Sunday, April 22, 2012

Miss Austen Regrets

I watched this movie first last December for Miss Dashwood’s Jane Austen Birthday Week, because there was a challenge and we were supposed to watch a JA adaptation we hadn't seen yet, or watch one with someone else who hasn't seen it before. Well, as most the ones I wanted to show my family had already been shown to them and I’d seen all the ones I was planning to see, I didn’t know what to do. But I decided to watch Miss Austen Regrets


People say about certain movies that everyone either loves it or hates it—well, with this one, I think everyone either likes it or hates it. Also, from what I have observed, those who like it seem to hate Becoming Jane, and those who hate it seem to like Becoming Jane.

Did I like it or hate it? Well, I didn’t hate it. Which surprised me, because I expected to. I’d heard all sorts of bad things about it—but the funny thing is, when I hear all sorts of bad things about something and then actually end up watching it, it’s easier for me to notice the good points, because I'm already prepared for the bad ones. That’s the way it was when I saw the 2011 version of Jane Eyre, too.
But did I really ‘like’ it? Well… I liked some of it. I liked it, but… hmm, there would be a lot of “buts.”

I liked it, but…


…it just wasn’t Jane Austen. Maybe this should go last, because it’s the most important fault, but I’m going to put it first. Just because.
    This encompasses a lot. As you all, I am sure, know, my loyalty to dear Jane Austen is unswerving. When the movie-makers get her wrong… that just won’t do. In some respects she was actually all right. The sort of dry sense of humor she had was tolerably well done, I think. However. The sparkle was missing. The cheerful sort of way that I know she was from reading her works, her letters, and what others said about her, was absent. Now, I don’t think Jane Austen was perfect. No, indeed, I think she had many faults just like we all do. But the way they tried to make her real… was misrepresenting. The flirting was way overdone and absolutely ridiculous. She joked about flirting in her early letters to Cassandra, but that was when she was 20, not 40. I am sure she had much more prudence than that. She acted in such a way as the characters she ridiculed in her novels did. (I think I'm stealing that point of view from Miss Elizabeth, but it was a good thought.) Granted, she was mostly joking, but… still. 
   As I said, her sparkle was missing, as was her good humor. She seemed grouchy and scowlish a lot. Now, I know that towards the end this was probably owing a lot to her being ill, but when you read the letters she wrote during her illness, and what others said about her, she had rather surprised everyone by how she tried to act cheerful in spite of it.
   In general, I’d say the good qualities Jane Austen had were removed or misrepresented in this movie. And I mean the good qualities of her nature and character, not her mind. Because she was clever and witty enough. Just, as I said, not quite cheerful enough in her wittiness. 
   Also, she was sort of too… melodramatic. Or something. And not the kind of melodramatic I like.  


…the seaside gentleman was missing. One of my favorite things in Jane Austen's real-life story is that mystery about the man she supposedly met by the sea, whom Cassandra was said to have told one of their nieces later on was the only man Jane every truly loved. The mystery and romance of that appeals to me, and I think it a good challenge for every bio-fic writer to acknowledge this possibility. (Early on in the movie, she says to Fanny that she loved and lost… but she never explained what that was supposed to mean.) I can sort of understand why they wouldn’t, because it’s not a proven fact from her life, but obviously they weren’t trying to avoid that, as…


…they made up romances for Jane. There was this man, a Rev. Bridges, who was supposed to have proposed to her in the past, but she refused him. And I am not talking about Harris Bigg-Wither. He was there, too, but this is another guy. And he’s still around later on, but he’s married, and seems to still be interested in Jane (highly inappropriate!). I don’t approve. Also, she is sort of interested in a this young doctor during the story. Now, she pretends to be interested in a couple of other gentlemen too, and that’s just her flirting nonsense. Which annoys me, as I said. But she seemed to be genuinely interested in this one, but then finds out that he isn’t really interested in her, and feels rather jealous because he seems slightly taken with her 20-year-old niece, Fanny Knight. 
To read a guest post I did on Miss Dashwood’s blog about Jane Austen’s real-life romances, click here.


…Cassandra Austen wasn’t right. She just… wasn’t. Also, in this movie, they have Cassandra help Jane decide to break her engagement with Harris (which they also made up, to the best of my knowledge), and near the end she says, weepingly, “I didn’t do it for you… I'm so ashamed!” and what was that supposed to mean? It was unexplained. And I don’t like loose ends. The speech she makes to Fanny at the end is quite good, but that’s only because it’s what she wrote in a letter in real life. It’s so touching and makes me cry every time. “She was the sun of my life, the gilder of every pleasure, the soother of every sorrow; I had not a thought concealed from her, and it is as if I have lost a part of myself.” *sniff*

…it had some things I found slightly indecent. There were a few things in there that made me think “um, was that really necessary?” or “if they say something else like that, I’m turning this off.” (One might consider me to be very picky, though.) If you want me to explain better, let me know.


…there was too much wine-drinking going on. Need I say more?

…Mrs. Austen was too… annoying. From what I know of the real Mrs. Austen, she wasn’t exactly the nicest or wisest character, but in this movie they just make her too mean and… eehh.

So. After all that, you might be wondering… what did I like about it? What about it made me not exactly dislike it?


Well, despite all the inaccuracies, it is supposed to be about Jane Austen, and it’s just too much fun to have all those beloved names spoken, and actually hearing the characters talk about Pride and Prejudice and Sense and Sensibility; to hear people quote Mansfield Park, and Jane reading Persuasion aloud to Mrs. Austen and Cassandra in the kitchen; these things just can’t be in the Jane Austen novel adaptations, and I found it delightful. And of course it includes some tidbits of things that really did happen in Jane Austen’s life; like being ‘invited’ to dedicate Emma to the Prince Regent.


I also thought the focus of Jane’s relationship with her niece Fanny Knight was interesting; Jane Austen really did have a special friendship with Fanny, and though they made everything a bit silly at times, I still found most of it enjoyable. Fanny sometimes acted like an immature, spoiled brat, but when she didn't act like that I rather liked her. "You said yes because he was rich and no because you didn't love him? That's so romantic!" (Speaking of Harris Bigg. And I completely agree.)

Also, the music. When I like the soundtrack to something, the movie usually goes up a couple notches in my head. But then, I usually have to like a movie to like its soundtrack. Well, no, maybe I just have to have seen the movie to like its soundtrack. And I need to stick to the point here.
Anyways. I found the soundtrack on YouTube, and it’s one of my favorite things to listen to while I’m doing dishes. Heehee.
One of my favorite songs from the movie:

So, would I recommend this movie? Weeeeell… if you’re already a secure Janeite – read the novels, learned a bit about Jane Austen’s life, perhaps even read some of her letters – and want to watch a bio-fic movie, then maybe so. Just prepare to be disappointed.

My Grade/Rating: B-

Actors I recognized from other films I’ve seen/seen part of
Olivia Williams (Jane Austen) – Jane Fairfax in Emma (1996, A&E)
Greta Scacchi (Cassandra Austen) – Mrs. Weston in Emma (1996, Miramax), Lydia Glasher in Daniel Deronda (2002)
Imogen Poots (Fanny Knight) – Blanche Ingram in Jane Eyre (2011)
Tom Hiddleston (John Plumptre) – William Buxton in Return to Cranford (2009)
Hugh Bonneville (Rev. Brook Bridges) – creepy guy Mr. Grandcourt in Daniel Deronda (2002)

Trailer

Wednesday, April 11, 2012

Some Changes and Additions

After a year and three months of the same blog design, it seemed time for a change, despite my Mr. Woodhouse-ish disdain of change in general. As well as a new header and background, I've added three new blog buttons and a new page.

Here's what the old header looked like... 
A few of my reader expressed a little sadness at the thought of saying good-bye to that picture (drawn by one of my sisters, by the way), so I've put it on the sidebar. 

The new header, for those of you who don't know, is a picture from My Favorite Scene in All Jane Austen Movies and Probably All Period Drama, which is the scene where Emma and Mr. Knightley dance in BBC's 2009 adaptation of Emma. The picture is right when he asks her to dance. Oh, I just love the picture... and the scene... but I'll stop gushing before it becomes the subject of this post. (Hey, maybe I should do that sometime.)

The background I got, in a roundabout way, from Miss Laurie. Thanks, Ladybird! ;-)

These are the three new blog buttons, and they can also be found, along with the others, on my blog buttons page

Regency Delight ~Jane Austen, etc.~ 


Regency Delight ~Jane Austen, etc.~ 

(That's where the 'etc.' part of 'Jane Austen, etc.' comes in, as the picture
is from Anne of Green Gables. But I like it.)

Regency Delight ~Jane Austen, etc.~ 

(This one will only work if you have a slightly larger sidebar.)

And the last addition is the 'My Favorite Music' page. The idea was first put into my head by my Mouse (er, I mean Miss Dashwood) quite some time ago, and after a while I put up a poll on the sidebar about it, and as 20 people were interested, well, there it is. I had great fun making two playlists: one with a lot of soundtrack music, and the other with some Classical pieces. And if you check at some other point, both playlists will probably be longer. ;-) So far everything is instrumental, which I generally prefer, but after a while I might add another playlist with some of my favorite Singing-songs, heehee. 

I think that's it! Also, I am excited to have hit my 75 Followers mark. (And now I have 76!) I greatly appreciate all of my readers.

So... what do you think of the newnesses? (I know, that's not a word. But I like to use words that aren't really words, unless they're words that aren't really words but everyone else uses them. Because then I'm just being like everyone else, and that's not very fun. --I also like to ramble...)

Wednesday, April 4, 2012

Jane Austen's Heroes

There's nothing new or original in posting about Jane Austen's heroes, I suppose. But it's something I've never done before. And it's something that I think belongs here.

The way I see it, the most important factor of a good book may very well be its characters. One of my favorite things about Jane Austen’s writings is her characters. They are well-developed, intriguing, and believable. If the storyline itself is lacking (which some people consider a few or all of Jane Austen’s novels to be: I, of course, do not agree with them, to put it lightly), the characters can save it. I’m not convinced that deficient characters could be saved by a good storyline, however.

One could easily say that the hero and heroine (or male and female main characters, if you prefer) are the most important characters in a book. In stories of a romantic nature, not even the best heroine can make up for a disappointing hero.

In the eyes of many fans, Jane Austen is acclaimed for creating excellent heroes. What about them is so compelling? For one thing, they often seem like real people, and it draws us to them.

Though each of them probably deserve a post all to themselves (and I actually did write one--er, two--for Mr. Knightley, and someday I'm going to do a post for Mr. Darcy... because he needs one, sadly enough), I thought it would be interesting to divide the Jane Austen heroes up into categories. So here’s a little review of all seven heroes, divided into four different groups.

The romantics
romantic
noun
“a person who is romantic, as in being idealistic, amorous, or soulful”

Rupert Penry-Jones as Wentworth
Captain Frederick Wentworth, Persuasion
    Persuasion, Jane Austen’s last completed novel, is often reckoned to be her most romantic. It is the story of Anne Elliot, a young woman who gets a second chance at love. At age nineteen, she meets Frederick Wentworth and they fall “rapidly and deeply in love.” She consents to an engagement, but because he is 'beneath' her family and without a solid future, Anne is persuaded to break the engagement. Captain Wentworth leaves, but eight years later they are thrown together once again.
    For those eight years they have both remained faithful to one another, although he actually believes himself indifferent for a time. The awkwardness of the situation and the coldness on Captain Wentworth’s side create a situation where they meet again and again but rarely speak to each other.
Ciaran Hinds as
Captain Wentworth
    The most decidedly romantic part in the novel (perhaps all of Jane Austen’s novels) is where Capt. Wentworth renews his proposal to Anne; unable to speak, he pours out his heart in a letter.
“I can listen no longer in silence. I must speak to you by such means as are within my reach. You pierce my soul. I am half agony, half hope. Tell me not that I am too late, that such precious feelings are gone for ever. I offer myself to you again with a heart even more your own, than when you almost broke it eight years and a half ago. Dare not say that man forgets sooner than woman, that his love has an earlier death. I have loved none but you. Unjust I may have been, weak and resentful I have been, but never inconstant.”
   His constancy and that letter says it all. Captain Wentworth is definitely one of the romantics.

Mr. Fitzwilliam Darcy, Pride and Prejudice
Colin Firth as Mr. Darcy
   Ah, Mr. Darcy. Something I’ve noticed about this hero is that you either “get it” or you don’t…some understand Mr. Darcy, some think they do, some do not…others simply don’t want to.
   All in all though, Mr. Darcy is the best-loved Jane Austen hero of all, as well as Pride and Prejudice being the most popular novel.
   Most of us know the story in Pride and Prejudice; Mr. Darcy slights Elizabeth’s looks…Elizabeth doesn’t like him…he notices Elizabeth more and starts to like her, soon feeling in danger of liking her too much because her class is lower. Elizabeth learns about something Mr. Darcy supposedly did and dislikes him more. Meanwhile Mr. Darcy falls in love against his inclination, and at the height of Elizabeth’s dislike, he proposes. He does so very untactfully, however, insulting her family while he's at it. She refuses him, of course; but it wasn’t an “of course” to him: he was expecting her to accept him.
   And then, as we know, it all comes around beautifully. The pride and prejudice on both sides are removed, and the reader arrives at the anxiously awaited happy understanding between Elizabeth and Mr. Darcy.
Matthew MacFadyen as Mr. Darcy
   Pride and Prejudice may be Jane Austen’s most eventful novel. Something is always happening, and it has everything; there are scandals and secrets…heartbreaks, comedy, romance.
   There is Elizabeth and Mr. Darcy.
   For me, one of the best things about Mr. Darcy is his ever-constant and unchangeable (except to increase) love for Elizabeth. That alone makes one root for him, but after the first proposal, one grows to love him right along with Elizabeth. 
We learn about his protectiveness and love for his younger sister, his kindness towards his servants, his non-resentful and affectionate manners towards Elizabeth when he sees her again, and his amiable and un-prejudiced actions to her aunt and uncle. His defending Elizabeth to the snide Miss Bingley, his gentlemanly concern for Elizabeth when she receives shocking news, and then his true heroism in doing anything, going anywhere, spending whatever necessary, to save his Lizzy from disgrace.
   Mr. Darcy’s sincerity in admitting he was wrong – realizing and generously confessing that Elizabeth was right in her accusations about him; how she changed him, or rather brought out the best in him.
   Everything for Elizabeth. It’s what makes Mr. Darcy romantic.

“Such I was, from eight to eight and twenty; and such I might still have been but for you, dearest, loveliest Elizabeth! What do I not owe you! … You shewed me how insufficient were all my pretensions to please a woman worthy of being pleased.” --Mr. Darcy to Elizabeth

Colonel Brandon, Sense and Sensibility

Alan Rickman as Col. Brandon 
A man who falls in love with such a romantic as Marianne Dashwood, must be a romantic himself.
    Colonel Brandon is not the dashing sort of romantic like Captain Wentworth and Mr. Darcy, but I consider him romantic indeed and quite belonging to this category.
    Though Marianne considers him quite the opposite of romantic at first – he is at the advanced age of 35 compared to her 17, and incapable of loving or inspiring love. (It is quite an age difference; but it’s interesting to think that he’s only 4 years older than Capt. Wentworth, and actually younger than Mr. Knightley.)
    Marainne is rather blinded at first to what he really is; melancholic with deep emotions; a kind and loyal heart.
    Both of the major adaptations of Sense and Sensibility try to increase Col. Brandon’s drama in the story by having him go out to look for Marianne in the rain, and carrying her, faint and ill, back into the house. Though Marianne did become deathly ill in the book, it did not happen quite in that way; I don’t really think it’s something he wouldn’t have done, though.
David Morrissey as Brandon
    The makers of the 2008 mini-series had rather a liking for drawing things out of the novel which were barely hinted at, and one of them was the duel between Col. Brandon and Willoughby. “[W]e met by appointment,” Col. Brandon says in the book, “he to defend, I to punish his conduct. We returned unwounded, and the meeting, therefore, never got abroad.”
    Everybody assumes this to be a duel although the word is never mentioned – I personally have a hard time believing it was with swords and everything as presented in the mini-series, but in any case, Col. Brandon performed some gallant deed in defending the honor of his ward as well as his beloved Marianne.
    His love is so constant, self-sacrificing, and passionate, that I think he can scarcely be called less than romantic.

The nice guys
‘nice’
-Enjoyable and agreeable: pleasant
-Courteous and polite: considerate
-Of good character and reputation: respectable

Edward Ferrars, Sense and Sensibility
Dan Stevens as Edward Ferrars
   I think poor Edward is a dreadfully mistaken character – helped along by Hugh Grant’s portrayal in the 1995 version, I would say. Also there just isn’t a whole lot about him in the book. I don’t think anyone would argue, though, that he’s a nice guy. He’s kind and considerate. Though gentle, he is determined and sticks to his duty even if it pains him.
    Edward comes from a family who are anything but nice. His sister Fanny Dashwood (married to the heroine’s half-brother) is sly and scheming, cold and cruel, proud and pert; his mother is stuck-up, snobbish and extremely self-centered; his brother is rather artificial and similar to the rest except without equal wits.
   Edward's manners are quiet and cautious, but he is not shy and backward like some would have him. And by the way, he has a nice sense of humor – just the right amount of teasing – so he’s certainly not boring, to my thinking. The book doesn’t really have enough of him, which is a pity; I think we see his conversation much too little. The movie-makers probably have a lot of room to move in because of this; and personally I like the 2008 portrayal best (although I do not dislike 1995's Edward, either).

Edmund Bertram, Mansfield Park
Nicholas Farrell as Edmund
   I don’t really have much to say for Edmund, because for one thing I don’t know as much about him as the rest, and because I always get annoyed with him for going for Mary Crawford first. He’s a very nice fellow though; considerate and gentleman-like. Not the best judge of character, but he is nice. Sticks up for people, too.
   I like Fanny Price a lot; and one can hardly be so fond of a heroine without liking the hero to some extent!
   I need to read the book again before I can really form my opinion of Edmund.


The amusing
amusing
“Pleasantly entertaining or diverting”

Henry Tilney, Northanger Abbey
JJ Feild as Henry Tilney
   Henry really belongs in a category all his own. His main attribute, I think, is that he is funny.
   He’s witty and likes to tease, but well-meaning all the while, and he knows when to be serious.
   One of the main reasons I like Mr. Tilney is for his openness – his honesty, and willingness to admit gladly things which other gentlemen would be embarrassed about – such as reading novels and knowing about muslins. Here’s one of my favorite conversations in the book, between the heroine, Catherine, and Henry:
   “But you never read novels, I dare say?”
   “Why not?”
   “Because they are not clever enough for you—gentlemen read better books.”
   “The person, be it gentleman or lady, who has not pleasure in a good novel, must be intolerably stupid. I have read all Mrs. Radcliffe’s works, and most of them with great pleasure. The Mysteries of Udolpho, when I had once begun it, I could not lay down again;—I remember finishing it in two days—my hair standing on end the whole time.”
   Henry’s romance with Catherine Morland is quite sweet, and I think they make such a cute couple! (Forgive me for using the words ‘sweet’ and ‘cute’, but I couldn’t help it.)
   I won’t say Mr. Tilney is ‘nice’ (even though he is), because he would never approve and tease me dreadfully for my word usage, like he did to Catherine only a few paragraphs after the excerpt above, which I shall include part of here:
“[T]his is a very nice day, and we are taking a very nice walk, and you are two very nice young ladies. Oh! It is a very nice word indeed!—It does for everything. Originally perhaps it was applied only to express neatness, propriety, delicacy, or refinement;—people were nice in their dress, in their sentiments, or their choice. But now every commendation on every subject is comprised in that one word."
   As I said earlier, he does know when to be serious. He also has strong morals, defending what is good and censuring what is wrong.
   In conclusion, I think that The Amusing Henry Tilney is a perfect hero for Jane Austen’s satire novel.

The knightly
knightly
“Characteristic of a knight; noble, courageous, and generous”

Jonny Lee Miller as Mr. Knightley
George Knightley, Emma
   While some may place Mr. Knightley in the ‘nice’ category, it is my personal opinion that he belongs in a separate category from the rest. Though he is not a romantic, I think her certainly can be romantic, and his and Emma’s love story is one of my favorites.
   He is the only Jane Austen hero whom the heroine had known all her life; their age difference of sixteen years seems rather tedious, but if it ever bothered me, I have quite gotten over it by now; in their case, at least.
   Mr. Knightley earns much admiration and respect for his considerate and gentlemanly qualities. I quite agree with what Emma says on this subject: 
Jeremy Northam as Knightley
“You might not see one in a hundred, with gentleman so plainly written as in Mr Knightley.” and “I know no man more likely than Mr Knightley to do the sort of thing—to do anything really good-natured, useful, considerate, or benevolent.”
   He, along with most or all of the heroes, is very upright in character.
   Mr. Knightley can also be quite witty and amusing, and during my reading of Emma last month for school, I was surprised but pleased when one of his quotes reminded me of something Elizabeth Bennet would say.
   I don’t know what else to say about Mr. Knightley without making him the object of this post, especially since I've already written a two-part post about him, which you can view here.

______________
Well, from reading the above, you might think Mr. Knightley is my favorite hero of them all…which a while ago I could have said is not true, but I'm not so sure anymore. One of my two favorites, however, is definitely Mr. Darcy; he's just Mr. Darcy, you know? Well, maybe you don't, but I do. In any case, he and Mr. Knightley still tend to compete with each other in my head, and I do not know how it will end. 

What about you? Who is your favorite? Are there any Jane Austen heroes with whom you are not yet acquainted, but wish to be? 
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