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Favourite Jane Austen adaptation?

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Thu Jun 14, 2018 2:49 am
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TriSARAHtops says...

I've been rewatching (or watching for the first time) a couple of films/miniseries based on Jane Austen's novels and thought it might be fun to have a bit of a discussion about my own thoughts on the various adaptations I've seen, and also hear all of you guys' opinions.

This might be a long-ish post because I have seen a lot of these adaptations and I'm probably going to at least mention all the ones I've seen. I'm including modern retellings as well, because some of them are just as good (and have a really great grasp on the source material) as the more "historically accurate" versions.

Pride and Prejudice
The 1995 BBC miniseries (ie the Colin Firth one)
So this is, hands down, my all-time fave. I think generally the miniseries (miniserieses?) work better than the films just because they have more time to actually tell the stories properly without cutting too much out. I love how faithful this one is to the novel, and how good a job it does of capturing the feel and atmosphere of the book. I'm a massive fan of the casting (Colin Firth will forever be the one and only Mr Darcy to me) and I think they captured the essence of the characters SO WELL. The costumes are SO. PRETTY. (and pretty historically accurate). The acting was excellent, and even though it's subtle (compared to the 2005 version) it's so captivating, and the romance between Lizzy and Mr Darcy is lovely. I could devote a whole topic to just the miniseries (or just Colin Firth as Mr Darcy to be fair), so I'll move on now before I start rambling.

The 2005 film (ie the Kiera Knightley one)
I... have many mixed feelings about this one. It could never stand up to the miniseries, but I don't dislike it, exactly. I like it as a film, but as an adaptation of Pride and Prejudice, as someone who has read the book more than a couple of times, it doesn't work for me. The historical accuracy doesn't really hold up very well, and the characterisation is just wrong in several cases (they completely butchered Charlotte Lucas and Darcy is changed so much that he doesn't go through the Big Important Character Growth that's so important in the book). I found the portrayal of Lydia really interesting though, because compared to the 1995 version, she seems really young and so obviously childish, and I had a very different reaction to her arc than I had previously which was cool. I remember it being beautifully shot, but that a lot of the key stuff had been butchered, so I tend to not be too keen on it as an adaptation, but it's an enjoyable film.

The Lizzie Bennet Diaries
I got into this after it had finished, so I binge watched it over a few days and it's a really fun modern retelling! I think they adapted it into the modern day very nicely, and the acting was spot on. I had a few quibbles, but overall I really loved it, and can understand why it resulted in a whole bunch of similar literary-inspired webseries (few of which were nearly as good).

Bridget Jones' Diary
It's a pretty loose adaptation, but a fun one. Gets bonus points for Colin Firth, obviously.

The 2007 (I think? I'm too lazy to double check) miniseries
I absolutely adore this miniseries, and it's one of my comfort-watches. Johnny Lee Miller is soooo perfect as Mr Knightley, and overall I enjoyed all the portrayals of the characters. Like the book, the declaration of love scene had me crying (I think Mr Knightley's love declaration is my favourite. It's a toss up between him and Wentworth's "half agony, half hope"). I noticed a couple of changes to the book here and there but they all worked. This is my favourite Emma adaptation, because I think it gets the source material really well, and hits all the plot points successfully. Will rewatch soon, I think.

The 1996 film (ie the Gwyneth Paltrow one)
I'm a bit on the fence about this one. Overall, it's enjoyable and a pretty decent adaptation, even though I think the story did suffer as a result of being squashed into a two-hour film - the Frank Churchill/Jane Fairfax-based plot lines didn't get nearly enough development, for instance, even though I feel like that was a blessing in disguise because I couldn't deal with Ewan McGregor's absolutely ridiculous wig. The Eltons were so hilariously horrible people and probably the highlight of the film for me. I struggled with Toni Collette as Harriet purely because I couldn't help but see her as Muriel, even though I thought she did a pretty good job of the role. I was absolutely RAGEFUL that (spoiler alert?) they didn't have the "If I loved you less, maybe I could talk about it more" line. I didn't cry during Mr Knightley's love declaration scene, so overall it's not the best adaptation I've seen. But it's fine.

Emma Approved
This one makes me a bit sad, because it was such a missed opportunity in so many ways. Because Emma would 100% be a lifestyle vlogger, and I think the whole set-up of her having this business? was ultimately a negative. I really liked the casting, even if Mr Knightley kind of reminded me of one of my teachers, and I thought the characterisation was great - it was just the premise and context (if anyone's seen it, do you get what I mean?) fell flat and brought it down. Had it just been Lizzie Bennet Diaries-esque vlogging it would have been so great, but I think the Emma Approved business thing ended up being more of a constraint. But still! I loved the characters, and think the actors did very well with what they were working with.

It's been a while since I saw it, but like the Lizzie Bennet Diaries, it's a really fun modernisation. Hits the major plot points but it also gets the characters and many of the ideas in the novel, which not all modernisations do.
Sense and Sensibility
I've only seen the Ang Lee version of this one. It's been a while, but I remember enjoying it. I'm not as familiar with Sense and Sensibility compared to some of Austen's other works, so I can't really comment too much on stuff like accuracy, but I enjoyed it as a film!

I've only seen the 1996 film, which I really enjoyed. Persuasion is my favourite Austen novel, and I think the film captured it really well. The characterisation was spot-on. I did think that Ciaran Hinds was a bit old for Captain Wentworth, who is supposed to be in his early 30s, but Hinds was in his 40s. He did capture the general vibe of the character well, but I might have liked him to be a little younger (or who knows, maybe Sir Walter was onto something when he said that men in the Navy aged badly?).

I have seen the first ten minutes or so of the 2007 film, which I gave up on because Anne had spent most of the time she was on screen crying, which was just wrong?? She was not the Anne Elliot I knew, so I didn't want to continue. I might watch the whole thing someday, but I'm dubious.

Mansfield Park
From Mansfield with Love
This is possibly my favourite webseries based on classic literature (it's between this one and Nothing Much to Do). Mansfield Park's a tricky one to adapt because Fanny Price doesn't exactly work as a heroine that a modern audience would sympathise with. But I think they did a really great job on this one, and even though I'm not convinced by all the casting choices, even though the characterisation was FAB, the modernisation of the original story has been done really well, and the girl who plays Frankie has made her a really sympathetic protagonist, without completely ignoring the character she's based on. I cried in the last episode, which I tend to take to mean they're doing something right.

I haven't actually seen any of the Mansfield Park films, because I haven't heard much good feedback about either the 90s one or the 2007 one. I think the 1996 one's on Netflix, so I'll probably give it a watch soon.

Northanger Abbey
The 2007 film
I enjoyed this one! It's not perfect, but it gets that the story is a satire and is really fun and a bit silly. JJ Fields is Colin Firth level perfect for Tilney. It's been a couple of years since I watched it, but I remember enjoying it.

Another webseries! I thought this one started out really strong, and had the characterisation down pat, but it lost steam a bit partway through, and the ending was a bit of a let down. It was a nice adaptation/modernisation though.

AAAAAND I think that's all the ones I've seen. Are there any adaptations not on the list that you'd recommend? Are there any you have the same feelings about? Or different feelings?

Or, if you just want to fangirl about various Austen men, that's totally cool as well.
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Thu Jun 14, 2018 6:29 am
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StellaThomas says...

You're making me feel like a failure of an Austenite bevause I haven't seen half of these! Okay I've seen all the P&Ps... And all the Emmas... And the S&S with Emma Thompson and Alan Rickman - is that the one you're talking about? But also I watched the BBC mini series which was very enjoyable. However it's decidedly my least favourite of her books (I can never reconcile with that ending. Sorry.) But the BBC adaptation put them in this gorgeous seaside cottage and I loved that.

As for the third three you mention... I haven't seen any of the adaptations. Oops.

I only watched the 1995 P&P recently and honestly, think that the fuss made over Colin Firth's Darcy is unfounded. Not because he's bad. But because Jennifer Ehle *makes* that adaptation. She and Ashley Clements were both excellent Lizzies. I don't dislike Keira Knightley in the way a lot of people do... But she drained her of all character. Even Lily James in P&P&Z is a better Lizzie- but I'm obsessed with Lily James so I digress.

I loved Emma Approved. I definitely accept the criticism about the format not working, and to an extent I agree, but I feel like a lot of people (not you, but others) refused to look past that and enjoy it. Which is the nature of the fickle internet. But it was my favourite novel too so I was biased and going to love it. My main criticism is that Emma's motivation for staying single being her business made her a lot colder than the novel, Where she needs to stay at home and look after her dad. I know that that doesn't translate in modern media, but the point of Emma has always been that despite all her meddling and flaws, at the end of the day, she has an enormous heart and just wants those that she loves to be happy. But it wasn't even like LBD where the parents were represented by impressions, her dad just didn't even play a part. So that was my biggest problem. But I still loved it, I cried immensely at the end and it looks like they're planning some little extra at the moment and I can't wait.
"Stella. You were in my dream the other night. And everyone called you Princess." -Lauren2010

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Thu Jun 14, 2018 12:38 pm
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Demeter says...

I'm even worse than @StellaThomas because I've only seen the P&P miniseries and the 2005 film... >.> Actually I have seen the Billie Piper version of Mansfield Park, but I don't really count it here because it's been so many years that I actually remember nothing.

The P&P miniseries is the best ever! It is very true to the book and has captured the tone perfectly, and all the actors and actresses are spot on. I love Colin Firth in everything, and Jennifer Ehle is LOVELY. Don't her eyes just *twinkle*? I always feel like smiling when I see her smiling xD She just IS Elizabeth, there's no other way to describe it. I feel like if I didn't like the actors or if I was skeptical about this version, I'd probably hate the parts where Darcy is taking a bath in the copper tub or alternatively in the pond resulting in the classic wet shirt, but as that is not the case, I totally and utterly appreciate these iconic and legendary filler scenes.

Also the miniseries Wickham is rather delectable >.> If only he wasn't a scoundrel! (But maybe that's the point)

As for the movie...

StellaThomas wrote: I don't dislike Keira Knightley in the way a lot of people do...

I feel like this was partly directed at me, although maybe unintentionally xD But it is no secret that I have a weird unreasonable antipathy to Keira Knightley, which actually only started when I saw her as Lizzy. Firstly because I adored the miniseries already and had a very strong aversion towards the movie before I even saw it, but looking back, I just don't believe Keira as Elizabeth. I think she's absolutely gorgeous, but there's just something about her acting that I don't like. And it bothers me that her Elizabeth should be so beautiful, but obviously it's just as unfair to criticise actors for being too pretty for the role as too "ugly" xD

On the opposite side, I think the film Darcy is too shabby? And if it's possible for Darcy, I think he looks too angsty xD Wickham was also totally not charismatic.

This is mainly turning into a critique of the looks of the film actors, but I actually don't remember anything else from it, except the conversation in the pouring rain in the gazebo that I think didn't even happen? Or was there some other scene in the film that didn't happen? I don't remember.

But I remember the younger sisters being alright! Miss Bingley was also super pretty but I don't remember liking Mr Bingley much.

This is such a biased post because clearly I love the miniseries and dislike the film and therefore am not really able to say anything constructive xD Sorry about that!
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