Northanger Abbey is Jane Austen’s first completed novel, published posthumously with Persuasion after her death in 1817. The plot of Northanger Abbey becomes the blueprint for her next five novels. While Pride and Prejudice and Emma are the books that producers will turn to most often to adapt for the screen, Northanger Abbey has only been adapted a handful of times.
I have compared adaptations of four of the six novels. I have not seen the 1986 Northanger Abbey, so I will just be reviewing the 2007 adaptation of Northanger Abbey.
Catherine Moreland (Felicity Jones) is the sheltered teenage daughter of a country clergymen and his wife. The fourth of ten children, she has developed a dream like penchant for gothic novels. Mr. and Mrs. Allen, childless neighbors of the Morlands, offer to take Catherine to Bath. In her mind, Bath represents the adventure that has up to that point, only existed in her books.
Two very different sets of siblings will come into her life and provide in the adventure that she is hoping for. Mrs. Allen’s former classmate, Mrs. Thorpe, has several daughters. The eldest Thorpe daughter, Isabella (Carey Mulligan) becomes friends with Catherine while Isabella’s older brother, John (William Beck) tries to impress Catherine to point of expecting that she accept his marriage proposal.
Henry Tilney (JJ Feild) and Eleanor Tilney (Catherine Walker) make the greater impression on Catherine. They are without guile, open and amiable. When Catherine is invited to Northanger Abbey, the Tilney’s ancestral home, she immediately accepts the invitation. But Catherine, by way of her favorite novels, imagines that is a secret or two behind the gates of Northanger Abbey.
I genuinely like this adaptation. It’s well done, the screenplay closely mirrors the plot of the book and the cast is well chosen.
I recommend this adaptation.
This weekend, I was part of a group shown a preview of the upcoming movie Austenland.
Jane Hayes (Keri Russell) is a 30 something single American woman obsessed with Jane Austen and more specifically, the 1995 Pride and Prejudice miniseries. On a whim, she spends her life savings on a Jane Austen theme park run by Mrs. Waddlesbrook (Jane Seymour), hoping to meet the perfect English gentleman. Joining her is Miss Elizabeth Charming (Jennifer Coolidge) and Lady Amelia Heartwright (Georgia King).
The gentleman are actors, paid to give participants the full Austen experience. Henry Nobley (JJ Feild), Martin (Bret McKenzie), Colonel Andrews (James Callis) and Captain George East (Ricky Whittle).
This movie is based on a book, which I have not read, but some of my friends have said the book is good.
As a rom-com based on Austen’s novels, it certainly appeals to the Janeite in me. Anyone who knews me to a certain degree or has read this blog knows that I am a very open and proud Janeite. But this movie creates stereotypes that are far from reality. As one of my friends put it, the first 15 minutes are extremely unrealistic. As much as I adore and appreciate the 1995 P&P miniseries, I do not have a life-size Colin Firth Mr. Darcy cutout in my home.
The bright spots in this movie are Jennifer Coolidge who has the funniest lines and JJ Feild who looks good (and I mean looks really, really good) in regency era clothes.
That being said, this movie is not good. It panders to the Janeite fandom community and to women in general, reducing what could have been a very good, very smart and very funny homage to Miss Austen into a predictable and stale rom com. The ending, even as predictable as it is, is too predictable. I’m glad I saw it before it comes to theaters, it is not worth going to the movies for.