Monday, March 13, 2006

 

Remade in heaven

I've made no secret about my general attitude of contempt for movie remakes -- they are almost invariably a waste of celluloid. And I feel the same way about theatre remakes.

There are individual exceptions, of course, and a broad categorical exception: the Shakespeare exception. Every generation, it seems to me, has an absolute right to reinterpret the true literary classics, which after all are enduring because of their power to speak to people of different times and social contexts.

I also think there's a more qualified version of the Shakespeare exception: if you feel you have a fresh take on Shakespeare, even if the last one was produced just recently, I say have at it. I loved Ethan Hawke's quirky Hamlet, for instance, because he gave me new ideas about what the play means. For the first time, it struck me that it was a play fundamentally about teen angst -- and that, far from a trivial punch line, teen angst is a serious and enduring feature of the human condition.

Well, in addition to a Shakespeare exception, I believe there's a Jane Austen exception. Jane Austen's novels have the power to reach us through free adaptations like Emma Thompson's free-wheeling Sense and Sensibility and even far-out inspired-by versions like Clueless. And like Shakespeare, Jane Austen is an actors' writer: the best actors want to take a whack at her iconic characters, trying out their own version of Elizabeth Bennett.*

I think you see where this is going. I'm on record as not a Keira Knightley fan, and it was with pretty low expectations --dampened by thumbs-down reviews by Austen-afficionado friends -- that I finally rented the recent Pride and Prejudice last night.

And with apologies to the lovely Jennifer Ehle and the six hour BBC version, I have to say that this Pride and Prejudice is my favorite. There were brilliant atmospheric touches, like the shabbiness of the Bennett home and the crowded balls, and the slightly outdated quality of the Bennett girls clothes. And the script editing -- where to cut back to fit the time constraints, and where to fill in some material not in the novel -- all worked for me.

But what made this version for was that, for the first time, someone objected to the idea that Elizabeth Bennett falls in love with Darcy by falling in love with his big house. There was never any chemistry between Ehle and the wooden Colin Firth -- we just had to suspend disbelief and take it at face value that these two were falling in love. The story always carried their performances along.

Knightley and that dude who plays Darcy totally sold me that these two had the hots for each other at the get-go, and Knightley's ability to meld come-hither eyes with a sarcastic mouth was amazing.

And stop grousing about her Academy Award nomination, you soreheads!

___________
*I will go so far as to say we need remakes of the great ones. Laurence Olivier's stiff, drama-queenish renditions of Hamlet and Mr. Darcy are totally outdated and have little to say to our time.

Comments:
Hmmmm. Don't you think in the BBC version that Ehle fell for Firth not because of the house but because of the fine figure he cut, dripping wet and leading the filly...? Just "B"
 
You hate Keira Knightley because she's beautiful, don't you?

Just saw Dr. Z for the first time a couple of weeks ago; I am curious to see her performance as Lara. (Hard to imagine her playing Lara. Maybe I'll wait a bit longer.)
 
aaaaarrrrgggggghhhhhhh! oscar, you cut me to the quick with this. we are very far apart. i found the new P&P so frustrating I actually walked out on it (tho I did eventually see it as part of take-mom-to-a-movie duty).

the bennet house was unduly shabby; they were not poor and the house and its lands (and tenants) gave off a fine income. their problem was that this was not heritable by the girls. and the re-writes edited austen's very precise and acute language, translating it into bald and prosaic modern English. And Jane was way too vivacious to have fooled anyone into thinking she had no feelings for him. And Bingley was a fool, not merely a happy go lucky and rather modest gentleman. And if you look at the earlier BBC version, the girls' dresses *are* different -- made from muslin rather than silk, and with simpler styles, than are the dresses of the Bingley sisters or Miss Darcy. Oh oh oh oh oh, Oscar, how could you?
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kbrkd - not sure what the right grammatical description might be (mr. verb, can you help me?) but compare "let's bork this judicial candidate" with "he's been k'brkd" (pronounced kuh-borked") and you'll know what i'm trying to do here.
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I'm not going to see it because a) Mr. Darcy is supposed to be totally hot and this actor is not even remotely handsome, b) I can't stand watching Kiera Knightly's mouth when she talks, and c) I didn't think the book was all that good.

What's that? Nobody asked me? Oh well.

Woah...look at my word ver: "ejacfw"
 
I'm about 2.5 hours into the Erhle/Firth BBC miniseries, and Colin Firth is just smoldering in his looks at Elizabeth Bennet. (And yes, I realize he's basically reprising his Darcy role as Darcy's descendant in "Briget Jones' Diary")

I will probably rent the new P&P at some point; after it's off the "new" shelves at Blockbuster. I'd rather rewatch the Thompson "Sense and Sensibility" however.

There is an earlier BBC mini of all of Austen's work (in the early 1980's or even earlier), and that P&P was also very well done, IMHO.

However, I much prefer remakes of the classical literature and theater rather than turning lame TV series we tolerated as children because there were only 5 channels into lamer films starring the lame "new" crop of SNL graduates.
 
wendy reminds me that i forgot my manners. in my earlier screed, i failed to say IMHO.

on the other hand, i'm hardly ever h in my o.

qrmup -- a gay muppet
 
I just had to comment: "gay muffets" is hilarious.

No word verification winners last week? Maybe I missed it?

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yofmpdem (Yo! Fmpt! Deeee-mmmmzzzzz!)-- the rallying cry, a new product reflective, of yet the Democrats latest self-reinvention: application of rap artist lingo to invigorate the young black vote (or young white suburban black-wannabes).
 
Oscar, I'm with you. I liked this P&P -- maybe not as much as the BBC version, but I did like it. I especially liked Bingley! I liked the way they portrayed him as shy and timid and not just foolish (which I realize is a completely different take than warren p.k.). And, again, I have to disagree with a commenter -- the guy who plays Darcy is incredibly hot. I paid for my mother and sister to attend with me (mom's Christmas present) and he totally made it worth the nearly thirty dollars.

-pseudonymous
 
I've actively disliked Keira Knightley since seeing Love, Actually, and I've been a vocal doubter that she ever does any acting that doesn't involve cocking her head to one side and looking cute, and I love the 6-hour Firth/Ehle miniseries (dripping wet Colin Firth, horse, ahhh)...

...but I've read so many positive reviews of this P&P that I think I might actually rent it. And I'll even try to keep an open mind. (I agree that there wasn't *quite* enough chemistry going on in the A&E version, or any other version.)
 
I feel I too must comment. I had serious doubts about this movie, because I adore the book and dislike Knightly (which includes MT's reason for disliking her). I watched it on the plane to France, and while being surprised that it wasn't awful, I definitely felt it was lacking. I feel it's important that Darcy's character seem stand-offish even to the viewer, so that his initial proposal strikes us with the same shock that Elizabeth feels (which I certainly felt in the book.) By showing him staring at her throughout the whole movie, you expect their eventual union, and it leaves the anticipation and suspense by the wayside. Plus, I've always felt that the best part of the story is watching her re-evaluate him, and learn to see past her initial presumptions, longer versions of the movie are really able to play out. This seemed to me to be P&P for people who don't like to read.
 
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