For the past four weeks, I have been reacquainting myself with my old friend Jane Austen. One month ago, BBC One unveiled its latest Austen drama, a sweeping, four-part weekly miniseries starring Romola Garai, Jonny Lee Miller, and the always impeccable Sir Michael Gambon as Mr. Woodhouse. Ever since BBC One
issued a press release about the series in January, I have been looking forward to watching the new adaptation.
As with other Austen adaptations, I approached the series with a set mental picture—-this time an opinion heavily influenced by Jeremy Northam and Gwyneth Paltrow’s 1996 Hollywood film version. After about ten minutes of Sandy Welch’s new work, I felt my previous mental visions of Emma slipping away. Perplexed, as this was far different from Paltrow or even Kate Beckinsale in BBC’s last adaptation, but determined to stick it out, I kept watching. Four weeks later, I am so glad I did.
Sandy Welch, one of Britain’s best period drama screenwriters, has written a fresh new version of the charming Austen story. Instead of recrafting decades old impressions of Emma, she started from scratch and wrote a light-hearted script about an average, albeit wealthy twenty-one year-old woman learning about life and love.
Romola Garai is brilliant as an immature, but still sensitive Emma, while Jonny Lee Miller shines as Emma’s biggest critic and the man unconsciously holding the key to her heart. Garai’s Emma is far less haughty and imposing than Paltrow’s, which is refreshing as I often found it hard to believe that Gwyneth’s Emma was befitting a girl who was supposedly barely out of her teens. While Miller is far from being as dashingly handsome as Jeremy Northam, his sensitivity to Emma and his quietly faithful love quickly grew on me.
As for the rest of the main characters, BBC has assembled an ensemble cast. Jodhi May, who also appeared with Garai in
Daniel Deronda is stellar as Mrs. Weston.
Louise Dylan turns in a fantastic performance as the charmingly silly Harriet Smith. Toni Collette was far too mature in the 1996 adaptation, but Dylan manages to show how muddle brained Harriet must have been to seek advice on her love life from Emma.
Snooty Mrs. Elton is perfectly brought to life by Christina Cole, while her despicable (hate to speak ill of a minister, but there it is) husband is played by Blake Ritson. The two characters that are quite uniquely portrayed in Welch’s adaptation are Jane Fairfax (Laura Pyper) and Frank Churchill (Rupert Evans). While Jane is far nicer than the haughty girl (played by Polly Walker) we met in Douglas McGrath’s script, Rubert Evans brings to life a performance which makes Ewan McGregor look like a nice guy, compared to the trouble-making, selfishly moody fellow who romanced one woman while secretly in love with another. Tamsin Greig brings to the miniseries a whole new perspective in Miss Bates, one that I felt was far better and more emotionally moving that the one of chatty Sophie Thompson.
The miniseries does have a few faults—-it took me a little time to get used to Romola Garai’s portrayal, as I confess that I was comparing her to Gwyneth Paltrow. I was surprised that I didn’t immediately warm to Garai, especially after I thought she would be perfectly cast after her seeing her in other period dramas. Maybe it was the perpetual hand waving in the opening part, or the many wide-eyed and animated facial expressions. Nevertheless, by the third episode, I was hooked and quite forgetful of my dislikes in the previous two parts.
The first two parts, particularly the beginning, are the weakest, but once the halfway threshold is crossed, the series brilliantly shines as the relationship between Emma and Mr. Knightley begins to warm.
I loved the chemistry between the two as Knightley progresses from being a caring, always around neighbor and friend to a suitor in pursuit of Emma’s flighty, yet ever-maturing little heart. Their dancing scene at the ball is beautifully choreographed and will give you goose bumps as they dance together. Emma’s perplexity (and speechlessness) once Harriet declares her feelings for her third gentleman friend in one year is priceless, and several times I laughed aloud at the script’s witty one-liners.
Ordinarily, halfway through a film I start wondering about the ending, and I have spent the last week anxiously waiting to see whether Welch’s strong screenwriting would continue into the final episode, or would too much time be spent on the Box Hill trip, rushing the dawning of Emma’s heart awakening.
I had no cause to worry.
While I have no intention of giving away the ending, I will say one thing, it is the perfect finale after four fantastic hours spent in Highbury.
The new BBC adaptation of Emma will premiere in the United States from January 24-February 7, 2010 on PBS’s MASTERPIECE.
I love chick flicks. Spending an evening on the couch with my mom and sister, or my close friends for a night of Jane Austen or a romantic comedy is one of my favorite ways to unwind and relax.
Emma is one of my favorites. I’ve watched both the recent adaptations, but the Jeremy Northam and Gwyneth Paltrow remains the best.
At least for the moment.
BBC Drama announced today that it will revisit Jane Austen’s classic comedy tale this autumn in a four-hour miniseries. The period drama will be scripted by Sandy Welch, the talented screenwriter who also adapted
North and South for the British network.
From the official press release:
Jane Austen’s masterpiece Emma is to be adapted by award-winning writer Sandy Welch (Our Mutual Friend, Jane Eyre, North And South) into a fresh, humorous and perceptive 4 x 60-minute serial for BBC Drama Production, for transmission on BBC One in autumn 2009.
Austen’s classic comic novel follows the story of the “handsome, clever and rich” Emma Woodhouse.
Dominating the small provincial world of Highbury, Emma believes she is a skilled matchmaker and repeatedly attempts to pair up her friends and acquaintances.
Brought up sharply against the folly of her own immaturity, the consequent crisis and her bitter regrets are brought to a happy resolution in a sharp and sparkling comedy of self-deceit and self-discovery.
BAFTA-winning Welch will unfold Austen’s witty and compassionate story over four hour-long episodes, providing a rich insight into one of the author’s most complex characters.
Emma was first published in 1815. Set in Regency England it was the last Jane Austen novel to be published before the author’s death in 1817, and is one of her most popular and best-loved books.
The 4 x 60-minute serial is produced by BBC Drama Production and will be filmed late spring/early summer 2009. Full casting will be announced at a later date.
Austen’s Emma was last adapted for television in the 1996 ITV single drama, starring Kate Beckinsale and Mark Strong. Gwyneth Paltrow starred as Emma in an Oscar-nominated film version by Miramax in the same year.
The Kate Beckinsale version was more faithful to the book, and likely more of what Jane Austen originally intended. Still, the Paltrow/Jeremy Northam version was undoubtedly the more charming, romantic and comedic of the duo.
One only hopes that BBC can take the best of both worlds and transform Jane Austen’s beloved tale into a classic miniseries for all time.
Movie nights are wonderful for families, but not if you are unprepared for the content in your film of choice.
Do you know why that action flick is rated PG-13? Chick flicks are generally classified as feel-good films, but will you still feel good about your decision to spend two hours watching the film once the credits start rolling?
I understand how challenging it is to find good entertainment in today’s society—and I don’t even have kids to worry about. Our entertainment choices are a stark reflection of our morality. If you can judge a person by the books he reads, how much more can you tell his character by the films he watches in his spare time?
There are many review websites on the internet, but these five are the ones I frequently visit before heading to the movies or Blockbuster.
A ministry of Focus on the Family,
Plugged In reviews movies, videos/dvds, television shows, and video games. Reviews are based upon seven areas of criteria: positive elements, spiritual content, sexual content, violent content, crude or profane language, drug and alcohol content, and other negative elements. Charity’s Place
As a lover of period drama and British films, it is often difficult to find reviews on these movies. Enter
Charity’s Place. I’ve been visiting Charity’s Place for at least eight years, and it remains my favorite destination for costume drama and television reviews. Poke around in the extensive archives long enough and you will even find the review I wrote for The Inheritance. Screen It
Screen It’s free website desperately needs a redesign—advertising banners are still promoting The Polar Express—but don’t let that fool you. These people know their movies, as evident by the thousands of films they have reviewed.
Content is reviewed in fifteen different areas: alcohol/drugs, blood/gore, disrespectful/bad attitude, frightening/tense scenes, guns/weapons, imitative behavior, jump scenes, music (scary/tense), music (inappropriate), profanity, sex/nudity, smoking, tense family scenes, topics to talk about, and violence.
If you want a detailed review, this is one of your best options. However, Screen It does list (in detail) the negative aspects of a film, so depending on the movie, this website is not appropriate for children.
Kids-In-Mind does not assign an inscrutable rating based on age like the MPAA (Motion Picture Association of America), but instead uses three objective ratings for sex/nudity, violence/gore, and profanity on a scale of 0 to 10.
Hard to find films, such as independent and film festival movies, are often reviewed by Kids-In-Mind as well.
Christian Spotlight on Entertainment
One of the neat things about
Christian Spotlight on Entertainment is that the website encourages feedback from viewers who have seen the movie. This way, if you do or do not agree with the rating assigned to a film by the MPAA or even the Christian Spotlight staff, you can leave your opinion for the benefit of other would-be movie watchers.
One of my favorite childhood television series was Road to Avonlea on Disney Channel.
Now thanks to the DVD release of the series, I’ve been able to enjoy the episodes for the second time. Although the series strays far away from Lucy Maud Montgomery’s Chronicles of Avonlea and The Story Girl—the initial inspiration for RTA—I have come to appreciate the wittiness and genius of its screenwriters.
Favorite Road to Avonlea Quotes
“When your heart skips a beat, it isn’t love, its indigestion.”
“The devil’s in most people. Not me, mind you, but most.”
“Mother, you’re much too indulgent with that boy. The Family Guide says that bad behavior must be nipped in the bud. Nipped in the bud!”
“She was a lovely baby. It’s strange what happens to children when they grow up.”
(Great Aunt Eliza)
“The only thing sillier than a girl making goo goo eyes at a young boy is some old bat making a fool out of herself for some old geezer.”
“Thank you, Gus. Beneath your vagabond clothing beats a heart of a gentleman.”
“Honestly, Felicity. Sometimes I think you were buttoning up your boots when the Lord handed out brains!”
Rachel Lynde: “Thomas and I always made it a point to settle our differences before going to bed at night.”
Hetty King: “Poor man must have died from lack of sleep.”
“I can see dull-wittedness runs in your family.”
(Great Aunt Eliza)
“She may be a whole lot prettier than you, Felicity, but that means nothing to me.”
“Watch it don’t rain with your nose in the air like that. You might drown.”
“Captain Ezekiel Crane? Find a Treasure? That man couldn’t find the sky lying face upwards in a raft in the middle of the Atlantic Ocean!”
“You have a secret admirer? Someone with addled wits and poor eyesight.”
“This ugly little pinafore has a very big hem. It will last you for years. You can wear it to college, you can get married in it and then you can get buried in it.”
“I have no tact. I am known for that.”
“”Just look at yourselves clucking around like a bunch of hens in a tight coop!”
“Ya carry someone else’s burden for ’em . . . Don’t ever expect them to get strong enough to carry on without ya.”
“Have you taken leave of your senses?”
“I’m sorry for anything wrong I might have done. Did I do anything wrong, Sara?”
“You’ll never marry either, Sara, if you can’t sew a straight line. No man will have you.”
Great Aunt Eliza: “Empty vessels make the most noise”
Sara: “She means that the ones with the least in their heads are the first to say too much.”
“You’d actually trust the farm to Felix? He’d eat more than he could produce!”
“Alright, Felix, here’s a tip. Don’t brush your teeth with a brick!”
“I don’t call speaking the truth meddling!”
“I hope that’s addled your brains in the direction of common sense.”
“Well, Miss Sara Stanley, I have never been so humiliated in all of my life! But I suppose you have been thrown out of much grander hotels than this.”