Amanda Book Review

Emma Woodhouse, the eponymous title character of Jane Austen‘s novel Emma, is not exactly the most likable character when we first meet her. She has a good heart, but does not always have the ability to read the room.

Amanda (published in 2006), by Debra White Smith, is the 5th book in the Jane Austen Series. Set in Australia, Amanda has taken over the leadership of the family business. But that does not mean, however, she spends all day working. After disapproving of her assistant’s boyfriend, she tries to set Haley up with someone else. This sets off a series of romantic disasters that force her to re-evaluate her perspective.

Amanda is also determined to remain single. That plan goes awry with an attraction to Nathaniel, a friend of the family. When Haley sets her eyes on Nathaniel, Amanda starts to question her decisions.

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I wanted to like this book. But I didn’t. It was hard to read and it felt like a surface retelling of Emma. It was also missing a key scene from her character arc that makes the narrative.

Do I recommend it? No.

Amanda is available wherever books are sold.

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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.

Kicking Ass in a Corset: Jane Austen’s 6 Principles for Living and Leading from the Inside Out Book Review

By nature, the corset is a garment meant to constrict the body of the person who is wearing it. It can also be a metaphor for the lack of opportunity and the second-class treatment that has been the norm for women for generations.

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Andrea Kayne‘s 2021 book, Kicking Ass in a Corset: Jane Austen’s 6 Principles for Living and Leading from the Inside Out, is half self-help book and half wisdom via Jane Austen. Using six of Austen’s beloved leading ladies (Elizabeth Bennet, Emma Woodhouse, Anne Elliot, Elinor Dashwood, Fanny Price, and Catherine Moreland) as an example, Kayne explains how readers and women readers, in particular, can learn from these beloved characters. Combining real-world advice with exercises and examples from the novels, she inspires us to go for what we want while learning from the women whose stories we adore.

I loved this book. Kayne brings both worlds together in a way that increases my love of Austen while lighting the proverbial fire under the behind. It makes me want to re-read all six books and be open to the lessons that can be gleaned from the genius that is Jane Austen.

Do I recommend it? Absolutely.

Clueless Character Review: Elton Tiscia

I apologize for not posting last week. Life got in the way.

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

*Warning: This post contains spoilers about the characters from the movie Clueless. Read at your own risk if you have not seen the movie. 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. Every campus has their own BMOC. This person is at the apex of the social hierarchy. If you are seen with this person, your status rises. But this person can also ruin a classmate’s life if they want to.

In Clueless, Elton Tiscia (Jeremy Sisto) is the BMOC. According to Cher Horowitz (Alicia Silverstone) and Dionne Davenport (Stacey Dash), he is one of the few boys who it is acceptable for Tai Frasier (the late Brittany Murphy) to go out with. Elton humors Cher by having a picture of Tai in his locker, it is only there because it is Cher he would prefer to be dating. Though he plays the hero when Tai is knocked out by a shoe, Elton is a snob like this literary counterpart, Mr. Elton. When Cher rejects his advances, he deserts her instead taking her home after a party. To make matters worse, Elton starts seeing Amber Mariens (Elisa Donovan) to publicly spite Cher and Tai.

To sum it up: Elton is a first rate asshole. who pretends to be a decent guy. Just because he is a BMOC, he believes that he is entitled to certain things and people. Though he never changes, the people around him do, realizing that Elton is not worth their time.

Which is why he is a memorable character.

Clueless Character Review: Travis Birkenstock

*For the foreseeable future, some Character Review posts may not be published every Thursday as they have in the past.

*Warning: This post contains spoilers about the characters from the movie Clueless. Read at your own risk if you have not seen the movie. 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. When it comes to love, there is sometimes a tug of war as to whom we want to be with vs. who others think we should be with. In Clueless, Travis Birkenstock (Breckin Meyer) doesn’t exactly rank very high on the social ladder. He is an underachieving skater boy who is looked down on by Cher Horowitz (Alicia Silverstone) and her friends.

When Travis and new girl Tai Fraser (Brittany Murphy) start crushing on each other, Cher steps in. Like her regency era counterpart, Emma Woodhouse, Cher cannot and will not see her friend/protégé hook up with someone who she perceives to be beneath her. Just as Emma convinces Harriet Smith to turn down Mr. Martin’s proposal in favor of a potential match with Mr. Elton, Cher tries to convince Tai that BMOC Elton Tiscia (Jeremy Sisto) is the better choice.

When Elton reveals his true f*ck boy nature, Cher backs off. Tai and Travis are given the opportunity to be a couple and let fate take its course.

To sum it up: It has been said that beauty is in the eye of the beholder. Though Travis may not appear to be anyone’s ideal romantic partner, he is eventually revealed to be a good guy who is the right person for Tai.

Which is why he is a memorable character.

Clueless Character Review: Cher Horowitz

*For the foreseeable future, some Character Review posts may not be published every Thursday as they have in the past.

*Warning: This post contains spoilers about the characters from the movie Clueless. Read at your own risk if you have not seen the movie. 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. If you watch enough high school movies, you might get the idea that the popular girls are all versions of Regina George (Rachel McAdams). The surprise comes when we realize that what we see on film does not always match reality.

In the movie, Clueless, Cher Horowitz (Alicia Silverstone) is a modern teenage version of Emma Woodhouse, the heroine of the Jane Austen novel Emma. Living in Beverly Hills with her widower father, Mel (Dan Hedaya), Cher has a good heart, but her head is not always in the right place. She buts heads with her stepbrother Josh Lucas (Paul Rudd) and spends most of her time with her best friend Dionne Davenport (Stacey Dash). When new student Tai (Brittany Murphy) arrives at Cher’s school, she sees an opportunity to do some good in the world via a makeover and a potential match with Elton Tiscia (Jeremy Sisto).

She will soon learn that what she sees, the rest of the world does not see. Elton would prefer to be with her than Tai. Tai is crushing on Travis (Breckin Meyer), who is equally into her. Christian, her new boyfriend (Justin Walker) is gay. The only relationship that works is out between her teacher Mr. Hall (Wallace Shawn) and Ms. Geist (Twink Caplan). Her pest of stepbrother is not only right about a few things, he is also the right boy for her.

To sum it up: Cher is an interesting character because unlike other similar characters, she is not a b*tch. She is may say and do things to hurt other people, but she does not do that on purpose. She just thinks she knows everything, when she clearly doesn’t. This makes her likable, even if she is completely frustrating to the audience and the people around her.

Which is why she is a memorable character.

Best Movies of 2020

  1. Soul: Though it is marketed as a kids movie, the subtext of appreciating life feels appropriate and potent this year.
  2. Mulan: The live-action reboot of the 1998 animated film Mulan rises above its predecessor, making it fresh and relevant.
  3. Emma.: Anya Taylor-Joy stars as Jane Austen‘s eponymous heroine, Emma Woodhouse, introduced as clever, rich, and handsome. Directed by Autumn de Wilde, this adaption is entertaining, funny, and a lovely addition to the list of Austen adaptations.
  4. The Trial of the Chicago 7: The film tells. the story of the 7 men accused of being responsible for the 1968 Democratic National Convention protests. Though it is set in the late 1960s and early 1970s, it feels very 2020.
  5. Portrait of a Lady on Fire: This LBGTQ historical romance between a young woman and the female artist hired to paint her portrait is sweet, romantic, and powerful. It proves once more that love is love is love.
  6. Ordinary Love: Joan (Lesley Manville) and Tom (Liam Neeson) are your average middle-aged couple. When she is diagnosed with Breast Cancer, they both must deal with the rough road ahead.
  7. The Assistant: Jane (Julia Garner) is an assistant to a Harvey Weinstein-esque powerful movie producer. She starts to notice things that don’t sit right with her.
  8. I am Greta: This documentary follows teenage climate activist Greta Thunberg as she advocates for the world to pay serious attention to climate change.
  9. Mank: Gary Oldman plays Citizen Kane screenwriter Herman J. Mankiewicz in a performance that is nothing but Oscar bait.
  10. #AnneFrank-Parallel Lives: Narrated by Helen Mirren, this documentary tells not just Anne’s story. It follows other young women who survived the Holocaust. Parallel to the stories of the past, the viewer is traveling with another young woman as she visits different countries in present-day Europe.

Emma. Movie Review

When Jane Austen introduced Emma Woodhouse, the eponymous title character in her 1816 novel Emma, she wrote the following:

“I am going to take a heroine whom no one but myself will much like.”

The new adaptation of Emma. was released into theaters this weekend. Stepping in the shoes of Highbury’s queen bee is Anya Taylor-Joy. Unlike Austen’s other heroines, Emma is not hard up for cash and is not looking for a husband. She spends her days tending to her hypochondriac father, Mr. Woodhouse (Bill Nighy) and arguing with her neighbor and long time friend, George Knightley (Johnny Flynn).

She also thinks that she is a matchmaker. When one of her matches lead to a successful marriage, Emma starts to believe that she has the magic touch when it comes to marriage and romance. She will soon find out how wrong she is.

I loved this adaptation. Director Autumn de Wilde adds delicious looking pops of color while screenwriter Eleanor Catton kept as close to Austen cannon as she could have gotten. It is a joyful, hilarious and absolutely wonderful film.

I absolutely recommend it.

Emma. is presently in theaters.

Howards End/Sanditon Review

Classic and beloved novels are easy targets for stage and screen reboots. The question that fans have to ask is if these reboots hold up to the text.

Last night, the new adaptations of Howards End and Sanditon premiered on Masterpiece.

Based on the E.M. Foster novel, Howards End is the story of the intermingling of three families in the early 20th century in England. The Wilcoxes are upper class, the Schlegels are middle class and the Basts are lower class. With a cast led by Hayley Atwell and Matthew Macfadyen, this story of cross-class differences and secrets is bound to delight audiences.

I have a confession to make: I have heard of the book, but I have never read it. That will soon be remedied. In the meantime, I was completely taken in by the first episode and as of now, I plan on completing the series.

Sanditon was started by Jane Austen just months before she died. An eleven chapter fragment of a novel, respected television writer Andrew Davies continued where Austen left off. Charlotte Heywood (Rose Williams) is part Elizabeth Bennet and part Catherine Morland. The daughter of a large landed gentry family from the country, Charlotte is young and eager to spread her wings.

When an offer comes her way to visit Sanditon, an up and coming seaside resort, she immediately says yes. But Sanditon is a different world than the world she grew up in. One of the people she meets is Sydney Parker (Theo James, who played the infamous Mr. Pamuk on Downton Abbey), the brooding and sometimes rude younger brother of the couple who she is staying with.

For many Austen fans, Sanditon is a what-if experience. With only eleven chapters completed, we can only guess what the completed novel would have looked like. As an adaptation, so far, I have to say that I am impressed.

Like his previous Jane Austen adaptation, Davies knows when to stick to the script and when to add a little something extra.

What I liked about the series so far is that unlike most Austen heroines, Charlotte’s main reason for going to Sanditon is not to find a husband. Most of her heroines (with the exception of Emma Woodhouse) are motivated to marry because of family pressure and/or financial needs. Charlotte goes to Sanditon to see the world and experience life outside of the family that she grew up in. She is also curious about the world and shows interest in certain subjects that would not be deemed “appropriate” for a woman of this era.

I really enjoyed the first two episodes. It is a love letter to Austen fans and contains plenty of Easter eggs if one knows where to look.

I recommend both.

Howards End and Sanditon air on PBS on Sundays nights at 8:00 and 9:00 respectively.

Thoughts On the New Emma Trailer

In Jane Austen’s 1815 novel, Emma, the novel’s titular heroine, Emma Woodhouse is introduced as “handsome, rich and clever”. She thinks that she knows the ways of the world, especially when it comes to love and marriage. Thinks is the keyword in the sentence.

The latest film iteration of this beloved novel will be released into theaters in February. Stepping into the well-worn shoes of Miss Woodhouse is Anya Taylor-Joy. Starring opposite her as George Knightley, Emma’s neighbor/verbal sparring partner is Johnny Flynn.

This is one movie that I am looking forward to seeing. Austen’s comedy of manners is more than the story of who will hook up and when they will hook up. It is the story of a young woman who learns that she does not know everything, but it is written in such a way that the reader does not hate Emma.

I hope that this version will make Jane Austen proud.

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