Monday, March 17, 2008

Masterpiece Jane Austen Season: Persuasion

This isn't very well-written, but then I was very uninspired. However, I hope you can get a feel for the recent movie, and my opinion of it.

If BBC/Masterpiece wanted to just to photograph illustrations for each chapter of the book, they should have done that. A movie is supposed to present dialogue, motives, characters, emotion… I did spend some moments enjoying the visual manifestation of Jane Austen’s sentimental classic. I said, “Awwhh!”: appreciation for seeing the tender and uncertain love come alive. Anne Elliot was well-cast, and Captain Wentworth was sufficiently handsome to be a hero in this adaptation. Captain Wentworth’s early snubs were a great set-up for the rest of the story, but then, well…

At the beginning of this new version I was disappointed by the made-for-tv staleness quite unlike P&P. But I reconciled quickly, acknowledging they were setting a somber tone for the beginning.

They said everything only once except for how unmarriageable Anne was, and then inexplicably every man is after her. So we had to remember the Mrs. Russell relationship to everything, and that Anne was responsible (demonstrated by nursing and inventory skills).

What did I like? Anne. I think that except for the end, she was perfect. I liked Capt. Wentworth ok. Mr. Musgrove was nice (felt sorry for his old depiction of Edmund Bertram). Mr. Elliot was well-cast. And I really liked the widowed friend (despite her miraculous and unexplained recovery sufficient for running across Bath herself to warn her friend).

I so wish they’d had Andrew Davies do this one instead of Sense and Sensibility. We already had a really good version of Sense and Sensibility. That is to say, the writing for Persuasion was horrible.

Knowing the book was the only key to what was going on. They left out or destroyed all the conversations (isn’t that most of what makes Jane Austen so great - her wit?).

However, in the book I was made to believe Anne might settle for Capt. Benwick or Mr. Elliot. At least she cared about Capt. Benwick, and had scruples about how to deal with Mr. Elliot, which the movie entirely omits. In the movie I was never convinced that Capt. Wentworth loved Louisa, or that Anne was truly despairing and desperate expecting her beloved’s constancy to Louisa no matter what. Louisa got better too quickly. Capt. Wentworth’s reluctant “entanglement” with Louisa wasn’t even addressed. Everything happened too quickly, with no suspense. They seemed set on telling the end of everything from the beginning. At the end they told almost nothing.

The title represents the theme of the story, and the movie seems to have forgotten to bring it to resolution. The end was incredibly choppy and ridiculous. What was wrong with Anne? She’s supposed to be this quiet, thoughtful, patient woman, and she takes off running, alone, all over the city pursuing a man whom she has every reason to believe will effect an opportunity to see her soon anyway? She doesn’t even read the whole letter in the horrible revision of the letter scene. And then they don’t finish the story. In all fairness, Jane Austen did write an alternate ending, and they rather mixed the two and added parts of their own. I much prefer the standard, “letter” ending.

My family came in just as it was getting ridiculous, and made excessive fun of the kiss.

There was no depth in this movie, rarely was there subtlety, and yes, they rushed through an outline of a beautiful story. But I like some parts still better than the 1995 version. Mary was a little more believable, I think. The dowager was less disturbingly ugly.

The best thing about this movie? It inspired me to read the book again. And I did enjoy the book very much.

To God be all glory.


Robert said...

Though it was watchable,I prefer the 1995 version.I really liked Amanda Root's Anne Eliot.

This one did mention that Charles Musgrove had proposed to Anne earlier which I didn't know.

I have started to read Persuasion as I want to see what's missing.I'd like to read more about the characters and their activities-which are limited in the movies.

I agree that things happened too quickly and they left out so much.With the old P&P and Wives and Daughters you have the time to develop the plot and characters.

What I disliked the most was the scene with Anne talking about whether man or woman loves longest.It's one of the key scenes and they changed the location and the character Anne talks to.And Wentworth doesn't hear any of it.

Lisa of Longbourn said...

Hearing that Charles was refused by Anne is one of the key revelations of the plot. It gave Captain Wentworth reason to suspect that Anne still loved him. That's my first thought reading it. But then the silly Miss Musgrove goes on to cast the situation as though someone talked Anne out of marrying Charles, if I remember correctly. It's a most gripping scene!

The end of Persuasion in the book is unrivaled in perfection, and I don't think I would be satisfied with any adaptation. I don't remember the BBC messing it up that much; I thought for sure Captain Wentworth was in the room while Anne was talking, but maybe my imagination added him in.

To God be all glory,
Lisa of Longbourn

Robert said...

I meant to say that the new Persuasion changed that scene.In the BBC version Wentworth is writing a letter while Anne and Harville talk.