In conclusion… suck it.

September 26, 2011 at 7:56 pm (Etc, Movie Reviews) ()

I’m sorry my first blog in so long is an even longer rant, but I’m still seething. So, logged into my favorite Jane Austen board and was looking at some new entries and saw this (topic: favorite JA adaptations):

message 256: by Will Sep 22, 2011 02:25pm
Wow, this is a subject that is near and dear to my heart.

I know this will ruffle some (Georgian) feathers, but I thought the 2005 movie starring Keira Knightley was the best adaptation of “PRIDE & PREJUDICE” ever made.

And, yes, I’ve seen the 1995 BBC miniseries (and the more recent Masterpiece Classic as well).

Sorry, ladies, but I’m a guy, so the scene where Colin Firth doffs his shirt and dives into the lake at Pemberley didn’t cement any loyalties. Now, don’t get me wrong, I like the BBC miniseries just fine…

…but I love the 2005 movie. Just as an example, it contains, IMO, the most romantic single image ever put on film: Elizabeth standing into the wind on a lone promontory (and, no, I don’t care if it was in the book or not!). The music alone makes this moment elegiac.

That said, there is a movie adaptation of an Austen novel that I like even better: “SENSE AND SENSIBILITY” (1995) starring Emma Thompson.

It’s not only one of my Top 10 movies of all time, but also, IMO, the finest costume/historical/period movie ever made.

Strong words, I know. But here’s one of the reasons I love it:
Even with your favorite movies, it’s often (if not always) possible to find at least some fault with some aspect of the picture – a plot point, a scene, a characterization, or some line of dialogue.

But for me, “SENSE AND SENSIBILITY” is very nearly a perfect movie. I can’t really find fault with anything.

I watch it annually now, usually at the end of the year…like a Christmas present to myself.
Thanks, Jane.
Todd

To which I replied:

Actually, speaking as a woman, the wet shirt thing is decidedly not what makes the 1995 BBC P&P the best version – and I kind of resent that condescending remark. I think that actually speaks more to what you think about than what we do. The acting and the scripting are so much better in the 1995 adaptation. Almost everything about the 2005 film is stilted and/or ridiculous. Colin Firth had much more to offer; what he does with a look or just a quirk of the mouth, hint of a smile here or flutter of the eyelids there – added so much depth to his performance that I notice nuances to his (and other performers reactions) in repeated viewings that I never noticed before. In comparison, Matthew Macfadyen just seemed bored and annoyed, then in love. And even in love, he was boring to watch. And, yes, I have watched the 2005 film multiple times to try to absorb more, as well. I have also liked Matthew quite a lot in other things he has done: MI-5, Death at a Funeral, Little Dorrit: great. I look forward to The Three Musketeers… but Darcy he is not.

The only good thing about the 2005 film was that the actors were closer in age to the characters in the book, which made for an interesting dynamic, but everything else just fell flat for me: the girls were too giggly, even Lizzy; the relationship between Mr. and Mrs. Bennet was totally wrong; Darcy, wrong; situations badly set up (e.g. Lady Catherine would never have visited in the night like that); and the dialogue was so hacked to bits that I found some of the best moments in the story just… unsatisfying.

I find the look shared between Colin and Jennifer, much more romantic; they just have this moment and it’s perfect. Although, I think The Letter from Persuasion could be the most romantic thing ever, book or film, and I love how they do it in the 1995 with Amanda Root and Ciaran Hinds.

I cannot fault you for loving the 1995 S&S; Emma Thompson did a fantastic job putting that together – awards & recognition well earned. It just goes to show that you actually can put together a feature film length adaptation really well.

1995 was the best year for Jane.

Will/Todd (whatever the hell that is about):

“Actually, speaking as a woman, the wet shirt thing is decidedly not what makes the 1995 BBC P&P the best version – and I kind of resent that condescending remark. “

To clarify, I didn’t come up with the wet shirt thing on my own. This is a comment I’ve come across multiple times on various other Austen boards and review sites pertaining to the 1995 BBC miniseries.

“The acting and the scripting are so much better in the 1995 adaptation.”

I’m afraid I must disagree with you here. I’ve actually worked in the scripting business, and to condense a beloved novel down into a 2-hour movie – and to do so successfully – is a great feat. I was so impressed, in fact, that I did something after seeing the 2005 movie that I’ve never done before – I wrote the screenwriter, Deborah Moggach, to congratulate her.

“Almost everything about the 2005 film is stilted and/or ridiculous.”

Here, I’m afraid, we completely disagree. The 2005 film was anything BUT stilted, IMO – breathing life and emotion into scenes that have too often been presented as parlour-room stage plays.

“1995 was the best year for Jane.”

Finally, we agree!

Though 2008-2009, when Masterpiece Classic adapted all 6 Austen novels to the screen wasn’t bad, either!

Todd

Really, asshat? I can be a pretentious douchebag, too…

“I’m afraid I must disagree with you here. I’ve actually worked in the scripting business, and to condense a beloved novel down into a 2-hour movie – and to do so successfully – is a great feat. I was so impressed, in fact, that I did something after seeing the 2005 movie that I’ve never done before – I wrote the screenwriter, Deborah Moggach, to congratulate her.”

Wow, Will – or Todd, is it? Aside from making you sound like a pretentious know-it-all, perhaps you shouldn’t make (more) assumptions. I can play that card, too. I was a script supervisor on a short film and have worked a couple of other production positions (nothing major: sound, PA). I am currently going back to school for a second BA in Motion Graphics and Visual Effects. I am also trying to adapt Northanger Abbey, because it has never really been done to my satisfaction. I know that neither writing a screenplay nor adapting a novel is easy, especially condensing it into a feature length film, which is why I was so impressed with Emma Thompson and S&S. 2005 P&P misses the mark for me. There is so much dialogue that Austen just GIVES to a screenwriter in P&P and Deborah Moggach either ignored or just hacked up some of the best bits. Why would anyone do that? I get that you have to make changes and choices; for me, she made the wrong choices. I do enjoy certain things about other adaptations, including the 05 (like I said, the actors’ ages made for an interesting dynamic – I liked that and it hadn’t been done before), or even the 1940 version (it’s a terrible adaptation, but “the town of Blankshire” … for when Austen wrote _____shire, that’s funny).

“To clarify, I didn’t come up with the wet shirt thing on my own. This is a comment I’ve come across multiple times on various other Austen boards and review sites pertaining to the 1995 BBC miniseries.”

When I mentioned that your comment said something about you, what I meant was that your need to disparage a woman’s opinion (or what you think that is) to validate your own opinion says more about you than anything else. I know women joke and sigh about the wet shirt scene, but I am hesitant to believe that is what “wins their loyalty.” I would hazzard a guess that, for most if not all, it is more like whipped cream: tasty and fun, but unnecessary. The substance, not just for you or men in general, lies in things like the acting, scripting, pacing, and chemistry between the actors, to name a few.

To suggest that your opinion as a man is not distracted by something so trivial, implies that a woman’s is. Well, I can tell you that, as a woman, I am perfectly capable of enjoying it without my mind and emotions being dominated by it. Actually, what I love about that scene is that he is put at a disadvantage; it makes him more vulnerable to Lizzy and the audience, since he is usually so fastidious a person. It also allows us to watch him hurry over dressing so he can catch her before she leaves. We get to see his nerves. Knowing how she felt about him, he is anxious to finally make a good impression; here, quick, while he has his chance. His side is not much in the book; this was added by the screenwriter and it was fantastic (his perspective, not the wet shirt scene, specifically). It balanced the Lizzy/Darcy dynamic beautifully where the novel is largely Lizzy-centric.

Admittedly, it always baffles me when someone prefers a version other than the 95. I can usually accept that, shake head sadly, shrug shoulders and move on, but your comment was so repugnantly dismissive of what women think and what definitively sways a woman’s opinion, that I am finding it difficult. I am really trying to respond without open hostility because I think, if nothing else, you should learn that expressing your opinion by condescendingly stereotyping an entire group of people so that you can easily disregard one point of view – that is a mistake. And it is offensive.

Some might think I’m overreacting. Before you are tempted to write off my indignation with a rude “that time of the month” comment, Will/Todd, I want you to know one thing: I would have disagreed, but at least respected your opinion if you had simply stated what made the 2005 adaptation your favorite – without the belittling remark.

Too much? I know, but that one really got to me.

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