Pop Culture Princess

Pop Culture Princess
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Monday, January 14, 2008

Crystal clear about feeling blue for PBS's Persuasion

Instead of enduring that pitiful excuse for an awards show that was the Golden Globes this year,I turned to PBS for their new version of Masterpiece Theater(now just called "Masterpiece")and the first of several Jane Austen related films to be shown,Persuasion. This third adaptation of Austen's last completed novel was shown in the UK last year(along with the upcoming Mansfield Park and Northanger Abbey films to follow)and from what I read on a couple of message boards at the Republic of Pemberley,several minutes were snipped from the film before it's TV premiere.

I'm not so concerned about the possible editing that was done before showtime because even with a few extra minutes removed,this take on the story just seemed very cut and paste to me.

Granted,my feelings regarding this book are very biased,since it is my favorite Austen novel(not to mention that I totally adored the Roger Michell adaptation which stars Amanda Root and Ciaran Hinds)but the pace of the plot had a rather rushed tone which didn't fully flesh out many of the supporting characters or develop the rich satirical points about inner workings of family life that embellish the novel's theme of hoping to regain a former love so well.

The casting choices were pretty good here,especially with Alice Krige as Lady Russell and Anthony Stewart Head(listed as "Anthony Head" in the credits) as Sir Walter Eliot. However,time was sparsely given to both of those characters,which undercut the perceived influence they have over the leading lady of the piece,Anne(nicely played by Sally Hawkins,who looked a little too young to be Anne Eliot)and in the case of Lady Russell,that's practically a literary crime.

Also,Head's take on Sir Walter made him appear very harsh,more in a Dickensian way than an Austen character(even General Tilney wasn't as vicious as Sir Walter seemed to be here). Sir Walter is no sweetheart by any means but a couple of times,I thought he was going to hit somebody,I swear! I'm not blaming Head for this,my suspicions lean more towards the screenplay written by Simon Burke,which puts alot of the pivotal dialogue of the book in the wrong places and has Anne running laps all around Bath during the finale. I felt as if I was watching the Regency version of The Amazing Race!:

This wasn't the worst Austen based movie that I've seen(that honor goes to the 1999 theatrical film that should rightly be called Patricia Rozema's Fan Fiction Version of Mansfield Park) but I truly feel that it could've been much,much better than it was. I did enjoy seeing it,but this is one Jane Austen film that I will not be adding to my video collection.

My hopes are higher for next Sunday's JA film,the long awaited Andrew Davies scripted Northanger Abbey,which has my favorite Fanny Price as the delightfully dizzy Mrs. Allen. From what little I have seen of this film,it appears to be more in tune with the Austen spirit and very amusing as well in the bargain:

On a final note,the new intro to Masterpiece Theater is very modern and sleek but doesn't have the grandeur of the old school opening theme. I am not alone in saying that one of the joys of MPT was seeing that great sweeping camera pan across a Very British library/reading room and hearing that elegant music set the tone for what was to come. And what is up with dropping the "theater" part of the name of the series? Folks,this is PBS,not MTV and I for one would prefer to keep it that:

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