Sanditon Character Review: Sidney Parker

The schedule for the Character Review posts will be changing to Friday (or Saturday at the latest from now on).

*Warning: This post contains spoilers about the characters from the book and the television show Sanditon. Read at your own risk if you have not watched the show. There is something to be said about a well-written, human character. They leap off the page and speak to us as if they were right in front of us, as flesh and blood human beings, instead of fictional creations.

It is easy to judge a book by its cover. It is harder to get to know them and understand the circumstances that made them into who they are. In Sanditon, Sidney Parker (Theo James) does not make a great first impression. Like his predecessor, Fitzwilliam Darcy, he comes off as rude, arrogant, and a snob.

One of four children (three boys and a girl), Sidney is the dark sheep of the family. Tom (Kris Marshall) is the dreamer. Arthur (Turlough Convery) is the layabout. Diana (Alexandra Roach) is the worrier. He has been away for many years and would rather be anywhere else than be in the company of his family.

When he meets Charlotte Heywood (Rose Williams), it is hate at first sight. Sidney perceives Charlotte to be a naive country girl. Charlotte thinks that he is a little too full of himself.

Things start to change when there is an accident in the town and Charlotte steps in to help. He begins to see her intelligence and her willingness to step in when necessary. They go back and forth for a while. It gets rocky when Charlotte does not understand the pressure that Sidney is under to keep his ward, Georgiana Lambe (Crystal Clarke) safe from golddiggers.

When they finally get together, it is a moment that has been a long time coming. It seems that Charlotte and Sidney’s future is all settled. But before Sidney can properly pop the question, he has to settle some business issues for Tom (again).

When he returns, he has bad news. The only way to save the family is to marry his ex, Eliza Campion (Ruth Kearney). Eliza is a wealthy widow who abandoned Sidney for her late husband. Upon previously encountering Charlotte, she promptly switched into Mean Girls mode, mocking her for her “low” upbringing.

Unfortunately, the next time we hear of Sidney, he is dead, leaving everyone around him heartbroken.

To sum it up: Sidney’s arc is one of opening up and learning to love. Not just romantic love, but the love of family. It is that love that forces him to make the decision to ultimately marry for money.

Which is why he is a memorable character.

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Happy Birthday, Jane Austen

Anyone who knows me (or has read this blog regularly), knows that I am Janeite. In layman’s terms, I am a Jane Austen fangirl. Her books are a huge part of my world.

Today is Austen’s birthday. One of the many things I admire her for is her writing. She had the unique ability to blend satire, romance, and societal criticism in such a way that it takes multiple reads to recognize how perfectly these elements are intertwined.

The focus of yesterday’s episode of The Thing About Austen podcast (which I highly recommend) is Robert Ferrars, the younger brother of Edward Ferrars (Sense and Sensibility). I won’t give the conversation away (which is why I recommend that you listen to it). But what I will say is that her ability to give the reader just enough detail about the character without under or overexplaining is a skill that many writers are unable to accomplish.

Wherever you are Jane, thank you for everything. Our world would not be the same without you.

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First Impressions: A Contemporary Retelling of Pride and Prejudice Book Review

One of the earliest examples of the hate-to-love narrative within the bounds of a romance novel is Jane Austen‘s 1813 book, Pride and Prejudice. The up-and-down courtship between Elizabeth Bennet and Fitzwilliam Darcy has thrilled readers for more than two centuries.

Debra White Smith‘s 2004 tale, First Impressions: A Contemporary Retelling of Pride and Prejudice is set in a small town in Texas. From the moment they meet, Eddi Boswick and Dave Davidson dislike each other. Eddi has just opened her own legal practice. Dave has also just moved in with his aunt, preferring that his neighbors know nothing about his past.

When they are cast as Lizzie and Darcy in a local dinner theater production of the book, sparks fly. As much as they hate each other, they cannot deny the mutual attraction. When push comes to shove, will they walk into the sunset together or will Eddi and Dave go their separate ways?

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The title alone, speaks to how much the author respects Austen. First Impressions was the original title before it was changed to Pride and Prejudice. White Smith perfectly balances the original text with the place and time that her story is set in. It is a challenge that many writers (myself included) have taken on and well, taken their best shot at.

Do I recommend it? Absolutely.

First Impressions: A Contemporary Retelling of Pride and Prejudice is available wherever books are sold.

Flashback Friday: Jane Eyre (1997)

*Spoilers ahead. Read at your own risk if you are a newbie to the novel or its various screen reboots.

There is a reason that Jane Eyre has been given the label of a “classic novel”. Charlotte Bronte‘s story of a young woman who defies all odds and creates her own happiness is a tale that we can all learn from.

The 1997 TV movie stars Samantha Morton as the title character and Ciaran Hinds as Edward Rochester, Jane’s mysterious employer, and love interest. As in the novel, Jane is an orphaned young woman who must make her own way in the world. Employed by Rochester as the governess to his ward, their attraction is electric. But he has a past that she knows nothing of. If it is revealed, the truth could endanger their future together.

Presently, Morton is electric in The Serpent Queen. Hinds was perfectly cast as Captain Wentworth in the 1995 adaptation of Persuasion. The problem is that these two actors in these roles do not get my blood pumping and my heart pounding as other pairings in the same roles have.

There is one scene that rubs me the wrong way. After it is revealed that Rochester is married, he tries to convince Jane to stay. Hinds is a little too physically rough on Jane as the character for me.

Do I recommend it? I am leaning toward yes.

P.S. Rupert Penry Jones plays St. John Rivers. Elizabeth Garvie plays his sister, Diana. Garvie played Elizabeth Bennet in the 1980 Pride and Prejudice. Gemma Jones (Mrs. Fairfax in this film) was Mrs. Dashwood in the 1995 Sense and Sensibility. The Austen force is strong with this one. It is ironic, given that Bronte highly disliked Austen’s wrong.

Persuasion Movie Review

Life doesn’t always give us second chances. There are some opportunities that are firmly in the past. Then there are others that do come again. We can either let it slip through our fingers or go for it.

The new adaptation of the Jane Austen novel of Persuasion was released last week on Netflix.

Anne Elliot (Dakota Johnson) gave up the love of her life eight years ago. The daughter of a minor aristocratic family, she was convinced that Frederick Wentworth (Cosmo Jarvis), a poor sailor was not good enough for her. Now in her late twenties, Anne is still single and pining for what could have been. Frederick has returned to her circle. He is now wealthy, a respected war hero, and a catch, according to the eligible young ladies.

Will they be able to make peace with the past and have the life they were meant to have, or will they once more go their separate ways?

This version is not all bad (well, it’s mostly bad). I loved the color-blind casting. The best performances in the film came by way of Richard E. Grant as Sir Walter Elliot and Henry Golding as Mr. Elliot. Johnson’s accent was not bad and she had decent chemistry with Jarvis.

The main problem is the lack of tension. What makes the narrative is the emotional wall between Anne and Frederick that slowly crumbles over the course of the narrative. That wall came down a little too quickly for my taste. The other problem is that it was turned into a rom-com (which it is not) and the use of modern slang. By the time we get to the letter, the buildup that would normally be there is a pittance of what it should be.

While I understand that the filmmakers wanted to make it palatable to non-Austen fans, they stripped away too much of the original text. This Anne Elliot is closer to Elizabeth Bennet and Emma Woodhouse. Personality-wise, Anne is a complete 180 from both Elizabeth and Emma. I admire Elizabeth and I get a chuckle from Emma, but Anne I get.

If I were to rank the various adaptations and Austen-adjacent filmed IPs, this Persuasion would be second to the bottom of the list. The only one that is worse is Austenland.

Do I recommend it? Not really. Just stick to either the 95 or 07 version. Trust me, you are not missing much. I would even go as far as to say that this is one of the worst films I have seen this year.

Persuasion is available for streaming on Netflix.

P.S. The anniversary of Austen’s passing was yesterday. She would be spinning in her grave if she saw this movie.

Mr. Malcolm’s List Movie Review

Warning: minor spoilers.

Jane Austen, is if nothing else the Queen of the modern romantic comedy. Her tales of love, loss, growth, and sometimes forced humility has entertained fans for over 200 years.

The new movie, Mr. Malcolm’s List (based on the book of the same name by Suzanne Allain), was released in movie theaters last weekend.

Julia Thistlewaite (Zawe Ashton, replacing Gemma Chan) has been publicly spurned and wants revenge. After four seasons on the marriage market, she is still single. The man who spurned her is Mr. Jeremy Malcolm (Sope Dirisu). Mr. Malcolm is the most sought-after bachelor of the season and has the pick of the litter when it comes to his future wife.

To fend off the masses, he has created a list of qualities that a woman must have if she is to become Mrs. Malcolm. When Julia finds out about the list via her cousin, Lord Cassidy (Oliver Jackson-Cohen), she concocts a plan to get back at him. Enlisting her old school friend Selina Dalton (Freida Pinto), she and Lord Cassidy (known to his friend as Cassie) turn Selina into marriage bait. The final result is for Selina to reveal her own list and reject Mr. Malcolm.

But as things tend to go in this genre, the scheme is turned on its head. Jeremy and Selina genuinely fall for one another. Making this love story even more twisted is the addition of Captain Henry Ossory (Theo James). Captain Ossory seems also to be courting Selina, creating a very interesting love triangle.

Though it helps to know something about the regency era and/or Austen’s writing, it is not a requirement to enjoy the film. There is enough to keep the modern fan entertained and laughing.

Like its streaming counterpart, Bridgerton, the main actors all come from different backgrounds. What drew me in and kept me going was the organic romance between Pinto and Dirisu’s characters. These are two people who are perfect for one another, if only they can put down their individual baggage.

My only complaint is that the secondary relationship between Julia and Henry was a little underdeveloped. They are supposed to be the Jane Bennet and Mr. Bingley to Selina and Jeremy’s Elizabeth Bennet and Mr. Darcy. The problem is that while Austen fully developed both couples, Allain (who wrote both the book and the screenplay) left Julia and Henry hanging.

Do I recommend it? Absolutely.

Mr. Malcolm’s List is presently in theaters.

P.S. The costumes are gorgeous. Wearing any of them (specifically the ones worn by Pinto) would be a dream come true.

Fire Island Movie Review

One of my favorite things about a book like Pride and Prejudice is that the story can be taken out of the Regency era and still be relevant.

The new Hulu movie, Fire Island, is a modern LGBTQ-centric adaptation of the beloved Jane Austen novel. Noah (Joel Kim Booster, who also served as the screenwriter and executive producer) and Howie (Bowen Yang) are part of a group of five queer friends who spend a week every summer on Fire Island. They stay with Erin (Margaret Cho), who is their unofficial “mother”.

While on the island, Howie has an immediate connection with Charlie (James Scully), a handsome doctor. Noah, on the other hand, gets off on the wrong foot with Charlie’s lawyer friend Will (Conrad Ricamora). Over the course of the week, there is miscommunication, possible romance, and unspoken feelings that will force these men to speak their truths and find the courage to open their hearts to love.

I love this movie. It is funny, charming, entertaining, and adorable while being true to Austen’s original text. It proves that love is love and underneath it all, we are all human beings. These days, representation counts more than ever. This film is a lovely romance, a delight to watch, and the perfect thing to watch during pride month.

Do I recommend it? Absolutely.

Fire Ireland is available for streaming on Hulu.

Hot and Bothered Podcast Review

The thing about a book like Pride and Prejudice is that with every reading, there is something new to discover.

The new season of the podcast Hot and Bothered is about Pride and Prejudice. Specifically, the romantic aspect of the narrative. Subtitled Live from Pemberley, hosts Vanessa Zoltan and Lauren Sandler dive into Jane Austen‘s most famous novel in bites of two chapters per episode. Reading from the text and interviewing experts whose work is related to the novel, they explore how the wider world of the time contributed to the book as a whole.

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A friend recommended this podcast and I am so glad she did. Both Zoltan and Sandler nerd out in a way that I would expect them to, but not so much that it alienates those who have not memorized every tiny detail of the story. I laughed, I learned, and best of all, I smiled.

Do I recommend it? Absolutely.

New episodes of Hot and Bothered are released every other Friday on various platforms.

Operation Mincemeat Movie Review

When it seems that every story about World War II has been told, the door opens to reveal additional narratives that have remained hidden.

The new Netflix film, Operation Mincemeat premiered last week. Based on a book by Ben Macintyre, it tells the story of a secret mission to end the war via a corpse and false papers.

Among those who are in on the secret are Ewen Montagu (Colin Firth), Charles Cholmondeley (Matthew MacFadyen), future James Bond creator Ian Fleming (Johnny Flynn), Jean Leslie (Kelly Macdonald), and Hester Leggett (Penelope Wilton). They know that if they succeed, it could mean victory for the Allies. But getting to that point requires strategy, timing, skill, and a little bit of luck.

For obvious reasons, the movie was a must-see. A cast chock full of Austen actors (including the two most popular Fitzwilliam Darcys), a spy thriller set in World War II-era England, and the fight for freedom against tyranny.

I have mixed feelings about it. What was good was that the main female characters were initially more than secretaries, love interests/spouses/female family members, and background characters. They were as important to the mission as their male colleagues. I also very much appreciated the subtle reference to the Holocaust and the destruction of European Jewry. It reveals that the Allies once again knew what was going on, but did nothing to stop it (which is another topic for another time).

What was bad is that about halfway through the film, I started to lose interest. It was as if the screenwriter(s) just gave up. The other thing that bugged me was the love triangle between Charles, Jean, and Ewen. It felt unnecessary. It also trivializes Jean, making her little more than the wannabe romantic significant other instead of an integral part of the group.

Do I recommend it? Disappointingly, no.

Operation Mincemeat is available for streaming on Netflix.

Cyrano Movie Review

We all want to be loved for who we are. But that is not always easy when we believe that we are unworthy of the one(s) we love.

The new movie, Cyrano, is a musical adaptation of the Edmond Rostand play Cyrano de BergeracPeter Dinklage plays the title character. Cyrano is charming, a master swordsman/soldier and wordsmith, and in love with Roxanne (Haley Bennett). Without a penny to her name, Roxanne (like many women living in the pre-modern era), knows that she must marry. But she will only marry for love. That love comes in the form of Christian (Kelvin Harrison Jr.).

Unable to tell her how he feels due to his insecurities, Cyrano uses Christian for his conventionally handsome looks to express what he cannot say in person. Christian is equally tongue-tied, believing that his words are not enough to convey his own passion for her. They are joined by a third man, De Guiche (Ben Mendelsohn), a nobleman who covets Roxanne for her beauty.

As this love triangle becomes more complicated, it becomes obvious that both Cyrano and Christian will have to come clean. What is unknown is how Roxanne will react and how the ripple effect of the lie change the course of their lives?

Directed by Joe Wright ( the 2005 Pride and Prejudice, Anna Karenina, etc) and written by Erica Schmidt (the significant others of Bennett and Dinklage respectively), this film is an unexpected treat. I’m not usually a fan of movie musicals, but this one is worth watching.

With only one female lead character, it would be easy to box Roxanne into a corner. But she is so strong and so determined to make her own choices (as limited as they are), that it is easy to forget that her life is dictated by the men around her.

The heart of this narrative is the inability to love ourselves and be open to the people that are important to us. It’s why I believe we can all relate to Cyrano. Whether we are of short stature, have an unusually long nose, or another feature that we dislike, we all want to be loved for our authentic selves. It is just a matter of taking that leap and trusting that we will land on our feet.

Do I recommend it? Absolutely. If I may be so bold, I would say that Cyrano will be on quite a few “best of” lists come the end of the year.

Cyrano is presently in theaters.

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