!) or even a good movie, but it has value for hardcore Jane Eyre fans and/or collectors…like me!

Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows: Part 2
(2011)

Huge expectations not met
I can't even describe in words how much I was looking forward to this movie! Deathly Hallows is my favorite Harry Potter book, and Deathly Hallows: Part 1 is my favorite Harry Potter movie. All of the trailers and featurettes and early reviews made the movie sound absolutely amazing. I try usually not to let hype get my expectations up too much, but in this case I couldn't help it. I was fully expecting the series to go out with a bang

Let's start with my general, spoiler-free opinion. Were my high expectations met? Sadly…no. It was a big let-down, actually. It didn't feel like part of DH 1. It was more similar in tone to the Half-Blood Prince movie to me for some reason. It was too short and just felt chopped up. Like HBP, it seemed like a lot more was filmed, but then it was hacked in the editing room. And then I read that this was exactly the case…All of the actors, practically, from the previous films are back- for mostly blink-and-you'll-miss-it cameos. The battle was lackluster and anticlimactic. At points it felt rushed, at other points too slow. A lot of the dialogue was changed and didn't feel right. The relationships were handled awkwardly. This is just my purist side, but a lot was changed from the book. I didn't think it would be that way, after Part 1. It really let me down.

Was it a terrible movie? By no means. The acting was good, the special effects were great (though I wouldn't pay the extra money for the 3D), and some of the scenes did hit the mark. I know I bashed it pretty hard up there, but, really, the majority of my complaints are based only on the changes from the book. I'm judging it not really for the movie it was but for the movie it could have been, the movie I wanted it to be. The hype definitely ruined things for me. I feel like I would have liked it better if I hadn't read the books. But then again, my brother, who has only seen the movies, was also let down. He was disappointed by the lack of a bit epic battle scene that he was expecting there to be.

And now, to put in some spoilers:

My main complaint is that the film was too rushed. It was the shortest in the series, yet it didn't need to be. This was the ending, so I feel like they could and should have taken all the time possible to make it perfect. A lot of the key points and characters from the book are in there, but for a split second! Hardly anything made much of an emotional impact on me because it was just BANG, move on to another scene without any time to digest anything. The moments that moved me the most were The Prince's Tale and The Forest Again, because they were slower pace. Like a lot of Part 1, they gave the scenes time to breathe so I could actually digest what was happening.

I was so disappointed with the lack of the side characters. They were all brought back and there was all this build-up in the beginning leading the audience to believe that they would be featured in some epic battle scenes. But they weren't! We saw a couple cool shots of them getting ready for the battle and a couple seconds of them fighting, but that was it. Lupin and Tonks had one nice moment reaching their hands out to each other, but that was it before we see their dead bodies. We never learned about their son, so when Harry mentions it in The Forest Again, instead of being an emotional moment, it's just a head-scratcher. The same goes for Fred Weasley. The twins have a nice but waaay too brief scene on the roof and Fred's only line in the movie is "yeah." I was so mad we didn't get the wonderfully written, abrupt, and tragic death scene in the book- or at least have him featured in the movie a bit more! Lavender Brown is clearly brutally killed, but it's never mentioned again. Hagrid is mysteriously absent during the whole movie until he suddenly shows up as the Death Eaters' hostage in the forest. How did he get captured? What was he doing the whole time?

My next big complaint also has to do with battling- namely, the handling of the Molly/Bellatrix and Harry/Voldemort duels. Where were the audiences during these scenes? Molly vs. Bellatrix is over in a second with no one watching. The intensity of the book scene is totally absent because it's over in a split second and it wasn't treated as as big of a deal. Mrs. Weasley just smiles in satisfaction to herself afterward, which I felt was totally out of character. Harry and Voldemort's duel, on the other hand is terribly drawn out to be made more "cinematic." I didn't really care to see them falling over the side of the castle or the Dragonball Z-esque drawn-out shot of their spells colliding. And then Voldemort just disintegrates once Neville kills the snake? Okay, I get that all his horcruxes are gone, but he still actually has to be killed! I never saw the spell actually hit him. And once again, like Molly and Bellatrix, no one is watching. And afterward- where's the reaction from everyone? They're all just chilling in the Great Hall waaay too casually. No cheers and whoops or sobbing and laughter? It was too toned down.

Ah, my expectations were just way too high for this. The wonderful book and Part 1 just got my hopes up so much. Part 1 was so faithful and let the story breathe. This didn't have the same feel for me and of course I was let down.

Screen Two: Persuasion
(1995)
Episode 3, Season 11

Beautiful
The 1995 Persuasion movie is not only my favorite adaptation of that particular book, it's one of my top five Jane Austen adaptations. And one of my favorite period movies. And just one of my favorite movies! It's just that good. The cast is excellent. I love the look and feel of realism it has too, similar to the 2005 Pride and Prejudice and Bright Star movies- realistic lighting, no makeup, messy hair, etc.

Every adaptation has its flaws, and I guess I should just get them out of the way beforehand. This film contains one big historical error! The sailors often go about in their naval uniforms. While this looks really nice on screen, it is actually not accurate. As we know from Mansfield Park, these uniforms could only be seen while the officers were on duty. Probably most casual viewers wouldn't know this and it's cool to see them though. Another issue that doesn't really bother me in particular is the somewhat lacking exposition. I feel a little bit, that this movie was written with book fans in mind. If you weren't already familiar with the story, you might find it a bit confusing, especially in the beginning, what was going on between Anne and Wentworth. As I said, I had no problem following anything but since I had already read the book that doesn't really mean much.

The casting is admittedly not perfect. Many of the actors are a bit too old, but nothing jarring like in 1971. Their brilliant performances more than made up for this- with one big exception- Phoebe Nicholls as Elizabeth Elliot was way over the top.

Both the canceled and actual ending of the book were used. Some liked the addition, but I could take it or leave it, personally. Some of the other changes from the book may have worked as just a movie, but were lacking for me as an adaptation. Actually, I can say that about pretty much everything- there's nearly nothing in this movie that I don't like as just a movie.

Before I say again how much I love this movie (I ended up rewatching it 3 times!), I remembered another scene that bothered me. Anne is taken to Upper Cross in a farmer's cart instead of Lady Russell's carriage. Really? That was stretching it quite a bit. I know Sir Walter doesn't pay much attention to her, but he would never allow his daughter to be seen traveling in that way! And Lady Russell would never have allowed it! She couldn't spare her carriage to go 3 miles away?? All in all, admittedly, this movie is not perfect. But it's still a darn good movie and it's the closest to perfection any of the adaptations of Persuasion have gotten so far.

Persuasion
(1971)

Boring
I've seen this adaptation twice before now. The first time I just found it a dead bore. Other than Anne's ridiculous bee hive hairdo and green plaid dress, it didn't leave much of an impression. The second time I tried to pay closer attention and I did find a couple things to like. This time, my opinion remained pretty much unchanged, except I was able to notice some of the changes made from the novel. You'd think with such a long run-time, it would be extremely faithful. Is it? Well, yes and no. It does follow the novel pretty closely for the most part. Unfortunately, sometimes this can lead to really boring and dull scenes that are good on paper but don't translate that well to the screen. For example, the adaptation starts with Sir Walter reading aloud from The Baronetage as it introduces the characters he mentions. I found this a bit awkward. Who was he supposed to be reading to? Himself? And on the other hand, this version still managed to cut some things out- such as little Charles breaking his collar bone and the whole aftermath with Anne having to miss the party. I thought that was a somewhat important scene, so I was really confused when I noticed it was cut altogether.

This adaptation did not leave much of an impression on me. I thought it was a bit of a bore, despite liking other older adaptations. Some of the actors were good, others were bla. Some of the scenes were good, others went on too long.

Northanger Abbey
(2007)

Great cast but too sexed up
After 20 years with the horrible 1987 version as the only adaptation of Northanger Abbey, many fans were eagerly anticipating the new 2007 version. I was a little nervous about Andrew Davies writing the script, given his tendency to sex things up, but the cast looked really good. And then I saw it… Suffice it to say- I was totally right! Most of the cast was really good, especially JJ Feild as Henry Tilney…but it was really sexed up. Most of this was in the form of Catherine's dreams, but there was something else too. One scene in particular was just plain wrong! Why, Andrew Davies, why? He seemed to interpret the story to be Catherine's sexual awakening. Sorry, I didn't see any of that in the book- it was a comedy! This version has funny moments too, but it's really all the sexed up scenes that bothered me. Davies seemed to have missed the point, but at least not as badly as the 1987 creators did.

I wouldn't call this adaptation terrible, or anything. It just wasn't as great as it could have been. It was filmed in Dublin, because I guess they were too cheap to actually go to Bath (yet somehow the 1987 version could afford it? And even Persuasion that was filmed at the same time?) I did like that we got a nice little introduction that was close to what was in the book. There was even an epilogue- but it was so short, blink and you'll miss it! I think what annoys me so much about this movie is not how "bad" it was, but how bad it was compared to how good it could have been! With such a great cast, it could have been really excellent. Instead it was a disappointment.

Mansfield Park
(2007)

Underwhelming
Gah, what can I say about this adaptation. The good? Well…it was better than the Patricia Rozema version! And…a couple of the actors were well-cast. And…that's about it. Yup, it was a dud. Patricia Rozema made a terrible movie, but you could tell she cared about the movie she made. This one…it was as if their hearts weren't in it. The script was dull and the budget was almost nonexistent. Everything took place in the same couple of rooms or on the lawn at Mansfield Park. That means no Portsmouth and no Prices, other than Fanny and William, and no trip to Sotherton. And the casting and characterizations…most were decent (with a couple bizarre exceptions) but nothing amazing.

The bizarre casting choice for me was definitely Billie Piper. This is a horrible thing for me to say, but I thought she looked more like a prostitute than Fanny Price, with the cleavage, the bleach blond hair (but still black eyebrows!), and the buck tooth veneers. The screenwriter really didn't seem to know what to do with her character either. She had moments where she was quiet and shy and observant and others where she was running around laughing like Patricia Rozema's Fanny. They wanted to stay truer to the book character, I guess, but were still afraid to keep Fanny really as she was. Really, the only compliment I can give is that she and the actress who played young Fanny really looked alike.

I guess if you're really turned off by the old-school production values in the 1983 version or you can't find a copy, it would be better to watch this version than the 1999 one. That version was so horrible though that anything looks better in comparison. I hope one day we get a new full miniseries version that features the "real" Fanny Price as she is in the book.

Emma
(1972)

Boring and unmemorable
It wasn't terrible, it really wasn't. Yes, it's got the usual sub-par production values and theater-like acting custom from the period dramas of the time, but I've thoroughly enjoyed other adaptations made in the same way. Despite its length, it made a few changes to the story (such as making the Dixons a couple who wanted to hire Jane…?) that puzzled me. And it felt slightly boring and draggy at times as well. But I think the main reason I couldn't connect with it was the actors. Or really, one main actress- Emma herself.

She was my main problem with the series. I just couldn't connect with her at all. She came off as much older and more mature than the Emma of the book. I was shocked to read she was only 22 at the time, because I would have guessed her to be at least 30. I think it was the way she spoke- a very clipped, fakey aristocratic accent. At least I hope it was faked and that she didn't really talk like that in real life! I never saw any real emotion from her- it was all so artificial.

This is really one adaptation that I found so boring a lot of the time that I couldn't even find enough to say about it. I can't really recommend it except to complete a Jane Austen collection.

Emma
(1996)

Chocolate Box
This is definitely the chocolate-box version of Emma. It focuses on all the comedic, light-hearted elements of the story over everything else. Quite a bit had to be cut for time, and the Frank Churchill/Jane Fairfax story suffered the most, I think. Still, most of the cast was good (with some exceptions!) and it's a fun romantic comedy…even if it's not the best adaptation.

I especially love Gwyneth Paltrow's Emma. Jeremy Northam is perhaps a bit too suave but still good as Mr. Knightley. The Eltons and Miss Bates were also great. Unfortunately Toni Collette was awful as Harriet Smith, as were Ewan McGregor as Frank Churchill (hideous wig) and Polly Walker as Jane Fairfax (too robust).

This was a fun movie, but not quite Jane Austen's Emma. The Mr. Elton story was given a lot more focus over the Frank Churchill one. I think if I could change just one thing, I'd play up the Frank/Jane story more. Oh, and get rid of the ugly wig as well.

Emma
(1996)

Too Dark
This version of Emma weirdly came out in the same year as the Gwyneth Paltrow film. But other than being based on the same book, the two adaptations really have nothing in common. While the film version was all comedy and lightness, this TV version is really quite dark. I mean that both literally and figuratively. Maybe it's because of the poor video quality, but the picture is usually quite dark. This makes sense, I suppose, to have realistic candle light at night-time scenes. But the scenes in the day-time aren't that bright either.

Andrew Davies, the screenwriter, chose to do something very different with this Emma. He focuses a lot on the class system, which was always there in the context of the book, but I thought it was a bit heavy-handed in this adaptation. All the underclass workers-servants, farmers, etc.- are clearly present in every scene, making the way of life for the privileged possible. They're even moving pillows for them to kneel on in the strawberry picking scene. Emma makes sure to tell Harriet that Mr. Knightley owns EVERYTHING in Donwell, and all the other people who live there are merely his tenants or servants. Robert Martin seems very resentful of Emma, like he knows she advised Harriet to refuse him. He glares at her when she drops Harriet off at the farm. It's a big deal at the end when Emma shakes hands with him. This class system was in the background in the book and I'm not fond of Davies' idea to play it up (but I did think Emma and Robert Martin shaking hands was a nice touch). It's just not what I want to see when I watch a Jane Austen adaptation.

This is far from my favorite Emma adaptation. Aside from all the darkness, I wasn't fond of most of the cast. It was also very short and while I know things need to be condensed, it felt very rushed and the Crown Ball scene was poorly done, IMO. Harriet is dancing in the beginning, then Elton snubs her, then Mr. Knightley dances with her for less than a minute before walking away! Blink and you'll miss it. The ending scene was also rather weak- a harvest ball with Mr. Knightley making a speech to all his tenants (stressing again how many people depend on him) that he will still keep everything running smoothly even after he moves to Hartfield. Well, at least I can say that at least Andrew Davies didn't add any sexed up scenes.

I was not a fan of Kate Beckinsale and Mark Strong as the leading characters. Beckinsale's Emma was too cold and Strong's Knightley was way too harsh. The one saving grace of the cast was the beautiful Olivia Williams as Jane Fairfax. She was sublime and elegant despite being dressed plainly.

I do like this one better than the 1972 miniseries, but really, that's not saying much. It does have its fans though, and I can understand their point of view, even if I don't share it. If you hate the Gwyneth Paltrow version, in particular, you'll probably love this one.

Emma
(2009)

Best Emma Adaptation
I wasn't all that impressed the first time I watched it. I thought the little prologue was cheesy (and they fudged with the timeline), Emma was too over-the-top, Jane Fairfax was too mousey, and that it just wasn't all that special. But when I got to the third episode, everything changed-I started to love it! And when I got the DVD and rewatched it all, I appreciated the first two episodes more as well.

Being four hours long, this version has enough time to flesh out all the characters and story lines. Both the 1996 versions, being so short, had to obviously cut some stuff out. Either the Frank/Jane or the Harriet/Mr. Elton stuff got the shaft. This one does justice to both, plus more! We get to see a lot more of Robert Martin as well, and we even get to see him go ask Mr. Knightley's advice as to whether to propose to Harriet. It follows pretty closely to the book, but it does make some changes and a lot of the dialogue is different.

The parallels between Frank Churchill, Jane Fairfax, and Emma are stressed more than in any adaptation or the book. Mr. Knightley narrates the introduction with the three as children- when they all lose parent(s) and their lives are changed forever. I found this narration a bit weird the first time I saw it but now I think it was a clever introduction, really. The only reason it bothered me was because it was different from the book, really! Most of the cast is very good- some of my favorites of all the adaptations. The interplay between the various characters was excellent (in most cases). The Crown Ball scene was particularly well-done. The dances (all originals to this production) were really lively and fun. Emma and Knightley's dance just oozed chemistry. I think I played back this scene three times on my latest rewatch. I could almost go so far as to say the miniseries is worth watching for this scene alone! I also think they got the Box Hill scene right (with the exception of Frank lounging on Emma's lap!). Emma was clearly laughing and joking around and didn't realize how hurtful her comment to Miss Bates was until it was too late.

This was a very well-done series, but not without its flaws. One part I still am not fond of is the end. I thought the editing of the scenes after Emma and Knightley confess their love was a bit choppy. I thought the individual scenes were well-done, but there were really no transitions between them and I had no sense of how much time had passed or anything. Like I said, just too choppy.

Still, all the negatives are pretty minor. I feel that this a must-see for any Jane Austen or period drama fans.

Clueless
(1995)

Funny but not a masterpiece
Clueless (1995) stars Alicia Silverstone as Cher Horowitz. Like Emma, she is rich and lives with her single father (IIRC, her mother died during plastic surgery, but I may be wrong). Here she is only 15 and already has her own car (before she even has a license!) and spends most of her time with her best friend, Dionne (no book equivalent). The Mr. Knightley character is played by her ex step-brother, Josh, played by Paul Rudd. The movie loosely follows a lot of Emma's plot lines. Cher hooks up two of her teachers and from there gets it into her head to be a matchmaker. She decides to give this version's Harriet Smith, new girl Tai (Brittany Murphy), a makeover and to hook her up with Elton. She convinces Tai that her crush, stoner Travis, is no good. Things backfire for her when her matchmaking plans not only fail but Tai eclipses her as the most popular girl. She goes after Christian (Frank Churchill), and although he's not a cad like Frank in the book, he has other reasons for not going for Cher.

Some people think Clueless is the best adaptation of Emma, but I'd have to disagree. I did quite enjoy it and even used to watch the TV spin off…I was in grade school, okay! I blame this movie for popularizing Valley Girl speak throughout the country, but that's another story. I really liked the characters of Cher and Josh and their sibling-esque rivalry that blossomed into love and a lot of the parallels with the book were funny, but this isn't one of my favorite movies or even adaptations. I found many of the characters just annoying and not charming at all. I also think this movie treated some inappropriate behaviors too lightly. Maybe I'm just too traditional, but all of the references to sex and pot smoking (Cher disapproves of Travis constantly being stoned but feels no qualms about occasionally smoking a joint at a party) made me a bit uncomfortable. Cher also seemed to think she was the last virgin left at her high school, and tried miserably to seduce Christian. Tai, despite being a "loser", oddly has had plenty of sexual experience. The characters were only 15 years old, for Christ's sake! I suppose stuff like this is more realistic (or even not realistic enough!) but part of the reason I watch period films is to escape from reality. I suppose that's why this updated version bothered me a bit.

Aisha
(2010)

Style over Substance
Aisha, which just came out last summer, is Bollywood's version of a modern Emma. Set in the high society of Delhi, it follows Aisha in her misguided matchmaking attempts. Like Emma and Cher, Aisha is a spoiled rich girl who means well but is really clueless. This one follows the book a little more closely than Clueless did and includes more characters, like the John Knightleys and Jane Fairfax (Aarti). Here, the Miss Taylor character is Aisha's aunt. This version's Knightley (Arjun) is still her childhood friend and brother-in-law's brother, but younger this time. Emma dislikes Aarti, his colleague from America, but she doesn't realize it's because she's jealous. Dhruv (Frank Churchill) is her new uncle's son and they flirt for a little bit but she's just not that into him so he goes for Aarti instead. There is an Elton character, but he's not a pompous jerk at all, just a bit dorky.

I thought this version borrowed too many elements from Clueless rather than Emma. Maybe that's inevitable in a modern setting, but I'm not sure. Aisha has a best friend, Pinky, who's only equivalent is Dionne. She disapproves of Pinky's love interest (I won't give away who it is!), like Cher did to Dionne. Like Cher, Aisha loves to shop till she drops. The Harriet Smith character, Shefali, comes from out of town and Aisha gives her a makeover….sounds pretty familiar! Emma never gave Harriet any sort of makeover. She liked Harriet because she was very pretty and sweet already. I dunno, maybe I'm reading too much into it.

For anyone hesitant about seeing this film because they don't like Bollywood, I just want to say- don't let that stop you. This movie is very, very Westernized. At least half the dialogue is in English, possibly a bit more. There are some "musical" scenes but the music is Western-style, not the typical Bollywood singing. The characters don't break into song either- rather the music highlights what's going on on screen. These characters behave very much like rich Westerners would (I've read criticisms that it was trying too hard to be American, even) and there are even a couple kissing scenes.

I thought this was a good movie, but not great. The production values were obviously very high- everything looked great. Unfortunately, I think that was part of the problem- they focused too much on style over substance. The script needed a bit of work. The whole Jane/Frank story was handled very poorly in particular. Still, it was a fun movie, even though, like Clueless, it's not going to go down as one of my favorites.

Mansfield Park
(1983)

Still the best Mansfield Park Adaptation
Like the other TV adaptations before the 1990s, this miniseries has rather stagy production values. However, if you're used to such a thing, you should highly enjoy it as I did. It is the only adaptation of Mansfield Park to actually stay true to the book and its characters, so if that's what you like and you were disappointed by either the 1999 or 2007 versions, you should check this one out.

Most of the acting was perfectly adequate (with one big exception)- Sylvestra Le Touzel as Fanny Price. Yes, she was written true to the book character of Fanny Price- timid but highly moral inside and all that. There was just one big problem- she just couldn't act! The way she recited her lines sometimes made me cringe.

Bride & Prejudice
(2004)

All fun
The movie follows P&P pretty closely but obviously changes things to modernize it. The "Bennet" family dynamics are much the same. A friend is getting married and at her engagement party, the family meets the friends of the groom- the Bingleys (Indians from the UK) and their American friend Darcy. There is no Kitty, Mr. and Mrs. Hurst, or Colonel Fitzwilliam character. The scene of "Lady Catherine" trying to tell Lizzy not to get engaged to Darcy did not make the final cut but was included on the DVD as a deleted scene. The DVD itself is great. Along with the deleted scenes, there is a "Making of", commentary, and full musical numbers. And possibly something else that I don't remember… The movie is all fun. It's got great funny musical sequences, bright colors, and good-looking actors and actresses. Some of the acting is really good. Only one characterization really bothered me- Lalita, this version's Lizzy.

She was biggest problem with the movie! Her character was just plain NASTY to Darcy. I don't know what he saw in her, besides her good looks. He was a little uncomfortable in the beginning but was trying his best and she just snapped at everything he said. I read on IMDb that Rai did not read the book so as not to be influenced by Elizabeth. Bad move, for sure. And the writing and directing was off for her too. Elizabeth Bennet is not a witch! Why did they make Lalita one? Other than Lalita, this is a really fun film. If you're hesitant about watching Bollywood or other Indian films this is a good compromise.

Sense and Sensibility
(1981)

Good elements but not great
I was not very fond of it originally but I found I actually liked it a lot more seeing it again so soon after the 1971 version. The two share the same screenwriter, who seems to have lifted a lot from the 1971 to use again in this version. Many scenes are virtually identical, or very close. Margaret was cut yet again but other than that it followed the book more closely than 1971. It lacked all the wacky 70s costumes and hairstyles that made the earlier one so crazy and seemed much more understated to me. Part of this also has to do with the acting, much of which was more low-key. Some of the casting was better, some was worse…It's up to you to decide which you prefer!

Sense & Sensibility
(2008)

My favorite version of S&S
Although S&S 2008 is now my favorite version of Sense and Sensibility, my thoughts were very different upon my first viewing! I saw it as it was airing in the UK on a poor quality streaming video, only able to watch bits at a time between classes. I just couldn't wait for it to air here in the US. I was so disappointed and thought it was too dark and copied too much from the 1995 version, which I liked but was not entirely satisfied with (read my review to see why). It wasn't until I got the DVD this past Christmas that I noticed everything that made me like it. It was dark, yes, but it was only the bad quality of the stream that made it hard to see! I watched a behind-the-scenes video that they hadn't intended to make everything "dark and stormy" but there was bad weather all the time during filming and they decided to go with that look! As for the copying from the 1995 version, yes, there were some parts from it, not in the book, that Andrew Davies also included in this, and while I could definitely do without them, they don't stop me from enjoying the show! On my rewatch I noticed so many other things that made me love it! The main thing that I love about this movie is its wonderful (with a couple exceptions), more age-appropriate cast. This version really excelled in its portrayal of the relationship between Elinor and Marianne, which is really the main focus of the book. In all the previous versions, one of the sisters always left me cold. This is the only one in which I like BOTH actresses! It wasn't perfect. I wasn't a fan of the elements lifted from the 1995 version and all Andrew Davies' usual sexed up scenes, but I still love this version.

Pride and Prejudice
(1940)

Unfaithful but funny
I've read a lot about how bad and wrong it was- using costumes from Gone with the Wind to save money, Elizabeth way too old, screwball comedy, etc. Are all these claims true? Well, yes and no. It is NOT true that the production reused Gone with the Wind costumes. It was a conscious choice to set the film in the 1830s because they wanted fancier costumes than the simpler Empire styles of the Regency, not because they couldn't afford it. Unfortunately, that is one of my least favorite periods in fashion history- huge poofy sleeves, hoop skirts, and BIG bonnets. Yuck. But yes, Greer Garson at 36 was too old for Elizabeth (no matter how well she played the part), and yes it is very much a screwball comedy. There's even a hilarious carriage race between Mrs. Bennet and Lady Lucas towards the beginning! The movie does keep a decent amount of dialogue from the book, but changes a lot too. It focuses a lot on the rivalry between Mrs. Bennet and Lady Lucas (see carriage race above). The birth order of the Bennet girls is changed to Elizabeth, Jane, Lydia, and then the other two. Mary is not that bad of a singer, just has trouble hitting a certain high note. Mr. Collins is Lady Catherine's librarian (not wanting to offend the clergy?), scenes are moved and changed around (the Netherfield Ball is changed to a garden party, the Bennets are actually going to move because of the shame of Lydia's elopement, there is no visit to Pemberley (Georgiana is only mentioned, not seen) etc. But the most perplexing change of all is the total 180 in Lady Catherine's character- it's mind boggling! If you're looking for a faithful adaptation, stay away from this movie. If you're open to seeing a hilarious comedy with some resemblance to P&P, watch and enjoy.

Pride and Prejudice
(1980)

Very faithful version
This is not my favorite P&P (I have perhaps an irrational love for 2005) but it has a lot going for it. It does change a few things from the book (all adaptations do) but I feel it remained true to the spirit throughout. It's much more under-stated and "low-key" than the other adaptations- no real sexed up scenes or over the top caricatures. It's biggest strength, IMO, is its cast, who are almost all close to the book characters' ages and descriptions. The biggest negative is the low production values of the time, which is just something one has to get used to.

This version, even though it changes some things around and adds and cuts a few scenes, keeps others that no other adaptation has (unless it's one of those older ones that are not available to the public!). I especially like the scene after the second proposal where Darcy and Elizabeth discuss their attraction to each other and when it began. That's one of my favorite scenes in the book and it always disappoints me that the others don't include it! As with all the older adaptations, if dated, stagy production values turn you off, you probably won't like this version. But if you can look past that, I think you will really like it like I do!

Pride and Prejudice
(1995)

Overrated
This was the first adaptation I saw (almost) in full. I missed some of the first episode. I can't remember exactly what point it was when I first turned it on, but I believe it was the Meryton Assembly. I was so excited to see it because I read the book for the first time shortly before this and only saw the "WTF" ending of the 1940 version. I remember seeing a gorgeous brunette and a not so pretty blonde and thought immediately that the former must be Jane, because of her beauty. I wondered if the blonde was Elizabeth or if she was someone else. Then I heard them talking and realized that the beauty was Elizabeth and the "ugly" one was Jane! It took a while to get over that initial shock but I managed to enjoy the series all the same. There were (and still are) some parts that still irk me but there's nothing I can do about it, really. I've seen the series quite a few times since I purchased the DVD box set 4 years ago. That box set was horrible, by the way. I recently got the new remastered version and it is much better. The colors are so vivid and I can finally see all the beauty of the costumes and the scenery that I didn't before due to the grayed, washed out older DVDs.

This is probably one of the, if not THE most famous and popular Jane Austen adaptation ever. Many fans call it definitive. I shudder at any adaptation ever being called definitive, but even if I didn't I would not think this one was! I do appreciate its length and being able to see more of the story than in any of the others (it is longer than the 1980 version as well). It includes more characters and scenes. It is beautiful to look at (as long as you don't have the bad DVD set!), being shot on film and with higher production values than older adaptations had. I like how it followed "show, don't tell" throughout even though the timing of some of those "showings" bothered me (I'll get into it). It was really funny. It had good acting by some of the cast. And Lizzy has some really beautiful gowns (not so some of the other women).

But then there are things that I don't like about it so much. Some of the cast is too old. Many characters are exaggerated even more than in the book and are made into caricatures. For some of them I didn't mind (Mr. Hurst), for others I did mind a lot! (Mrs. Bennet) I also found Jennifer Ehle's Elizabeth to be too mature, matronly, and smug throughout the whole adaptation. She doesn't grow and change like the Elizabeth of the book. Andrew Davies, the screenwriter, included a lot of extra Darcy scenes that are not in the book. It was sexed up (mostly, but not only, Darcy), etc. And I don't like that Andrew Davies gives away the book's surprises before the characters learn of them! We hear Darcy narrating his letter to Elizabeth and see flashbacks of its contents before she reads the letter. We see Darcy at Pemberley before Elizabeth does (in the infamous pond scene). And we see him looking for Wickham and Lydia in London and then present at their wedding, before Elizabeth learns of it! Maybe they thought it wasn't important since they figured viewers had already read the book? Most people likely had not (and still haven't) so it irritates me. Could they not have showed those scenes after the fact, as flashbacks? That would have made more sense to me. Does this mean I hate the adaptation? NO! I really don't. I do not mean to bash it and I hope it doesn't sound that way. On my latest viewing, I actually found more to like about it than I did before!

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