The beauty of Jane Austen‘s work is that her stories are timeless and universal. This, of course, opens the door to modern writers trying their hand at adapting Austen’s work in another time and place. The question that the reader has to ask is if the author was able to balance their vision with Austen’s narrative?
Possibilities: A Contemporary Retelling of Persuasion was released in 2006. The 6th in a series of reboots of her novels, it was written by Debra White Smith. In this version, Allie comes from a wealthy family whose fortune comes from farming. She is expected to marry “well”. When she falls for Frederick, who has been hired to maintain the family estate, her aunt intervenes.
Years later, Frederick returned as a military hero. He is also in a better financial situation and a catch. When they meet again, Allie is still grieving and Frederick is still angry. Will they get back together or move on?
White does a good job of keeping to the original text while adapting it to her world. Though she goes a little overboard in making two characters mercenary, they do not stray too far from their Regency counterparts.
Do I recommend it? Yes.
Possibilities: A Contemporary Retelling of Persuasion is available wherever books are sold.
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.
I hope and believe that anyone’s greatest wish is to love and be loved in return, regardless of who they are.
Alexis Hall‘s new regencyromance novel, A Lady for a Duke, was published last month. Up until Waterloo, Viola Caroll hid her true self. When it appeared that she did not survive, she took the opportunity to become the woman she knew she was inside. But there was a price to pay for being herself.
Among her losses is her best friend Justin de Vere, the Duke of Gracewood. When they reunite years later, Gracewood is a shadow of his former self. Relying on alcohol and other substances to dull the pain, he has become a recluse who is living in the past.
Doing everything she can to bring back the man she knew, new feelings of both the physical and emotional kind bubble to the surface. Viola wants to tell Justin the truth, but doing so may cost her everything she has fought for.
I love that the cover is giving me Beauty and the Beast vibes. I also love that the heroine is transgender. It was a lovely change to a genre and a narrative that many of us know all too well. The problem is that the spark between the main characters is missing. While the author does a great job of keeping us in Viola and Justin’s heads, the all-important “will they or won’t they?” question is missing. I badly wanted to root for them. But the chemistry that should have pulled me in was simply not there.
If I were to rank Jane Austen‘s novels, Persuasion would be on the top of my list. This story of second chances is one that over 200 years later still hits readers in the heart and sends a few tears down our cheeks.
The film stars Dakota Johnson as Anne Elliot, Cosmo Jarvis as Captain Frederick Wentworth, and Henry Golding as Mr. Elliot. For those unaware, the plot is as follows: eight years before the book starts Anne Elliott and Frederick Wentworth were young, in love, and newly engaged. She was persuaded to end their relationship due to his lack of status and income. Cut to the present and Anne is still single, still hurting from her decision. Wentworth is back in her life. He is a war hero, wealthy, and considered to be a catch. He is also still bitter from their breakup.
I would love to say that I am jumping for joy, but I have a few reservations. I am going to try to keep my concerns at bay because this is only the trailer. Trailers don’t always match up with the full movie.
The dialogue in the scenes that we see so far seems to be loosely taken from the original text. Maybe it’s the Janeite in me, but I would prefer the wording to be as it is in the novel. To paraphrase her brilliant writing (especially in a reboot set in the Regency era) could be seen as a shanda (disgrace).
The casting of Dakota Johnson as Anne. I have nothing against Johnson. I have a bias against American actors playing lead characters in Austen adaptations. It goes back to the casting of Gwyneth Paltrow in the 1996 Emma. Her portrayal of the character rubbed me the wrong way. But who knows, maybe Johnson will prove me wrong.
Her hair should not be down unless it is either the beginning or the end of the day. Only young girls wore their hair loose. By the time they got to their mid to late teens, their hair was up. On a side note, that was my only beef with Sanditon. Charlotte Heywood’s (Rose Williams) hair should have been up.
It comes off a little too rom-com-like. I like a romantic comedy as much as the next person, but Persuasion is not and has never been one. To turn this story into a rom-com is a double shanda and sure to turn off the fanbase.
On the upside, we see the early romance between Anne and Frederick. In previous film versions, the audience is only told about this experience.
That being said, I am willing to have an open mind and not condemn the film before it is released.
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.
The Regency era is an interesting time in human history. Looking back, it is easy to see that, as a species. we are on the road to the modernity that is life today. But we are also still clinging to the rules and social structure of previous generations.
After a year and a half wait, season two of Bridgerton premiered last weekend on Netflix. It’s been nine months since the narrative of season one ended. Daphne Bridgerton and Simon Bassett (Phoebe Dyvenor and Rege-Jean Page, who decided to move onto other projects) are happily married and have a baby boy. The oldest Bridgerton son Anthony (Jonathan Bailey) has decided it is his time to settle down. Among the eligible women of the ton, he chooses Edwina Sharma (Charitha Chandran). But before they can walk down the aisle, he has to get through her overprotective older sister, Kate (Simone Ashley). She is tough, smart, and unwilling to compromise on whom she sees as her future brother-in-law. The problem is that there is something between Anthony and Kate that cannot be ignored.
If last season one was hot, this season has the fire of several volcanoes exploding at the same time. The chemistry between Ashley and Bailey is intense. The enemies to lovers/slow-burn narrative is so perfect that I would recommend that anyone who wants to write a good romance novel watch this series. It’s that good.
Its been nine months since the audience has spent time with the denizens of Sanditon. After the death of her first love, Sydney Parker (Theo James), Charlotte Heywood (Rose Williams) has returned to the seaside town and the Parkers. Bringing her younger sister, Alison (Rosie Graham) with her, Charlotte reunites with old friends while making new male acquaintances. Among them are Charles Lockhart (Alexander Vlahos) and Colonel Francis Lennox (Tom Weston-Jones).
With her usual tenacity and intelligence, Charlotte is trying to move on with her life. But she is still grieving (as I suspect the viewers are as well) for what might have been, had things gone in another direction. As much as we all miss Sydney, I feel like this is opening the door for new opportunities for her in both the romantic and career arenas (as much as a woman could have back then). Akin to Matthew Crawley (Dan Stevens) dying in a car crash at the end of the third season of Downton Abbey, it was a heartbreaking loss. But I feel like if we look at it from a modern perspective, this unexpected change is normal. Not everyone spends their life with the first person they fell in love with. It sometimes takes a few years and a few relationships to find your other half.
Do I recommend it? Yes.
Bridgerton is available for streaming on Netflix. Sanditon airs on PBS on Sunday night at 9PM.
Fangirling aside, it is a unique twist on a genre and subgenre that we have become all too familiar with. Though the I do have two things to nitpick on. The first is Nicole’s outfits (so far). The dresses are beautiful, but they are not exactly authentic to the time. The second is a scene that I will not elaborate on for those who did not watch it. What I will say is that in Austen’s era, it would have created a major scandal.
*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 novel Mansfield Park. Read at your own risk if you have not read the book or watched any of the adaptations. 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 story needs a good antagonist. Without that character, the protagonist is not challenged and basically, the reader or viewer has no reason to pay attention to the narrative. In Mansfield Park, Mrs. Norris is the eldest of the three Ward sisters. While her younger sister, Lady Bertram, married into the aristocracy, her youngest sister, Mrs. Price (mother of the book’s heroine, Fanny) disobliged her family by marrying a penniless sailor. Saying “I do” to a clergyman, she took advantage of the proximity to her sister and brother-in-law. Incensed that the baby of the family, Frances, chose a man that was far beneath her, the result of this choice was an angry letter followed by radio silence.
More than a decade later, Frances reaches out to her elder sisters, needing help. With many mouths to feed and a small income to support them, she has no choice but to contact them. As a result, Fanny is brought to Mansfield Park. The original plan was for Fanny to reside with Mr. and Mrs. Norris. But Mrs. Norris, who lacks any maternal instincts, except for those that will raise her social standing, forces Sir Thomas and Lady Bertram to take on the responsibility of caring for their niece.
Five years later, Mrs. Norris is now and widow and has moved into the big house. Giving Fanny the Cinderella treatment, she openly favors her elder nieces, Maria and Julia Bertram. Another of Fanny cousin’s, Edmund tries to interject, but his arguments cannot sway his aunt. She is the first one to bring up the idea of a marriage between Maria and Mr. Rushworth, knowing that the union is tentative until Sir Thomas gives his approval.
By the end of the story, she is still the social climber who clings tenuously to familial connections. Living with the now divorced and scandalized Maria, she remains as she ever was. But she cannot keep Fanny down. Fanny still marries Edmund and has her own version of happily ever after.
To sum it up: If there was one character who was the Austen villain, Mrs. Norris is it. She exemplifies the worst characteristics of the Regency era and the emphasis on money, class, and status. In being unable to see past these qualities, there is nothing redeemable or even likable about her.
The reputation of an on-screen adaptation of a beloved novel is based on the response from the fanbase. It can also be a generational thing. While the original audience may adore that version, future generations may have another opinion.
Anyone who follows this blog (or knows me), knows that I have nothing but adoration and admiration for Jane Austen. Her most famous novel, Pride and Prejudice, is literary perfection. That being said, I cannot stomach this movie. The problem is twofold. The first is that I am missing Austen’s famous sardonic wit and sarcastic observations that elevate her stories beyond the standard romantic comedy or drama. The second is that the costumes are closer to the Victorian era than the Regency era.
I get that it was made during World War II and movie-goers at the time needed a pick me up. But I wish that the creative team had not taken as many liberties as they did.