“Pride & Prejudice” (2005)

Running Time: 127 minutes

Starring: Keira Knightley, Matther Macfadyen, Brenda Blethyn, Donald Sutherland, Rosamund Pike, Carey Mulligan, Jena  Malone, Simon Woods, Tom Hollander, Rupert Friend,  and Judy Dench

We all know that the camera loves Keira Knightley, just like Michelle Pfeiffer.  But Keira’s not just a pretty face.  “She worked like a dog,” then first-time director, Joe Wright, says on the fun/informative commentary track of the DVD.  Wright’s version of the P&P story (that many know and love) is a must-see!  (When I saw it in the theater, I wasn’t very impressed.  I think it takes a second look to appreciate all that’s going on under the surface.)

The Bennet parents are humanized by Blethyn and Sutherland.  Pike is the perfect Jane.  Malone (who’s American like Sutherland) does a terrific British accent and plays the flighty Lydia w/ gusto.  The adorable Carey Mulligan makes her film debut as Kitty.

I think looking at it now, Darcy would seem much more snobbish in our understanding of the word than he would then. To somebody like Darcy, it would have been a big deal for him to get over this difference in their status, and to be able to say to Lizzie that he loved her.  –Matthew Macfadyen

Macfadyen (a theatrically-trained actor) is a terrific Mr. Darcy- tall, slim, subtle, and not too much of a pretty boy.  He looks posh and elegant in all the costumes, but never overly imposing.  Darcy’s feelings are reigned in tightly, but his eyes are expressive.  And don’t forget that voice– one of the most gorgeous in all of show business!


“They just fancy each other,” Wright comments, noting the deep physical attraction between Lizzie and Darcy.  When she follows Jane to Netherfield Hall on foot, Lizzie’s hair gets mussed and her hem gets muddy.  Darcy is shocked, like best pal Bingley and his sis Caroline, but also intrigued.  He has never met a woman like her before!

When Jane gets over her bad cold, and she and Lizzie have to leave, Darcy helps Lizzie onto the carriage.  This is the first time they touch, and he’s very affected by it.

For the Netherfield ball, Lizzie makes a special effort to look cute, hoping to meet the dashing Wickham.  To her surprise, Darcy asks her to dance!  This dance sequence is one of the best moments of the film.  (Dances were very important in Austen’s time; it was one of the few times young, single people could meet, chat, and hold hands.)

This film was almost entirely shot on location- in Derbyshire, Kent, Lincolnshire, etc.  Pemberly in this version is actually the house of the Duchess of Devonshire.  (Interestingly, Keira played the role of Georgiana in The Duchess in 2008.)

We can’t overlook the rainy scene!  Toward the end, Darcy leans in close and almost kisses Lizzie.  Wow…

Check it out here: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=1R-Zg5es7mg

3 must-see period films

Lost in Austen (BBC, 2008)


This show (seen last year on BBC) is a MUST-SEE for all Jane Austen fans!  It has a great cast (including gorgeous/talented new faces), looks beautiful (costumes, cinematography, lighting), and is full of humor.  There are jokes viewers of ALL ages will get, BUT there are also in-jokes for devoted fans of Jane.  (I liked those jokes best, of course!)

Amanda (Jemima Rooper) and Elizabeth (Jemma Arterton)

Amanda Price is a modern-day JA fan who enters into her fave novel, Pride and Prejudice.  She takes the place of P&P’s main protagonist Elizabeth Bennett.  But life in Georgian England is NOT as easy as it seems in the book!

The newest Mr. Darcy (Elliot Cowan)

Amanda meets the the entire P&P gang, plus a few NEW characters (Mr. Collins has brothers- LOL!)  Alex Kingston (ER) and Hugh Bonneville (Daniel Deronda, Miss Austen Regrets) are TERRIFIC as the Bennett parents.  

But the best part is Amanda’s complicated relationship w/ the newest Mr. Darcy!  As in the novel, Darcy is tall, imposing, and irritatingly proper.  (His voice is VERY cool, too!)  At first, he is shocked by Amanda’s (modern/odd) behavior.  She doesn’t want to fall for Darcy- she wants to keep  things EXACTLY like the novel.  But things quickly go wrong!     


An interview w/ Elliot Cowan:




Middlemarch (BBC, 1994) 


I bought this DVD a few weeks ago b/c it was a VERY good price.  (If you’re a fan of Austen or Dickens, you should definitely check it out!)  It’s a miniseries based on George Eliot’s most famous novel.  She (the pen name of George was in honor of her long-time love, George Henry Lewes) was a writer who could describe a wide swath of society, much like Dickens.  There are MANY interesting/young people trying to carve out a place in the world w/o compromising their dreams.  (These include Jonathan Firth, Colin’s younger brother, and the unusually handsome/intense Rufus Sewell.) 

Dorothy (Juliet Aubrey)

The main female character is intelligent, serious-minded, natural beauty Dorothea Brooke (Juliet Aubrey).  She and her younger sister Cecilia (a more conventional girl) were orphaned before their teens, so they live on the estate of their wealthy bachelor uncle, Mr. Brooke.  (The estate is near to the town of Middlemarch.)  Though she has many fine qualities, Dorothea wants to “do something more” w/ her life than what’s expected of a young woman of her time.  She draws up a plan for improving the cottages of Brooke’s tenants, but he doesn’t want to spend money on the project.   

Even though her youthful/outgoing neighbor (Sir James Chettam) is in love with her, Dorothea merely sees him as a friend.  But she quickly grows interested in Rev. Casuabon, a VERY serious/middle-aged/scholarly man.  Dorothea thinks that she can help him in his work.   They have a brief courtship before marrying, much to the disappointment of her family/friends.   

During most of their honeymoon in Italy, Casuabon buries himself in libraries while Dorothea sees the sights with handsome/young Will Ladislaw (Casuabon’s cousin).  Will paints for fun, but wants to find a profession where he can make an impact.


Back home, Dorothea is impressed by the painting of a beautiful lady hanging in her house.  Will tells her the story of the unconventional romance between his British grandfather and Polish grandmother (in the picture).  Sadly, the lady wasn’t treated very well by her in-laws.  As he tells it, she is full of quiet amazement at the idea of such a relationship.  (We KNOW Dorothea hasn’t married for love.)     

Casuabon is emotionally distant and refuses his young wife’s help w/ scholarly work.  Dorothea desperately wants to make him happy, but she grows disenchanted with the cold, lonely marriage.  But she never complains. 

Will, who begins work as her uncle’s assistant, continues to see her as a friend.  Casuabon suddenly prohibits Will from coming to his house.  Dorothea is shocked- they did nothing wrong!   Did her husband sense something neither she nor Will can admit?              

Dr. Lydgate (Douglas Hodge)

The main male character is intelligent, ambitious, and worldly Dr. Tertius Lydgate (Douglas Hodge).  Unlike most of the others in the provincial town of Middlemarch, he is a well-trained MD (w/ specializations done in Scotland and Paris.)  Most docs of that day were NOTHING like ours!  Lydgate is a newcomer who elicits much attention- sometimes of the negative kind.  The other doctors bristle against his techniques (such as warning patients against wacky potions and refusing to operate when not needed).   They feel he’s too young to overstep them.

Like Dorothea, he gives part of his time to the poor.  (They become friends as the story goes along.)  Lydgate’s an idealist who hopes to create BIG changes.  In his personal life, he is quickly drawn to the vivacious and chatty Rosamund Vincy, the daughter of a tradesman.  They fall in love and marry, though he’d intended to wait until he was financially/professionally more stable.   Rosamund dreams of status and money, ignorant of the goals he has.  Will marriage curtail Lydgate’s ambitions?

A GREAT in-depth review of this film:


The Wind That Shakes the Barley (2006)  movie_WindThatShakes

  We have a responsibility to attack the mistakes and brutalities of our own leaders, past and present.  If you lie about the past you won’t tell the truth about the present.British director Ken Loach  playing

You may not have heard of this film that came on recently on Encore; I saw it first in the BBC catalog.  It’s a glimpse into the Irish war for independence in the early 1920s as seen through the eyes of a group of very young men in rural County Cork.  At the center of the group is idealistic/sensitive Damien O’Donovan (Cilian Murphy- a native of Cork; The Way We Live Now, Red Eye, Batman Begins) and his older/charismatic brother Teddy (Padraig Delaney).  Damien is soft-spoken, slightly built, and well-respected for his smarts.   Teddy is tall, talks forcefully, and a natural leader.    harassment

Though most of his scrappy country pals are IRA (led by Teddy), Damien is about to go to a London hospital for training.  Then he witnesses some humiliating, unnecessary, and violent events perpetrated by the Black and Tans (British soldiers sent to quash the growing rebellion).         damien_sinead

He takes up arms quickly- his community needs him.  Even Damien’s long-time female friend is part of the rebellion- she works as a messenger.      bros

This film juxstaposes the beauty of Ireland with the violence of the rebellion.   In some cases, long-time friends are pitted against each other b/c they have to preserve themselves.   Freedom is not the only issuse; in one scene Damien examines a little boy who’s near starvation.  How will this rag tag group of guys defeat the soldiers?  When a compromise is reached with England, Damien and Teddy are pitted against each other.  

More info re: this film: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/The_Wind_That_Shakes_the_Barley_(film) http://www.imdb.com/title/tt0460989/   cillian

More info re: Cilian Murphy: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Cilian_Murphy http://www.imdb.com/name/nm0614165/

Movie Review: “Pride & Prejudice” (1940)

Pride & Prejudice (1940)



No, these are not Regency-era dresses; they’d suit Scarlett and Melanie!  LOL…  Once you get past these poofy costumes, you’ll enjoy this quick, breezy take on Austen’s most famous novel.  Mrs. Bennett is funny and husband-crazy (for the sake of her girls).  Mr. Bennett is has a great dry wit.  Mr. Collins is silly, and looks it, too!      



Elizabeth (Greer Garson) is just as independent-minded as you’d expect.  Mr. Darcy (Laurence Olivier) is tall, stylish, BUT much more friendly/outgoing than in the book.  Olivier is JUST how one would picture Darcy, however, and he plays a posh Brit gent very easily (and well)! 



Jane (Maureen O’Sullivan) is pretty, but reserved and sensible. 



Lizzie reveals her REAL feelings to Darcy in her family’s large, lovely garden.  Both the leads stay w/in the bounds of propriety, but play the emotional scenes well.  There are no extremes of drama, however, so it feels true to the book.  Check this film out if you’re an Austen fan!




Movie Review: “Becoming Jane”

I first saw this movie (based on the biography of Jane Austen by Jon Spence) on You Tube.  I thought it was okay.  On first glance, I enjoyed the music and scenery (actually Ireland, not Hampshire).  I saw it again, and was very surprised by the superb acting, especially by the younger actors.  There were a few moments, involving Tom Lefroy’s wild behavior that seemed a bit extreme; aside from that, I have no complaints.  This is a beautiful, intelligent movie that I highly recommend to all JA fans!

Warning: My review has MAJOR spoilers!

Anne Hathaway plays the 20 year old Jane who, over one tumultuous summer, falls in love with charming lawyer-in-training Tom Lefroy (James McAvoy).  Tom was sent to the country to stay with his cousins by his uncle, a high court judge.  This uncle, upon whom Tom relied, disapproved of his wild behavior (gambling, boxing, carousing with women, etc.)  Tom is also a great pal of the eldest Austen son, Henry (Joe Anderson, a very cute/blonde young actor).

Did you know Anne did her senior thesis at Vassar on JA’s works?  She takes her role seriously here.  Anne’s take on Jane seems well-researched; she never looks out of place.  She learned to write and play paino like JA did!  Upon first meeting Tom, Jane is not impressed.  In a letter, she calls him “insolent, arrogant, impudent, insufferable, impertinent.”   He is bored with this new “rural” set of people, and thinks he’s above them.  Shades of Mr. Darcy!

The Austen parents, James Cromwell and Julie Walters, are grounded in life’s realities, but they married for love.

“That girl needs a husband. But who’s good enough? Nobody!” -Mrs. Austen laments

Father is more sensitive to Jane’s wishes; mother is more of a realist.

“Jane should have not the man who offers the best price, but the man she wants.” -Rev. Austen

I liked Cromwell very much in this role; it really suited him.  (He can currently be seen as George H. W. Bush in Oliver Stone’s biopic W.)

“I will not marry without affection, like my mother!” -Jane to Mrs. Austen

“Affection is desirable.  Money is absolutely indispensable!” -Mrs. Austen to Jane

Another great supporting character is Jane’s beloved older sister Cassandra (Anna Maxwell Martin).  She is the shy, sweet, obedient girl in the family.  But her fiancé, the young parson-to-be, Mr. Fowl, dies overseas of yellow fever.  Cassie, who feels very deeply, never thinks of another man.  (This would later become the impetus for Persuasion.)  Anna suits her role very well; she had been in many period dramas, including North & South and Bleak House.

Henry, who also has a sub-plot, is pursued by their elegant, widowed older cousin, a French countess by marriage.  Eliza is the voice of the experienced, worldly woman in Jane’s life.  The countess uses her beauty, charm, and (especially) money to gain Henry’s interest.

“Sometimes affection is a shy flower that takes time to blossom.” -Mr. Wisley to Jane

As you may know, Jane received a few marriage proposals over her short life.  One such offer comes from the tall, quiet, socially awkward Mr. Wisley (Laurence Fox) who will inherit the property of his childless, wealthy aunt, Lady Gresham (Maggie Smith).  (Wisley is loosely based on Harris Biggs, a man who proposed to the real JA when she was 27.)

Laurence Fox is the son of actor James Fox and cousin of the lovely Emilia Fox (who appeared as Miss Darcy in the popular Pride & Prejudice miniseries).  Laurence recently played Cecil in the new version of A Room With A View.  Mr. Wisley slowly grows to admire Jane’s independent spirit.  Lady Gresham brings to mind Lady Catherine from P&P, though she is a bit more humane.

Tom Lefroy was believed to be the one love of Jane’s life.  Below is a pic of the real Tom!

The young couple are ill-suited for each other, according to the prevailing thought of the day.  Though Tom seems like a free-wheeling, carefree guy, Tom is from a poor family in Limerick who depend upon him for support.  (His mother married his father for love, and they had many children.)  He’s the kind of young man who must marry for money, or wait until he has made some on his own.  But, like Jane, he has a non-conformist side.

Tom recommends that Jane read Tom Jones to learn more about the world of young men.  He never says anything negative about her desire to be a novelist.

“If you wish to practice the art of fiction, to be considered the equal of a masculine author, experience is vital.” -Tom advises

“I think that you, Miss Austen, consider yourself a cut above the company.” -Tom comments during a public assembly (dance).

“Me?” -Jane replies with surprise.

 “You, ma’am. Secretly.” -Tom observes wisely.

The main reasons to see this movie: James (and his very fine eyes- a great compliment in JA’s time), the terrific chemistry between him and Anne, and the gorgeous music.  James (the more I see of him, the more I want to see!) is full of energy, empathy, grace and style in this film.  He sinks seamlessly into his character, and these costumes look (especially) good on his frame.  He’s one of those (rare) young men who’s not afraid to look vulnerable.  His eyes are very expressive.  Anne calls him “a legend in the making” on the special features.  Check out Becoming Jane ASAP!

Movie Review: “Persuasion” (BBC: 1995)

Persuasion is perhaps one of Jane Austen’s most personal novels.  The central idea for the story, loving someone even when hope is gone, comes from a terrible incidence in her older sister Cassandra’s life.  The young naval officer she was engaged to marry died at sea.  He wanted to seek his fortune before settling down.  Cassandra retired from society after this loss, vowing to never marry.  For many years, Cassandra kept house for Jane, while the more famous sis wrote.  Perhaps this book was a way to give her big sis a happy ending!    

Eight years ago, Anne (Amanda Root), daughter of a nobleman, Sir Walter Elliot (Corin Redgrave), fell deeply in love with Frederick Wentworth (Ciaran Hinds), brother of the local curate (preacher; pastor).  Wentworth was in the navy, and not too much older than Anne (who was just 19).  He was not from a distinguished family, and had yet to prove his merit (meaning: get rich).  Lady Russell, Anne’s neighbor (acting in lieu of her deceased mother), persuaded her to refuse Frederick’s hand.  “He had nothing but himself to recommend him,” Lady Russell comments.   

At the start of the film, Anne is 27, and considered an “old maid.”  Her father pays little attention to her, probably seeing her as another burden.  (Sir Walter spends more than is prudent.)  Though her superficial, older sister (Elizabeth) is 29, it is hinted (in the book) that she’s waiting around for a super-rich beau.  The younger sis, Mary (Sophie Thompson, sister of Emma Thompson), is a mother of two sons, and settled comfortably with a gentleman farmer, Charles Musgrove

Things get so bad financially, that Sir Walter’s lawyer suggests the Elliot family “retrench” to Bath, a resort town where they can still live respectably.  They can rent out their house (on a big estate, Kellynch Hall) to Admiral Croft, a very gentleman-like naval officer and his wife.  Anne is (visibly) upset when she hears this- Mrs. Croft is the elder sister of Frederick!  Lady Russell remembers the “disappointment,” but has no regret about it.  However, Anne is still in love with her first love.

Captain Wentworth comes to Uppercross (where Anne is staying for a time); he is introduced to all the Musgroves.  Both of the unmarried Musgrove girls, Louisa and Henrietta, seek his attention.  At a dinner, Wentworth comments to someone that Anne “was so altered that he’d hardly have known her.”  What will happen now that the tables are reversed?  Anne’s family has its good name, but very little money.  Wentworth has made a considerable fortune at sea, and is therefore a great catch for any single gal.  Anne looks weighed down by life; Wentworth is social and upbeat in all types of company.  Have his feelings changed?  How will they ever get together?

You have to remember that in Austen’s time, single people (usually) did not have long courtships or engagements.  They were often in company, so had little chance to talk alone about crucial matters (how they really feel about each other and so forth).  People usually hung out with their neighbors, cousins, and others in their social rank (when they were on vacation or in London).  It wasn’t polite to go blabbing your (true) opinions in public.  But, people did write letters- this is crucial in Persuasion.                   

The lead actors are very good at conveying their emotions, however subtle, in this film.  A lot has to be said without words, or the movie would not be true to the book or its time period.  Sophie Thompson, as Mary, is also very good (as she is in Emma).  She has some subtle comedic moments; Mary likes to create little dramas (she’s a typical bored housewife).  Another small, but notable character, is Mrs. Croft (Fiona Shaw).  Anne is drawn to her warm personality.  She is a very kind, energetic, and well-traveled older woman.  The Crofts, though they have no children, are a very loving/compatible couple (both in the book and film).  In one dinner scene she says that “we [women] none of us want to be in calm waters all our lives.”  Very true!        

Jane Austen said that the character of Anne was “almost too good to be true.”  Anne is described as capable (she nurses her injured nephew) and down-to-earth (she visits an old, sick school friend instead of visiting a high-ranking relation).  Like many Austen heroines, she likes reading, long walks, and intelligent conversations.  She is not obsessed with rank, unlike the rest of her family.  She is unbowed by the flattery of her cousin, Mr. Elliot, who heaps attention on her in Bath.  So, she’s a gal you can root for!     

The look of this film is very authentic, in my opinion.  The actors are not overly glamorous, nor do they over-act (like in some tongue-in-cheek adaptations of Jane Austen).  Yes, there are a few moments of humor, but the issue at hand is serious.  Love (and life) may pass these characters by if they don’t communicate and take some action to hook up!  Check this film out if you’re looking for an adaptation that is intelligent.  I’ve seen it several times, and consider it the best adaptation of Austen on film (aside from the Pride and Prejudice mini-series with Colin Firth and Jennifer Ehle).  This film gives modern audiences a view into Austen’s characters’ minds.