Series, Movies, and Book Reviews
There are numerous adaptations to Jane Austen's novels, all of varying merits; some of which, admittedly, could perhaps be referred to more accurately as 'extensions', while with others you can't help but think that Jane would approve. Which are the ones that you just can't miss seeing? What should you avoid? Thanks to some contributors, here's a guide to people's reactions. Do you agree with their opinions? No? Email me with what you think of various media, and it'll find a place on this page. (Back)
EMMA (1996) (Buy it!)
Rosemary L. Gainer (Glenville, USA): Can't stop smiling since the first time I saw this. I went last August to a theatre packed with obvious Jane Austen fans. Before "Miss Bates" opened her mouth to utter a word the audience would start laughing in anticipation of what she would say. Such a joy to here laughter that's usually just reserved for a Jim Carrey movie! Bravo to the entire cast--especially the delightful Gwyneth Paltrow.
Stars: * * * *
Michelle Dennis (Melbourne, Australia): For those who have not been fortunate enough to see the movie 'Emma' I'd suggest running as hard as you can to the nearest video store. The movie is a fantastic adaptation of one of Jane Austen's great classics. Not a character was ill-cast, or that I couldn't relate to -- and I entered the theater initially ready to criticize.
Stars: * * * *
EMMA (The TV version)
Miss Smith: This excessively tedious film should serve as an example of the disastrous results which occur when someone attempts to make a humorless adaptation of a Jane Austen film. Mr. Knightley, if one can even place him thus, is the biggest disappointment. Strong plays him too severe and angry; a ridiculous performance, especially in the light of Jeremy Northam's portrayal. Frank Churchill as a villain is preposterous; he more resembles Wickam here than he does Austen's "Emma" character. I never thought I could dislike Harriet Smith, but here she is so dense, hapless, and otherwise pathetic, that it becomes possible. Finally, Beckingsale herself is miscast and stiff as the title character. The ideal version of Emma has yet to be produced, and I am convinced that 2 hours is insufficient for the task. Paltrow and Northam, however, are the ideal main roles. Similarly to Pride and Prejudice, which was marvelously done by A&E, a longer time is needed. As for the A&E version, it is an excellent cure for insomnia.
PERSUASION (1995) (Buy it!)
Rosemary L. Gainer (Glenville, USA): A tender, gentle, lovely story. It was the first film I saw after Pride & Prejudice '95. Compared to that other film, Persuasion seemed so much bleaker and (dare I say?) too realistic for my taste. But then I read the novel. It was so well written. It won me over. Now I have a greater appreciation for the film.
Stars: * * *
PRIDE & PREJUDICE (1995) (Buy it!)
Rosemary L. Gainer (Glenville, USA): Nothing less than one of the most satisfying viewing experiences I have ever had. It is so dramatic, humorous, romantic, and down to earth. All of this and virtuous too (none of the usual bodice ripping fare that is common for most mini-series)! Even the less favorite characters/portrayals (such as Alison Steadman as Mrs. Bennet) have grown on me to such a point as I could not imagine this show minus anyone.
Stars: * * * * (Four stars and beyond!)
Michelle Dennis (Melbourne, Australia): This is probably the best adaptations to screen of one of Jane Austen's works -- and certainly the best that I've seen. It adapts the series to television in such a way that the general atmosphere of the book remains whole. This series is so enjoyable to watch that one can't help but feel that they must have had as much fun making it. All of the characters interact well; especially Mrs Bennet, Bingley's sisters, and -- of course -- Lizzie and Darcy. In fact, Mrs Bennet is portrayed so well that I had to restrain myself from throwing couch pillows at the screen every time she moaned about 'her poor nerves'. Even those who are normally not inclined to watch classics will enjoy the Pride and Predjudice BBC Series; and many a teenager (myself included) will finish with a sigh for Colin Firth.
Stars: * * * * * (Five stars out of four)
PRIDE & PREJUDICE (1940) (Buy it!)
Rosemary L. Gainer (Glenville, USA): Admittedly this production takes much liberties with Jane Austen's story. However I saw this quite a few years ago before I even knew whom Jane Austen was. And I liked this film enough to checkout the '95 mini-series to compare the two. Considering that this became the springboard for my interest in the world of Jane Austen, I am forever grateful to it.
Stars: As far as adapting the original novel, this production gets between 1 & 2 stars * *. However aside from that, if it is judged on its own merit, I give it:
* * * *
SENSE & SENSIBLILITY (1995) (Buy it!)
Rosemary L. Gainer (Glenville, USA): An achingly beautiful story is enhanced by achingly beautiful cinematography and performances. After Colin Firth's Darcy and Jennifer Ehle's Lizzy in P & P '95, I would have to say Alan Rickman's Col. Brandon in Sense & Sensibility is my next favorite performance out of all the recent Jane Austen film adaptations.
Stars: * * * *
Michelle Dennis (Melbourne, Australia): I was disappointed by this film, initially; I saw this film before I had even read the book. While I found that the characters were played well -- with the possible exception of Hugh Grant -- and the scenery fantastic, it didn't strike any sparks with me. The book, however, is a different matter...
Stars: * * *