Monday, November 10, 2014

Review: Death Comes to Pemberley

There have been many attempts at sequels to Jane Austen's wonderful novels. I have a very low opinion of almost everyone who thinks they have any right to try to add on to her works, but for some reason, I was silly enough to watch Death Comes to Pemberley, in spite of expecting it to be horrible from the beginning. Perhaps mixing murder and Jane Austen is better than mixing in some excessively steamy romance (which is just my vague impression of some of these "sequels," as I've never actually read any) and I certainly think a murder mystery component is a better choice than zombies or sea monsters. But seriously folks, I know all Jane Austen fans wish there were more... but there isn't. And there never will be. This is NOT Austen. This was torture.

 First of all, the characters are pretty awful. Darcy and Lizzie's relationship and personal characters were mutilated in a most infuriating fashion. Darcy was loud and irritable, even Matthew McFadyen's pouty portrayal of Darcy in the 2005 P&P was more tolerable. Lizzie was boring and flat, none of that sparkle, wit and vivacity that she should have. Their relationship was terrible, more about that later. Georgiana's relationship with her brother was also contorted and strained, completely unfaithful to Pride and Prejudice. Colonel Fitzwilliam was cold, mysterious and weird, also unlike he's supposed to be. Mr. and Mrs. Bennet were sadly bland, the first not sarcastic and dry enough, the second not silly and irritating enough. Wickham, Denny and Lydia were pretty good, but only in comparison to the awfulness of the others. Lady Catherine makes a pointless appearance, unless you think appearing just to complete the thorough ruination of all the characters has a point... she was completely unlike Lady Catherine, and much more like Aunt Augusta from The Importance of Being Earnest. It was very disorienting.

Thankfully, one bright spot was the lovely costuming. When everything else was irritating me, I'd just zone out and admire one of Lizzie's dresses. Even though the actress was much too old, and had eyes that were nearly the opposite of "fine eyes," at least her dresses were pretty and authentic (so far as I know). Unfortunately, I can't say the same for the scenery, the woods around Pemberley were made out to be scary and mysterious most of the time, and they used the same mansion as the atrocious 2005 P&P for Pemberley, which has that stupid, contrived man-made lake in the front that seems to go RIGHT UP TO THE HOUSE. It never ceases to make me groan.

And that fountain! What?!?
The mystery plot was not very good at all, either. I'm afraid that's what happens when you try to mix two things that aren't meant to be mixed... you ruin both of them! The mystery was quite unsatisfactory to me, as a fan of good mysteries like Sherlock, Miss Marple and Poirot. It was lacking in clues, lacking in sleuthing, lacking in intrigue and definitely lacking in suspense. The mystery was terribly boring, except when it was being annoying by injustice in the courtroom.

Perhaps to make up for the pathetic mystery, or perhaps just to annoy me further, the story added flashbacks in which they further tainted the true, beautiful original Pride and Prejudice by showing us the scene with Lizzie and Wickham when he tells his lies about Darcy, the worst mutilation yet of Darcy's first proposal scene (yes, we believe it was worse than the 2005 P&P first proposal scene in the rain, where they almost kiss. Hard to believe something could be worse than than that, but there it is!) and a scene where Darcy pays Wickham to marry Lydia in a twisted, weird way.

Also, the story added unnecessary and irritating drama between Darcy and Lizzie in their present time, with Lizzie thinking that Darcy regretted marrying her because of the connection to Lydia and Wickham, and if I understood correctly (I may have been hallucinating or something) Darcy insinuating to her that he was actually feeling that way about her in a most unpleasant conversation! 

Georgiana had a little love triangle; she and a nice young lawyer were in love, and Colonel Fitzwilliam also wanted to marry her. For the sake of duty she was going to marry Colonel Fitzwilliam, and that was one of the points of the obnoxious conflict between Lizzie and Darcy, as Lizzie wanted Georgiana to marry for love, and Darcy wanted her to marry Fitzwilliam for security, and the horrible conversation ends with him saying something about how it's better to marry for security and honor than to marry on a sentimental whim! Oh my goodness, I could write a whole blog post on that one quote, and all the terrible, infuriating, ridiculous ways that is so wrong, and NOT AT ALL Mr. Darcy! Does P. D. James think he changed for the WORSE after their marriage instead of for the better? Did she even READ Pride and Prejudice?!? Okay, okay, calming... deep breaths...

Let me just say, almost the entire movie Darcy and Lizzie are at odds - this is not how I want to see one of my favorite Austen couples in a sequel after they're married! Finally, near the end of the movie, their relationship is mended and then this horrible mutilation of Austen flops the other direction with a scene where Lizzie and Darcy begin to take each others clothes off! Amid much shrieking, hiding of eyes and exclamations of "No, no, no, no, no, no!" we managed to fast forward. Ugh!

Georgiana agrees to marry Fitzwilliam, but that's put to right at the very end, and her young lawyer comes riding up on a horse in a very 2005-esque manner... it might not be early on a foggy morning, but he's improperly clothed (what do these film makers have against cravats, anyway?) and they're standing in a field. At least there are no incredibly stupid lines, there, he just asks her to marry him, and she says yes and then they kiss passionately. (Which, of course, doesn't seem very authentic, but at least is less that offensive than that OTHER scene...)

This is the beginning of the mystery... Lydia is hysterical and everyone gathers around.
Thankfully, in spite of much boring mysteriousness, the "murder" case is finally solved by a pull-the-rabbit-out-of-the-hat sort of trick, and Lizzie rushes up onto the gallows at the last second with a signed confession from the guy who didn't even murder anyone. After being mistaken for Wickham, and non-fatally whacked on the head by the brother of the woman Wickham seduced, who then realized the mistake and did no more damage, Denny just fell down a hill and managed to fatally hit his head on this random gravestone of a Darcy that shamed and disgraced the family, almost lost the estate, turned into a hermit, built a cottage in the woods, killed himself and was buried way out there as a symbol for future generations. What, was that confusing?  What about the ghost of the woman whose very young boy was hanged for poaching off of Pemberley land when years ago when Darcy was a boy, so she then hanged herself in the woods of Pemberley and is rumored to appear whenever anything bad is getting ready to happen at Pemberley? I wish I was making this up. I feel like I'm forgetting some of the ridiculous things, but I don't want to waste any more time ranting.

Like my dad said, they make these things just to trap Austen fans. They know we can't resist, just because it claims to be Austenish, so once they hook us with that, they don't even have to try to write a good story, or even satisfy the craving that they tempted. This is completely unsatisfactory as a murder mystery; more than terribly frustrating as a sequel to P&P with the issues about Darcy and Lizzie. They never would have fought like that, and Austen never would have given us a glimpse behind their bedroom doors... neither extreme was at all enjoyable. Perhaps fans of 2005 P&P would like it, but I recommend everyone else stay away. It's not worth it just to satisfy your curiosity, you'll be wasting 3 hours of your life. There, your curiosity is now satisfied.

If you're trying to decide, don't watch it, seriously. It was like hoping for chocolate and biting into carob instead. Or when someone accidentally puts salt instead of sugar into the cake, you know, that kind of disappointing. Just look at these pictures of pretty dresses and tell yourself that you got the best part of this movie without all of the torture. You're welcome.

Tuesday, November 4, 2014

The Janeite Tag (I'm finally back!)


Hamlette at The Edge of the Precipice tagged me for The Janeite Tag! Thanks so much, Hamlette, this looks like fun, and a great way for me to ease back into blogging after my long hiatus! (I probably have thousands of missed blog posts, but I'll try to pop in on all of you soon!)

The Rules:
  • Thank and link back to the person who tagged you.
  • Tell us how you were introduced to Jane Austen and share one fun fact about your Janeite life (this fun fact can be anything from "I stayed up all night reading Emma" to "I visited Chawton and met Anna Chancellor.").
  • Answer the tagger's questions.
  • Write seven questions of your own.
  • Tag as few as one or as many as seven other Janeites and let them know you've tagged them.
I was introduced to Jane Austen first by the BBC Pride and Prejudice (1995). My parents loved it, and I watched bits and pieces sometimes when they watched it, until I was finally old enough to really "get it" myself around age 14. Then I loved it so much that I read the book, and then all the other books, and watched lots more movies/mini-series! 

One fun fact... um, I tried to keep track of how many times I've read P&P in my life, and I lost count somewhere around a dozen... you see, I was trying to keep a tally at the beginning of one book, but then I got two more editions that I like to read too, and I forgot to tally in those a few times... I reread P&P a LOT. I guess that's the best fun fact I have, hehe!

Hamlette's Questions:
1.  Would you rather board with the Bennets or the Tilneys for a fortnight?
Hm, I have to say the Tilneys. I think the silly Bennets would get on my nerves too much, and I would enjoy the thrill of staying in an abbey, plus Henry is my favorite Austen hero, so maybe I would steal him from Catherine! ;)
2.  Would you rather have Edmund Bertram or Edward Ferrars as your pastor?
Edward Ferrars, definitely! I have never liked Edmund much, and Edward is my second favorite Austen hero. I think he would be a very kind, thoughtful pastor with good knowledge to share... whereas Edmund was so dense that he fell in love with Mary Crawford! Ugh.
3.  If you could play any Austen character in a play or movie production, who would you want to portray?
Oh my, that's hard... I think Lizzy, Elinor, Catherine or Emma would be a lot of fun. But if I have to choose one, I would probably choose Lizzy. She's so fun, quick-witted, intelligent and energetic. Her "playful manners" and "bright eyes" would be delightful to try to portray, and I think the first proposal and the Lady Catherine confrontation scenes would be so much fun to do!
4.  Which Austen book makes you laugh the most?  (Or do you not laugh over any of them?)
Northanger Abbey makes me laugh out loud every time! It's so funny, and I find it even more amusing now that I've read both The Mysteries of Udolpho and The Romance of the Forest. It's an absolutely hilarious parody of the gothic genre! Henry has some of the best lines... "Now I must give you one smirk, and then we may be rational again."
5.  How many times have you read your favorite Austen book?
Well, I definitely can't choose a favorite, and like I mentioned in my fun fact, I lost count of how many times I've read P&P! It is somewhere around 13 or 14 times though, I think. And I refuse to say that it's my favorite, but it is the one I've read the most... you may draw what conclusions you choose from that.
6.  Which Austen parents do you think do the best job of parenting?
I think Mr. and Mrs. Morland are probably the best parents out of the lot. They didn't know she was going to be sent home in the middle of the night in such an unsafe way when they let her go to Bath with the Allens so they weren't knowingly neglectful, and they seem to be very sensible, kind and intelligent.
7.  If you could make a new movie version of any Austen book, which one would you adapt, and who would you cast?  (Feel free to get as detailed as you want, or just cast the principals -- your choice.)
I think Mansfield Park and Persuasion both need new editions... but...

For Mansfield Park, Sarah and I (Okay, mostly Sarah, I'm pretty horrible at imaginary casting) were talking just recently about what a good Edmund Tom Hughes would make! Edmund is a little annoying, but Tom Hughes does somewhat annoying characters in a very enjoyable way. I liked him a lot in The Lady Vanishes and "Silk," and can't wait to see more of him! Sarah mentioned casting Claire Foy (a favorite since Little Dorrit) as Fanny, which would make her goody-goody side more appealing, and I think she does the quiet, sweet and sincere characters really well, and might even make me like Fanny (definitely not my favorite Austen heroine by any means) and understand her better. 

Now, let me try a little by myself... the extra characters. I would cast (this is how my brain works) Tom Hughes's co-star from an episode of Agatha Christie's "Marple," Joanna Vanderham (also star of "The Paradise") as Maria Bertram. 

So far I've only seen her do completely sweet characters, but I think this looks like a Maria expression. I think she could pull off a little cold, greediness under a sweet, mild mask.

 And Tom's co-star from "Silk" Natalie Dormer as Mary Crawford.

I think she would do the character fabulously.
Just ignore the robes here, and pretend they're rehearsing their scene from the infamous play! Isn't it perfect?
Based on that casting, Sarah helped me pick Aaron Taylor-Johnson for Henry Crawford. 

Like this, but DEFINITELY without the mustache.

More like this, but I like the lighter hair... although I think the Crawfords were supposed to be dark... what do you think, blonde Crawford siblings, or no? Natalie Dormer looks good as a brunette, too...

Aunt Norris should be Penelope Wilton. 
Yes... we started stealing Downton Abbey cast members....

And Lily James for Julia Bertram. 

She and Joanna Vanderham look like they could be sisters, right?
So, on my own again, and a little stuck. Really, I don't think anyone could top James D'Arcy's performance as Tom, but he's way too old now. Colin Morgan has grown up nicely since his appearance in Doctor Who and Merlin, what do you think?

Mr. Tom Bertram, perhaps?
 Mr. Rushworth was done very well by Rory Kinnear, I don't know who I would choose to do better. He has to do silliness and ignorance just right. I'd be interested to see James Corden in the role, I saw him in a couple episodes of Doctor Who with Matt Smith and I think he'd be a good Rushworth. Maybe a little old, but he could be a bit older than Maria...

"I come in 3 times, and have two and forty speeches. That's something, is not it?"
  For Lady Bertram, Sarah suggested Sylvestra Le Touzel, who played Fanny in the 1983 Mansfield Park, (which we commonly refer to as "the ugly Mansfield") and then played Mrs. Allen in Northanger Abbey

I do think she'd be better as Lady Bertram than she was as Fanny...

When I went looking for pictures of her, Google suggested Owen Teale as a related interest. Apparently he's in Game of Thrones (as is Natalie Dormer, and maybe someone else I searched for this post...), which I don't watch, but we have seen him in The Hollow Crown as some Captain that I don't exactly remember.

He looks pretty good, right? (I'm getting lazy now... this is the end...)
 I very much enjoyed recasting Mansfield Park! I may just have to reread it now, and try to imagine my cast. ;) 

Since I'm a bit late getting around to this, and I haven't caught up on who has already completed this tag, I'm going to skip the last two steps. If anyone reading this hasn't done this tag, and would like to, consider yourself tagged, and answer the same great questions that I did from Hamlette! Then please drop your link in my comment box, I'd love to come see your post!