Thursday, January 8, 2009

Movie Reviews

I'm a Jane Austen fan. I read Pride and Prejudice in high school and liked it a lot, but I didn't really count myself among the fan ranks until after we saw the movie Becoming Jane, which made me want to read all of her books. After doing so, I wanted to see the movie adaptations (mostly because I love the 1995 tv mini-series of Pride and Prejudice so much.) We subscribe to Blockbuster Online - Blockbuster's version of Netflicks. (We like Blockbuster Online better because the movies they send us in the mail act like coupons in the stores, so we get to watch twice as many movies!)

Anyway, my sister-in-law is also a Jane Austen fan (I borrowed 4 of her Jane Austen books to read) and we had promised to give her our reviews of the movie adaptations. I thought it would make a good blog post, since all the work was already done, so here it is!

The names of the books link to the Wikipedia articles, for your convenience, while the names of the movies link to their descriptions on They will NOT open in a new window, because that takes more effort than I'm willing to exert at the moment, so I suggest you right-click and select "open link in new tab" or "open link in new window".

(WARNING: these reviews assume you've read and are somewhat familiar with the books.)

We’ve only seen one version so far: 1996 with Gwenyth Paltrow and Jeremy Northam. We liked it very well. It followed the book very well except towards the end. In the book Harriet stops pining for Mr. Knightley first (like in Clueless). In the movie, Emma has to tell Harriet that she’s marrying Mr. Knightley before Harriet realizes she prefers Robert Martin. The 1996 made-for-tv adaptation is in our Blockbuster queue and there’s also a 1972 version.

Northanger Abbey
The 2007 version with Felicity Jones and JJ Field was MUCH better than the 1987 version. Let’s just say “80’s music” and leave it at that. Blockbuster does not have any other versions (at present).

The 1995 version with Amanda Root and Ciarán Hinds was better than the 2007 version. The newer version wasn’t too bad until the end when they had Anne running up and down the streets, Capt. Wentworth made her beg for a kiss, and then Capt. Wentworth purchased the estate from Anne’s father, which is completely impractical and would have been illegal per the laws of the time. And, I liked Ciarán Hinds' portrayal of Capt. Wentworth in the ’95 version better ;) The 1971 version is in our queue.

Sense and Sensibility
We liked both versions (1995 with Emma Thompson and Alan Rickman and 2008 with Hattie Morahan and Charity Wakefield). The 1995 version was better with relationships while the 2008 version was better with dialog/explanations. We love Alan Rickman’s depiction of Col. Brandon in the 1995 version; however, we like Dan Stevens’ depiction of Edward Ferrars in the 2008 version better than Hugh Grant’s. The 2008 version included the scene where John Willoughby comes to visit Marianne when she’s ill – the scene is completely missing in the 1995 version. The 1981 version is in our queue. (Although after that 80’s Northanger Abbey I have reservations about it, lol.)

Mansfield Park
We’ve only seen one version so far: 1983 with Sylvestra Le Touzel and Bernard Hepton. It followed the book extremely well, and the acting was very good. However, it felt like watching a recording of a live performance: the sound quality was horrible and some of the costumes/hairstyles were a little funny. The 1998 version is in our queue.

Pride and Prejudice
We own the 1995 tv mini-series. The 2005 Keira Knightly version is not as good as the mini-series, no contest. The 2005 version creates too big of a difference in wealth between the Bennets and Mr. Darcy/the Bingley's. So it doesn't make sense when Elizabeth refutes Lady Catherine and says that she's in the same sphere as Mr. Darcy. Also, in the 2005 version, we don't understand what Darcy sees in Elizabeth. The 1995 Elizabeth is obviously a cut above most of the other women in the movie, while there's nothing particularly special about Keira Knightley's portrayal.
There are other versions: 1940 and 1980, but the mini-series is so good (oh, and we own it) that we haven’t bothered to add the other versions to our queue.

Now that you know which versions to buy/rent and which ones to avoid, would you help me? I would like to add critical editions of Jane Austen's works to our library, but I don't know which ones to buy/ask for. If you are a Jane Austen reader and have an opinion, would you tell me which edition you like/recommend or don't like/won't recommend? A critical edition has notes through out the text explaining things that may not make sense to modern readers, and there should be some essays on the text. Thank you!!

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