Tag Archives: Hayley Atwell

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.

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Filed under Books, Downton Abbey, Feminism, Jane Austen, Television, TV Review

Blinded by the Light Movie Review

When one thinks of the bedroom of the average teenager, they think of a room covered with posters of a favorite performer. In the late 1980’s, Sarfraz Manzoor (the author of the memoir Greetings from Bury Park) was like any other teenager with one exception: his love of Bruce Springsteen‘s music was more of an obsession than the typical teenage fan.

His story is told in the new movie, Blinded by the Light. The late 1980’s was not an easy time to live in the UK. Economic and social unrest was the news of the day. The late Margaret Thatcher was running for another term as Prime Minister. In Luton, 16 year old Javed (Viveik Kalra) is your average teenage boy. He wants to write, but his strict Pakistani immigrant father, Malik (Kulvinder Ghir) has other ideas about his son’s future.

Then Javed is introduced to the music of Bruce Springsteen and his world changed forever. But he is caught between the expectations of his family and his own idea of what his future will look like. It takes his teacher, Ms. Clay (Hayley Atwell) to convince Javed to go for his dream, but at what cost?

I really love this film. I love that it speaks to all of us, regardless of age. The expectation of what everyone else expects of you vs following your own heart is a story that has been told time and again. But in the context of this film, this basic narrative with added layers of race, relationships and music, it becomes a story that is both personal and universal.

I absolutely recommend it.

Blinded by the Light is presently in theaters.

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Filed under Books, History, Movie Review, Movies, Music, Writing

Christopher Robin Movie Review

For many of us, childhood was a time of imagination, opportunity and being carefree. Unfortunately, as adults, our experience is the opposite. We are bound by the rules of adulthood (jobs, spouses, families, responsibilities, etc), which can seem colorless and  downright depressing sometimes.

In the new film, Christopher Robin, Christopher Robin (Ewan McGregor) is the son of A.A. Milne, the man who created Winnie-the-Pooh. As a boy, he practically lived in  the world that his father created. But as an adult, his reality is quite different. His manager, Giles Winslow (Mark Gatiss) can be very demanding. This leaves little time to be home with his wife, Evelyn (Hayley Atwell) and daughter, Madeline (Bronte Carmichael). On what can only be defined as a life changing weekend, Christopher Robin is reunited with his old friends and rediscovers certain aspect of himself that he had forgotten.

This film is quite wonderful. It was a reminder of not just the joys of childhood, but also the thrill that comes with letting your imagination free. I especially appreciated that Jim Cummings returned to the vocal booth to give voice to both Pooh and Tigger. Underneath it all, the message of the movie is just live and enjoy the moment. It’s brilliant, it’s amazing and I hope that it will become a classic in years to come.

I absolutely recommend it.

Christopher Robin is presently in theaters. 

 

 

 

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Mansfield Park 2007 Vs. Mansfield Park 1999

It is a truth universally acknowledged that Mansfield Park and it’s heroine, Fanny Price has been debated time again since it’s initial publishing 2o0 years ago. It is also universally acknowledged that any film adaptation of this novel will bring about the same heated debate.

I have not seen the 1983 Mansfield Park, but from what I have heard, it is the best adaptation. But I have seen both the 1999 and 2007 adaptions and I hope to give each a fair shake, to determine which is the better adaptation.

1999 Movie

Cast: Frances O’Connor (Fanny), Johnny Lee Miller (Edmund), Sir Harold Pinter (Sir Thomas), Embeth Davidtz (Mary Crawford) and Alessandro Nivolo (Henry Crawford).

  • Pros: Director and screenwriter Patricia Rozema weaves throughout the film Fanny’s strength and innate sense of self, especially in the face of overwhelming odds against her. Rozema also inserts Austen’s experiences and early writings, revealing interesting facets of Fanny’s character.
  • Cons: The actors who were supposed to be playing the young people in the film were 30 ish and above. William, Fanny’s adored big brother, and The Crawford’s sister and brother in law are nowhere to be found.

2007 TV Movie

Cast: Billie Piper (Fanny), Blake Ritson (Edmund), Douglas Hodge (Sir Thomas), Hayley Atwell (Mary Crawford) and Joseph Beattie (Henry Crawford).

  • Pros: The actors playing the young people are all age appropriate, each approximately 25 ish, closer in age to their characters than their counterparts in the 1999 movie.  William is included in this adaption.
  • Cons: Billie Piper. She is a very good actress, but not suited for this part. Fanny in this adaptation is too much of a tomboy. The fact that the hair and makeup people did not take a few minutes to make sure that her hair color and eyebrows matched just boggles my mind. Nor did the costume department make sure that she had the appropriate bonnet and gloves while outside. What female in Regency England had naturally brown eyebrows and blonde hair? Fanny maybe the impoverished niece reliant on her uncle’s support, but even she would know what to wear when going outside. And once again the Crawford sister and brother in law are nowhere to be found.

In conclusion, the winner is….. the 1999 movie.

 

 

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Filed under Books, Jane Austen, Mansfield Park, Movies