The Cold War is often used as the backdrop for some of fiction’s greatest spy stories.
In the 2011 film, Tinker Tailor Soldier Spy, (based upon the novel of the same name by John le Carré), George Smiley (Gary Oldman) is a former spy who thinks that his working days are behind him. Then a Soviet spy is found within MI6 and George is called back to work to discover the identity of the spy.
I’ve never read the original novel nor had I seen the 1979 adaptation starring Alec Guinness. The only reason I went to see the film was the cast, most of whom are British and have starred in adaptations of Jane Austen novels. As I recall, I didn’t quite get the intricacies of the narrative and by the end of the film, I remember being confused.
Set in London a month before Christmas, the movie is about eight couples whose narratives and lives are loosely entwined. Daniel (Liam Neeson) has recently lost his wife and is trying to figure out how to raise his stepson. Mark (Andrew Lincoln) is in love with Juliet (Keira Knightley). Juliet is married to Mark’s best friend Peter (Chiwetel Ejiofor). Karen (Emma Thompson) and Harry (the late Alan Rickman) are a long time married couple. Harry’s eyes are starting to wander towards his secretary. Karen’s brother, The Prime Minister (Hugh Grant) has a crush on his assistant. I could go on, but I will let the trailer speak for itself.
What I love about the movie (besides the fact that part of the cast have been in Austen adaptations) is that this movie is neither overly romantic, overly corny, nor does it bash the audience over the head that it’s Christmas. It’s about love, relationships and the need for a human connection, none of which are confined to the Christmas season or to those who celebrate Christmas.
If you have not seen this movie, I highly recommend it. It is one of the few Christmas movies, that in my opinion, are worth watching.
The romance genre, depending on the reader and the writer can either be one of two things: predictable and boring or exciting and engaging. Elizabeth Gaskell’s classic novel, North and South, is the latter. Set in the fictional industrial town of Milton during the 19th century, it is the story of the rocky courtship between Margaret Hale and John Thornton.
In 2004, the book was made into a mini-series. Margaret Hale (Daniela Denby-Ashe) has spent her entire life in the South of England. When her father (Tim Pigott-Smith) looses his position with the church, he relocates his wife and daughter to Milton. To support his family, Mr. Hale finds work as a private tutor. One of his students of the mill owner John Thornton (Richard Armitage). Margaret believes John to be haughty and full of himself and sympathizes with the mill workers. John thinks Margaret is a snob and speaks of what she knows nothing about, especially the delicate balance between the workers and the owners that keep Milton going.
Among movies and miniseries in the BPD (British Period Drama) genre, this is one of the best. Based on a beloved classic with a cast of actors who have played roles in Downton Abbey, Jane Austen adaptations and other period dramas, it is worthy of the praise that had been heaped upon it. Add in the Lizzie and Darcy like chemistry between the two leads and you had the perfect BPD.
Persuasion is Jane Austen’s final novel, published posthumously with Northanger Abbey. It is her most mature novel. There is sadness and a sweetness to the novel. The question of what if pervades the novel. What if we had a second chance at true love? What if the love of your life, the one that got away, came back? Do you take the chance at happiness or do you let it slip through your fingers once more?
Cast: Anne Elliot (Amanda Root), Captain Frederick Wentworth (Ciaran Hinds), Sir Walter Elliot (Corin Redgrave)
Pro’s: This adaptation is beautiful and spot on to the text of the novel. Every actor is perfect for his or her part. Redgrave as Sir Walter is Austen’s metro sexual, is cringe worthy as Anne’s only surviving parent. Root, as Anne is brilliant. Shy and retiring at first, but slowly coming into her own and learning to trust her instincts. Hinds, as Captain Wenworth, is stubborn and angry, but slowly looses his anger and starts to remember why he and Anne fell in love in the first place.
Cast: Anne Elliot (Sally Hawkins), Captain Frederick Wentworth (Rupert Penry-Jones), Sir Walter Elliot (Anthony Stewart Head)
Pro’s: Hawkins and Penry Jones were well cast in their parts and age appropriate. Stewart Head (Giles to my fellow Buffy The Vampire Slayer Fans) is as cringe worthy as his predecessor.
Cons: As with some adaptations, some aspects of the story line or some characters are edited or removed completely. As much as I love the scene where Anne runs through Bath after receiving the letter, it would have not been appropriate for a well bred young lady to run as she did.
And the winner is…the 1995 Persuasion, but not by much.