Pride & Prejudice (2005) Movie – A Review

Pride and Prejudice 2005 posterI vividly remember sitting in the theatre in 2005 waiting for the curtain to rise on the new Pride & Prejudice movie starring Keira Knightley and Matthew Macfayden. I was excited that one of my favorite Jane Austen novels was being trotted out as a major motion picture. It had been 65 years since MGM released its theatrical version of Pride and Prejudice and I was looking forward to two hours of sumptuous costumes and eye-popping settings that were not set in the Victorian era! I had been reading about the Focus Features production for months on the Internet, especially at Austenblog, where the editrix Mags had been following the media promotional machine very closely.

I had no idea who the British actor slated to portray the iconic romantic hero Mr. Darcy was. My sympathy for him was already acute. How could he possibly fill those big, black, shiny Hessian boots that Colin Firth’s strode about in so effortlessly in 1995? Queue fanfare music and red velvet curtain rising at the theater.

Since this movie was released eight years ago and has been available on DVD since February 2006, is there Janeite left in the world who has not seen it? Just in case you don’t know what it is about here is the blurb from the production notes:

Sparks fly when spirited Elizabeth Bennet meets single, rich, and proud Mr. Darcy. But Mr. Darcy reluctantly finds himself falling in love with a woman beneath his class. Can each overcome their own pride and prejudice?

Continue reading

Preview of Any Human Heart on Masterpiece Classic PBS

Gillian Anderson as the Duchess of Windsor in Any Human Heart (2010)The 40th anniversary season of Masterpiece Classic continues tomorrow night with a new three-part contemporary drama Any Human Heart at 9:00 pm (check local listings) on PBS. Based on William Boyd’s acclaimed 2002 novel, he also adapted it for the screen. Following the life of writer Logan Mountstuart, three actors portray him during different stages of his life: younger years by Sam Claflin, middle years by Matthew MacFadyen (Mr. Darcy in Pride and Prejudice 2005) and older years by Jim Broadbent.

As Mountstuart travels to 1920s Paris to 1950s New York and 1980s London, we witness some compelling history and meet dazzling personalities: Ernest Hemingway (Julian Ovenden), Ian Fleming (Tobias Menzies) and the Duke and Duchess of Windsor (Gillian Anderson and Tom Hollander) to name a few. The many women in his life include: first fling Tess Scabius (Holliday Grainger), first girlfriend Land Fothergill (Charity Wakefield, Marianne Dashwood in Sense and Sensibility 2008), first wife Lottie (Emerald Fennell), second wife Freya Deverell (Hayley Atwell, Mary Crawford in Mansfield Park 2007) third wife Allanah (Natasha Little), later fling Gloria Scabius (Kim Cattrall), and guy friends Peter Scabious (Samuel West) and Ben Leeping (Ed Stoppard). As you can see, the cast is as amazing as the story itself.

Matthew Macfadyen and Hayley Atwell in Any Human Heart (2010)

Any Human Heart aired in the UK last Fall. Its North American premiere is the second new production in the 2011 Masterpiece Classic season following the universally popular four-part historical drama Downton Abbey. It is filled with incredible events and amazing characters from real life that the fictional Logan Mountstuart encounters. It reminded me of a British version of Forrest Gump (I thought this before I read the reviews, so I am obviously not alone) whereby an average person’s life is shaped by extraordinary events and real-life personalities. Besides a griping performance by Matthew Macfayden, Gilliam Anderson offers a wicked Duchess of Windsor and Hayley Atwell continues to awe and enchant.

Further reading

Images courtesy © MASTERPIECE

Masterpiece Classic 2011 Season Preview

Masterpiece Classic logo

One of the consolations of being trapped inside during the cold, wet Pacific Northwest winter in the prospect of great television from Masterpiece Classic on PBS. Celebrating its 40th year on the air, the longest-running and most-honored drama series in primetime announced its new 2011 season this past week. There are some exciting new productions in the queue: Downton Abbey, Any Human Heart, Upstairs Downstairs and South Riding, and encore presentations of My Boy Jack, The Unseen Alistair Cooke and 39 Steps in store for drama lovers.

Since girlhood, I have been entranced by Masterpiece Theater, now Masterpiece, broken down into the Classic, Mystery and Contemporary seasons a few years back. This superbly produced series has for the majority of my life enriched my viewing experience and opened up new possibilities in reading classics which many of the shows are adapted from, and more recently contemporary fare with books and stories from the twentieth century.

I am really looking forward to five months of great television entertainment. Here is a preview of the new season.

Daniel Radcliffe in My Boy Jack 2009 battle scene

My Boy Jack (encore) – January 02, 2011

An intense and poignant story of author and British national icon Rudyard Kipling’s (David Haigh) patriotic ambitions for his only son John “Jack” Kipling (Daniel Radcliffe) during WWI. Based on actual events in their lives, the story is set in 1914 England during the patriotic fervor brewing for young men to enlist in His Majesties service. Kipling’s outspoken American wife Caroline (Kim Cattrall) and sister Elsie (Carey Mulligan) are opposed to his enlistment, and for good reason. His poor eyesight would greatly hamper his abilities in the field. My Boy Jack offers an interesting look at one family’s divided views of honor and duty. One 120-minute episode

Image from Downton Abbey Season 1: The Crawley sisters: Jessica Brown-Findlay, Michelle Dockery and Laura Carmichael© Carnival Film & Television Limited 2010 for MASTERPIECE

Downton Abbey – January 09, 16, 23 & 30, 2011

Set in Edwardian England, the story revolves around a stately country house, a noble family, their servants and the challenge of primogeniture. Yes Jane Austen fans. All that English inheritance law you studied to understand the inner workings of who got what, and why, in Sense and Sensibility and Pride and Prejudice will pay off when you watch this great new series created and written by Julian Fellowes. Lord Robert Crawley, Earl of Grantham (Hugh Bonneville, Edward Bridges in Miss Austen Regrets and Mr. Bennet in Lost in Austen) and his family are still governed by English laws of succession. When the Titanic goes down with his next male heir, and the spare to the estate, minds must work fast to keep their power, money and loyalty to the great estate of Downton Abbey. Staring Hugh Bonneville, Maggie Smith (Becoming Jane 2007), Elizabeth McGovern, Dan Stevens (Edward Ferrars in Sense and Sensibility 2008) and an amazing supporting cast. This new drama took the UK by storm when it aired in Fall, 2010. I predict Downton fever when it hits colonial shores. Four 90-minute episodes.

Alistair Cooke and his daughter

The Unseen Alistair Cooke (encore)February 06, 2011

This excellent tribute of Alistair Cooke, British/American journalist and host of Masterpiece Theater for twenty one years, is not a drama in the fictional sense, but his life surely unfolds like one. Documenting Cooke’s early travels across the United States armed with an 8mm camera, this documentary is told in his own voice and by interviews of several who knew him. It chronicles his early ears in America as he worked as a journalist, his friendships with Hollywood icons such as Charlie Chaplin, Humphrey Bogart and Lauren Bacall, and later years as host of Masterpiece Theater. One 60-minute episode.

Any Human Heart (2010) Mathew MacFadyen and Hayley Atwell

Any Human Heart – February 13, 20 & 27, 2011

Author William Boyd adapts his acclaimed 2002 novel following the life of writer Logan Mountstuart played by three actors in different stages of his life: younger years by Sam Claflin, middle years by Matthew MacFadyen (Mr. Darcy in Pride and Prejudice 2005) and older years by Jim Broadbent. As Mountstuart travels to 1920s Paris to 1950s New York and 1980s London, we witness some compelling history and meet dazzling personalities: Ernest Hemingway (Julian Ovenden), Ian Fleming (Tobias Menzies) and the Duke and Duchess of Windsor (Gillian Anderson and Tom Hollander) to name a few. The many women in his life include: first fling Tess Scabius (Holliday Grainger), first girlfriend Land Fothergill (Charity Wakefield, Marianne Dashwood in Sense and Sensibility 2008), first wife Lottie (Emerald Fennell), second wife Freya Deverell (Hayley Atwell, Mary Crawford in Mansfield Park 2007) third wife Allanah (Natasha Little), later fling Gloria Scabius (Kim Cattrall), and guy friends Peter Scabious (Samuel West) and  Ben Leeping (Ed Stoppard). As you can see, the cast is as amazing as the story itself. Three 90-minute episodes.

The 39 Steps (2009) Rupert Penry-Jones

The 39 Steps (encore) – March 27, 2011

Filled with intrigue, romance and humor, this adaptation of the popular John Buchan adventure novel, set on the eve of World War I, stars Rupert Penry-Jones (Captain Wentworth in Persuasion 2007) as Richard Hannay, a mining engineer caught up in a conspiracy following the death of a British spy found in his apartment. The novel has been adapted into four major movies, most notably Alfred Hitchcock’s classic 1935 film of the same name. Be sure to watch for the iconic scene where Hannay runs across a Scottish moor and is strafed by a bi-plane. It will trigger memories of Hitchcock’s later film, North by Northwest. This new adaptation by Lizzie Mickery literally ‘beefs up’ Buchan’s 1915 novel by giving us a sexy glimpse of Penry-Jones’ hunky bare chest and expands the romance considerably. The cast also includes Lydia Leonard as Victoria Sinclair, David Haig as Sir George Sinclair and Patrick Malahide as Professor Fisher. One 90-minute episode.

Upstairs Downstairs (2010) cast

Upstairs Downstairs – April 10, 17 & 24, 2011

From 1971-1975, I was enthralled by the life of the wealthy Bellamy family and the servants of 165 Eaton Place in the British drama Upstairs Downstairs on Masterpiece Theater. Set in a large townhouse in London from the Edwardian period until post WWI, the series was, and still is, incredibly popular. I was delighted to hear that co-creators Jean Marsh and Dame Eileen Atkins were behind the updated version of one of the most-loved and most-honored series in television history. Both ladies will be part of the cast; Marsh returning as the only original cast member reprising her Emmy-winning role as Rose Buck, and Atkins will introduce new character Maud, the Dowager Lady Holland. The upstairs cast includes the master of the house Sir Hallam Holland (Ed Stoppard), his wife Lady Agnes Holland (Keeley Hawes), the debutant Lady Persie Towyn (Claire Foy); and downstairs the butler Mr. Pritchard (Adrian Scarborough), the cook Mrs. Thackeray (Anne Reid) and the secretary Mr. Amanjit (Art Malik). The script is by Emmy-nominee Heidi Thomas who brought us the delightful Cranford in 2009. Three 60-minute episodes.

Anna Maxwell in South Riding (2011)

South Riding – May 1, 8 & 15, 2011

Based on Winifred Holtby’s 1936 novel, South Riding has been adapted to the screen by the venerable Andrew Davies (Pride and Prejudice 1995, Northanger Abbey 2007, and Sense and Sensibility 2008). Directed by Diarmuid Lawrence (Emma 1996), this 20th-century classic is a rich portrait of a Yorkshire community in the 1930’s. In the devastating wake of WWI, unmarried Sarah Burton (Anna Maxwell Martin, Cassandra Austen in Becoming Jane 2007) leaves London and returns home to take up a position as headmistress at a struggling Yorkshire girls school. Robert Carne (David Morrissey, Colonel Brandon in Sense & Sensibility 2008) is also struggling as a gentlemen farmer who is destined to clash with Miss Burton. Among the others in the community are Councilor Mrs. Beddows (Penelope Wilton), school girls Lydia Holly (Charlie Clark) and Midge Carne (Katherine McGolpin), school mistress Miss Sigglesthwaite (Brid Brennan), and Councilor Huggins (John Henshaw). “South Riding is a rich, compassionate and humane story of politics in small places and, in the end, the indestructibility of the human spirit.” Three 60-minute episodes.

Sadly, there are no nineteenth-century bonnet dramas in the lineup this year, but readers will be happy to know that since Downton Abbey was such a resounding hit when it aired in the UK in the Fall of 2010, that producers are likely to be encouraged again to send some our way in 2012.

Be sure to check out the Masterpiece Classic PBS web site for additional information on casting, story synopsis and programs streaming free online, the day after broadcast.

Enjoy!

All images courtesy of MASTERPIECE PBS, Downton Abbey image courtesy of © Carnival Film & Television Limited 2010 for MASTERPIECE

Miss Marple: A Pocket Full of Rye on Masterpiece Mystery PBS – Recap & Review

Julia McKenzie is Miss Marple on Masterpiece Mystery (2009)Julia McKenzie debuted on Sunday as the new Miss Marple in A Pocket Full of Rye on Masterpiece Mystery. She’s the actress who played Mrs. Forrester in last seasons Cranford who put flannel pajamas on her cow. We shall see if she can also put a memorable spin on Agatha Christie’s famous elderly spinster who dabbles as an amateur sleuth. McKenzie has big shoes to fill. Not only is Miss Marple one of Christie’s most famous characters whose analytical skills are as sharp as her knitting needles, the two previous actresses who portrayed her in this series, Joan Hickson (1982-1992) and Geraldine McEwan (2004-2007), were outstanding, leaving an indelible mark on the role. We shall see if she can wear the Marple mantle as successfully.

Based on Christie’s 1953 novel, three murders in two days has Inspector Neele (Matthew Macfadyen) baffled. Wealthy financier Rex Fortescue (Kenneth Cranham ) poisoned at his London office was found with rye in his pocket, his young wife Adele (Anna Madeley) the prime suspect dies after tea in their home, and the maid Gladys A Pocket Full of Rye, by Agatha Christie (1953)(Rosie Heiney) is found in the garden strangled under the clothesline. Reading about the murders in the paper, Miss Marple (Julia McKenzie) is saddened to discover that one of the victims is her former maid Gladys. When she arrives at the Fortescue estate she offers her assistance to Inspector Neele claiming that “People do tend to confide in old ladies,” her only clue the rye found in Rex Fortescue’s pocket. As she innocently interviews the suspects, she manages to wheedle out information from them that they may not have shared with the police, realizing that the murders have been staged to the childhood nursery rhyme, Sing a Song of Sixpence: Mr. Fortescue is the King in his counting-room, Mrs. Fortescue the Queen in her parlor and Gladys the maid in the garden. Why is the killer using the pattern of a nursery rhyme? Who will be next? Even though Miss Marple’s theories come across to the Inspector as unconnected and scattered, he soon sees her keen logic and agrees to her conclusions, solving the case. Continue reading

Little Dorrit Recap & Review of Episode Two on Masterpiece Classic PBS

Little Dorrit (2008)

Affairs of the heart populate episode two with hopes and aspirations for all of the unattached characters in Masterpiece Classic’s miniseries of Little Dorrit. The episode opens with a wrenching blow to John Chivery (Russell Tovey), when Amy Dorrit (Claire Foy) rejects his tender marriage proposal. The touching scene played out with chilling sadness as we look upon his dejected face and her regretful downcast gaze. I felt numb with emotion for both of them. I can not remember witnessing a proposal scene that was so tragically realistic.

Meanwhile, Arthur Clennam (Matthew Macfadyen) goes calling to Twickenham to the Meagles and finds he is not the only beau courting Miss Pet. Even though Pet’s parents have attempted twice to separate their daughter and Henry Gowan (Alex Wyndham), he has reappeared and is still the front runner for Pet’s affections. Tite Barnacle Jr. (Darren Boyd) is hopeful too, but the Meagles prefer Arthur, who is smitten.

Arthur’s former paramour, the widow Flora Finching (Ruth Jones) has aspirations of reigniting their childhood flame. Sensing Arthur’s interest in Little Dorrit, she employs her as a seamstress to pump her for information on him and keep an eye on the competition. Amy’s opportunistic sister Fanny has caught the eye of a wealthy suitor Edmund Sparkler (Sebastian Armesto) but she is playing hard to get, which makes her even more attractive to him. His society matron mother Mrs. Merdle (Amanda Redman), who has re-married a wealthy banker, is determined to disentangle her son Edmund from Fanny’s skillful gold-digging and offers her jewelry and a frock in compensation. Not wanting him anyway, Fanny gladly accepts, smug with the thought that she played her for some trinkets.

Little Dorrit 2008 Ep 3

Arthur learns of Amy’s rejection of John Chivery and expresses his concern to her that she should not sacrifice her own future happiness for her family. She assures him that she does not love John and can not marry him. He tells her that he has fallen in love with a young woman who she does not know. This is devastating news to Amy who is secretly in love with Arthur, harboring one of his shirt buttons as a cherished memento (a la Harriet Smith in Jane Austen’s Emma). Arthur departs to Twickenham to the Meagels to propose to Pet, only to learn that he is too late. Henry got there first.

Tempers are at a peak at the Meagles house when counting to twenty-five does nothing to clam Tattycorum’s (Freema Agyeman) tantrum over their treatment of her. She flees to the protection of the mysterious Miss Wade (Maxine Peake) who has finally succeeded in manipulating her away from their protection.

With so much romance afoot, Arthur the gumshoe has been pushed aside. The mystery that was set up in episode one over the Clennam family’s unknown connection to the Dorrit’s and their imprisonment at the Marshalsea debtor’s prison will have to wait. We still have many characters that I am not sure of their connection to the plot. The murderous Frenchman Rigaud aka Blandois or Lagnier (Andy Serkis) being the biggest puzzle. What has he to do with the Clennam family? I am still enthralled. Catch episode three of Little Dorrit next Sunday, April 12 on PBS.

  • Read my recap and review of episode one
  • Read my review of Little Dorrit on the PBS blog Remotely Connected
  • Read about the Marshalsea Prison at Jane Austen’s World

AMAZON | BBC ONE | IMBD | MASTERPIECE CLASSIC PBS | WILLOW AND THATCH