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Austen Superpowers: Finding Yours With Anne Elliot

anne elliotAnne Elliot: A quiet force to be reckoned with. Kindly reproduced here with permission from its author, Laurie Viera Rigler, who is also the author of the popular Jane Austen Addict novels. Lizzy Bennet may be the one with all the flash and sparkle, but one should never underestimate one of Austen’s more reserved heroines, Anne Elliot of Persuasion. At first glance, Anne may not seem to fit the typical ideal of a cape-wearing, save-the-day superhero, but let’s take a closer look at Miss Anne: Austen Superpower 1: Grace under Fire. Who had the presence of mind that no one else had when Louisa Musgrove fell from the Cobb at Lyme? That’s right; Anne Elliot did. Everyone else was wailing and flailing while she was the voice of calm and reason in the midst of the emergency. She was the one who gave Captain Wentworth calm and rational directions as to how to help Louisa. Austen Superpower 2: Trusting Observation and Instinct. Who realized that Captain Wentworth was in love with her–despite his eight years of silence after she broke his heart, despite his ignoring her while happily being the Musgrove girls’ object of worship, and despite everyone else being ready to marry him off to Louisa Musgrove? You got it; Anne Elliot. Though not by any stretch of the imagination conceited or vain, and despite having been brought up to think of herself as beneath the notice of everyone in her family (aside, that is, from Lady Russell and Anne’s own (more…)
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Finding Happiness, Austen Style: Party with Bride and Prejudice

Bride and PrejudiceWelcome to the third of a multi-part series of posts on how to lift yourself out of the blues, Austen style. Kindly reproduced here with permission from its author, Laurie Viera Rigler, who is also the author of the popular Jane Austen Addict novels.   The days are getting shorter. Winter is coming. A dragon has been turned. But are we sad? No. Because we have the cure, and now so do you. It’s called Bride and Prejudice, the life-affirming, Bollywood-meets-Hollywood tribute to Pride and Prejudice. Not only is it a clever, spirited, heart-opening adaptation of Pride and Prejudice, but there are also two other very important reasons for you to watch: 1. Nathan Riggs from Grey’s Anatomy. That’s right, Martin Henderson plays Darcy. 2. Naveen Andrews from Lost. He plays the Bingley role. Need I say more? I needn’t but I will: There’s the gorgeous Aishwarya Rai in the Elizabeth role; Ellaria Sand, that is, Indira Varma, in the Caroline Bingley role; and the most hilarious portrayal of Mr. Collins (by Nitin Ganatra) since David Bamber’s brilliant work in the Colin Firth/Jennifer Ehle P&P. Just watch the trailer and see if you can resist. Come on, grumpypants—I dare you. This film merits a party. At the very least, invite at least one friend over to watch with you. Or have a party all on your own. You deserve it. To prepare: Be sure to bring in plenty of Indian food. And don’t forget to get some floaty scarves to wave (more…)
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Jane Austen Adaptations: Behind the Scenes

When the final credits roll on an Austen film, whether you’ve loved it or not, it’s often fun to find out more. What were relationships like on and off the set? Where did they film these great houses? Who designed the costumes? Was the final product true to the script? Were there any extra scenes that were cut? Fortunately for us, many of the movies do have additional information available. Pride and Prejudice (1995) boasts a “Making Of” feature on the newest DVD version and the book The Making of Pride and Prejudice by Sue Birtwistle and Susie Conklin answers just about any question interested fans might have. Sense and Sensibility won Emma Thompson an Oscar for best screenplay when it was released in 1995. During the filming of the movie, Thompson kept a detailed diary of life on and off the set. Both the script and the diary are available in individual and combined formats. Also produced in 1995, Persuasion’s script by Nick Dear was printed in book format and is occasionally available from used book sellers. That year’s other Austen offering, Clueless, is an updated version of Emma, set in California. The special edition DVD boasts cast interviews and “making of” information. Scripts were also published of both Douglas McGrath’s 1996 script for the Gwyneth Patrow version of Emma , and for Andrew Davies’s version for TV. That script, along with cast and behind the scenes information was published as The Making of Jane Austen’s Emma by Sue (more…)
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Love and Friendship – Behind the scenes

Love and Friendship – Whit Stillman lets us in on some of the filming secrets. Want a sneak peek behind the scenes of the Making of ‘Love and friendship’? There are interviews, location shots and camera work on show in this handsome 6 minute feature given to us by Curzon Films. The film scored a remarkable 99% on the Rotten tomatoes site (30.5.16) as well as 7.5 out of 10 on the IMDB site. Not bad for an Austen adaptation. Even Metacritic rated it a creditable 87! Set in the opulent drawing rooms of eighteenth-century English society, Love and Friendship focuses on the machinations of a beautiful widow, Lady Susan Vernon (Kate Beckinsale), who, while waiting for social chatter about a personal indiscretion to pass, takes up temporary residence at her in-laws’ estate. While there, the intelligent, flirtatious, and amusingly egotistical Lady Vernon is determined to be a matchmaker for her daughter Frederica—and herself too, naturally. Many of the staff of the Jane Austen Centre have seen it and have given a resounding thumbs up for this fresh and witty take on Austen’s witty gem.   (more…)
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Film Review: Pride and Prejudice (2005) by Sheryl Craig

Is Pride and Prejudice primarily a Cinderella story? How you answer that question may well determine whether you enjoy or detest the 2005 Keira Knightley/Matthew Macfadyen film. When spending quality time with Jane Austen’s novel, gentle reader, do you imagine paint peeling from the Bennet family home or picture Longbourn’s back garden as a filthy barnyard? Does Mr. Bennet potter about the house unwashed, unshorn and unshaven? Does his beloved library resemble the leftovers of a jumble sale? One might assume that the Bennets could do better with an estate that is lawfully their own and two thousand a year. However, this appears to be Director Joe Wright’s interpretation of the novel as “social realist drama.” Dear me! And what would Jane Austen make of that? The poverty, grime and crumbling gentility adds what Wright refers to as “a bit more street,” if this is considered desirable. But what is “street” about Mr. Darcy trudging through a foggy field, white shirt front agape, looking for all the world like Heathcliff in Wuthering Heights? Or was it an attempt to offer up Matthew Macfadyen as a wet shirted substitute for Colin Firth? Other choices seem to defy any analysis. Why turn Mr. Bingley (Simon Woods) into a giggling idiot, someone not safe to be let out unattended? Why would Darcy befriend such a man, and what could possibly induce Jane Bennet (Rosamund Pike) to shackle herself to him for life? Charlotte Lucas (Claudie Blakley) appears fortunate by comparison. Charlotte’s fear of (more…)
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Almost Persuaded| ITV’s Persuasion

The game is afoot in ITV’s Persuasion as Anne Elliot (Sally Hawkins) speed walks down a maze of hallways in Kellynch and jogs down the streets of Bath in what was, presumably, the film makers’ attempt to add action and energy to Jane Austen’s posthumously published 1817 classic. No doubt, the film’s creators felt challenged by a novel with more substance than could possibly be squeezed into a 90 minute time frame and by the precedent of the critically acclaimed 1995 Persuasion which set the standard for Jane Austen film adaptations very high indeed. Screenplay writer Simon Burke and director Adrian Shergold resorted to some rather desperate maneuvers to make this version unpredictable and a bit surprising, but their stratagems were not always successful. Some of the camera work is dizzying, and, at the conclusion of the film, when the compressed plot finally implodes, the viewer may well be left confused as to what just happened and why. If you are searching for an adaptation that is accurate to Jane Austen’s novel, this is not it, but, standing alone as a film, Persuasion has much to recommend it. Sally Hawkins has a sweet, open face, and, like Amanda Root, those large, liquid eyes inspire the viewer to sympathize with her. Ms. Hawkins cries very convincingly. As she is in nearly every scene and has a great many close-up shots, the film proves something of a showcase for Hawkins, who held up remarkably well, not only as an actor but as (more…)
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Bride and Prejudice: 2004

It is a truth universally acknowledged, that a single man in possession of a good fortune must have no life without wife.

Obviously, something was lost in translation between the 1813 novel and the 2004 film, but the sentiment in Jane Austen’s Pride and Prejudice and in Gurinder Chadha’s Bride and Prejudice is the same. Society, our audience, has expectations of us all. We can conform, like Charlotte Lucas, and be granted a modicum of respect, however grudging, from the Lady Catherines of the world. Or we can do the unexpected, like Lizzie Bennet, and brave the wrath that is sure to follow. There’s a heavy price to pay either way.

The modern filmmaker is given a similar choice when she dares to adapt Jane Austen. She can attempt a period piece costume drama with bonnets and riding boots, as in the Keira Knightley/Matthew Macfadyen Pride and Prejudice. However, in attempting to meet the purist expectations of the novel’s most ardent admirers, the filmmaker is practically guaranteed to fail. Some history buff or another will note a flower blooming in the background that failed to make its way to England until say 1830. Someone else will take issue with the colour of a dress, that dye not being available before 1860, and another person will be absolutely appalled by the actresses’ makeup. Or, the filmmaker can flaunt convention and blaze a new trail, like Frank Sinatra crooning “I did it my way.” Not only has Bend It Like Beckham director Gurinder Chadha taken the road less traveled, Chadha has chosen to boldly go where no man has gone before. She takes Jane Austen to Bollywood, and we should all be grateful that she did.

Like Bridget Jones’s Diary and Clueless, Bride and Prejudice is not a line by line reenactment of the novel. It is an enjoyable romp under the guise of what if Jane Austen’s characters were living in our modern world? The answer seems to be that they would do and say very much the same things. This reaffirmation of the human spirit has to be reassuring to the viewer, and it seems unlikely that dear Aunt Jane would be much surprised to find us so little altered in 200 years, or 2,000 miles. Continue reading Bride and Prejudice: 2004

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Austenland: The Film

MV5BMjE2MTUzMjgyNF5BMl5BanBnXkFtZTcwNjY4NDM4OQ@@._V1_SX214_We have viewed the approach of the release of Austenland with very mixed feelings. On the good side, the trailer looked like fun, and Jennifer Coolidge is usually a riot. On the other side, we read the book by Shannon Hale quite a while ago and had a hard time remembering much about it, other than we felt that for a book allegedly about an obsessed Janeite, we did not find the protagonist sympathetic or even likable. With the film coming out, that time seemed to have come to give it another try; and when an opportunity arose to see a preview of the film, it seemed even more pressing. We got through the prologue and part of the first chapter when we decided we had better stop reading until after seeing the movie.

We were hoping for better things from the movie, and were determined to go into the movie with an open mind. The cast looked pretty good, and the trailer made us smile. How bad could it be?

For those who haven’t read the book or kept up with the publicity (which is really quite extensive for a “small” film), the general plot is that the protagonist, Jane Hayes (Keri Russell), is obsessed with Pride and Prejudice–more P&P95 than the book, as far as we can tell, but at one point she volunteers that she memorized the first three chapters of the book when she was a teenager. Jane’s obsession with P&P seems to have affected her love life; she only attracts losers. Any “nice” men, we are shown, are turned off by her insistence on watching the pond scene rather than making out with them, and no doubt by the existence of a life-size Flat Darcy in her apartment. When a co-worker crudely hits on her in front of everyone, rather than report him to HR for sexual harassment, she spends her life savings on a trip to Austenland, where she will have an “immersive Regency experience” and live like a Jane Austen heroine–complete with costumes, a Regency ball, and romance with one of the establishment’s hired actors. Continue reading Austenland: The Film