Views for Your New Year

Bramwell (Series 2)

There are MANY surprises and fresh guest stars in the 2nd series of this smart, gritty show starring Jemma Redgrave as Dr. Eleanor Bramwell.  Well-born lady doc Eleanor, while struggling to keep her “baby”–The Thrift (a charity hospital in London) going–is still at odds w/ her protective dad and fellow doc, Robert (David Calder).  Romance comes into Eleanor’s life (FINALLY!!!) in the form of handsome, charming Dr. Finn O’Neill.  The Irish researcher may be her equal in brains and talent.  But love is NOT easy for this pair, thanks to their conflicting natures and ambitions.  And, of course, Robert is NOT happy of his “little girl’s” choice.


The House of Mirth (2000)

No, this film isn’t about Brits; the characters are American (as seen through the eyes of novelist Edith Wharton and screenwriter/director Terence Davies) from the turn of the 20th century.  If you liked The Age of Innocence, you’ll definitely find this film (w/ a much lower budget) quite absorbing!  Canadian Gillian Anderson (Bleak House) lifts this movie onto her narrow shoulders and carries you away into the life of beautiful, charming, yet cash-poor, Lily Bart.  Like many singletons before and after her, New York debutante Lily likes nice clothes, having fun (vacations, theater, fine food, etc.) and hopes to marry someday.  But she MUST marry a rich man to maintain her lifestyle!

At the start of the film, Lily has an ambiguous relationship w/ a bachelor of her circle, lawyer Lawrence Seldon (Eric Stoltz).  They speak their minds to each other, but never directly confess their feelings.  One day, a maid sees her coming out of Seldon’s apartment- a VERY scandalous thing at that time.  A married friend, Gus Trenor (Dan Ackroyd), says he’ll help Lily invest her small income in the stock market, but he has more than that in his (creepy) mind.  Then one of Lily’s close friends, the worldly Bertha Dorset (Laura Linney in a wickedly fine role), turns against her.

Lily tries to stay true to herself and her personal morals.  She can’t force herself to marry for money alone.  Lily is not “world smart,” as my mom says; she thinks that people are pretty much what they portray themselves to be.  The director uses a lot of mirrors, keeping w/ the theme of appearance.  It was interesting to see Oz star Terry Kinney portray a cuckolded hubby.  Also, pay attention to the performance of Australian Anthony LaPaglia; it’s low-key, yet very effective.  The soundtrack, compiled by Adrian Johnston (Becoming Jane) sets just the right mood.


Miss Julie (1999)


Statuesque Brit Saffron Burrows (a former model; Nan in Circle of Friends) and her (shorter) co-star, Scotsman Peter Mullan (The Claim) are captivating in Mike Figgis’ film version of August Strindberg’s play.  Irish actress Maria Doyle Kennedy (one of he main reasons to see the first season of The Tudors) makes a fine contribution as well.  On Midsummer’s Eve in the late 1800s, the servants at a Swedish country estate are cutting loose w/ drinking, joking, and dancing.  The mistress of the manor, Miss Julie (Burrows), joins them in their revelry rather than going w/ her father, The Duke, to visit relatives.  This doesn’t sit well with the footman, Jean (Mullan) and his intended, the head cook Christine (Doyle Kennedy).

Miss Julie gets tipsy and keeps asking to dance w/ Jean, to his embarrassment and annoyance.  She comes into the kitchen and angrily asks why he’s still wearing his “livery” (uniform) when it’s time to cut loose.  Appearance is VERY important to Jean; he takes GREAT pride in his work for The Duke.  He’s well-spoken, has seen some of the world, and doesn’t take stuff from just anyone. 

Eventually, Christine goes upstairs to sleep, leaving the main players together.  Jean and Miss Julie basically go at it- a power struggle between genders and classes ensues.  There is also the latent physical attraction between them.  Clearly, Miss Julie is an angry, depressed young woman.  We learn that her fiance recently broke up w/ her.  She longs for change- to be free from her “cage;” a little bird sits in an actual cage in a corner of the sparse kitchen set.  In one crucial scene, Jean exclaims that HE could take her away!  Though he is of a low class, he could (in time) make her a duchess; she could never make him a duke (being a powerless woman w/o her father’s status/protection).        

More about the play:

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