Category: Reviews

Review: In ‘Love & Friendship,’ Austen Meets Whit Stillman

This adaptation, starring Kate Beckinsale, is enlivened by Mr. Stillman’s keen eye for character and Austen’s sense of fun.

Source: Review: In ‘Love & Friendship,’ Austen Meets Whit Stillman

“Love & Friendship is howlingly funny, and as a whole it feels less like a romance than like a caper, an unabashedly contrived and effortlessly inventive heist movie with a pretty good payoff.”

Hopefully, it will be showing in my area in the Pacific Northwest.  I will certainly write a review eventually.

The Importance of Being Earnest (Movie 2002)

Ernest4 Kernels

The Importance of Being Earnest was written by the infamous Oscar Wilde and first put on stage in February of 1895. Though short-lived since its premiere in London with only 86 performances, it has since been revived and redone multiple times.

This particular version is an excellent rendition with a cast of great characters that include Colin Firth, Rupert Everett, Reese Witherspoon, Francis O’Connor, and Judi Dench. It is a comedy filled with the iconic writing of Oscar Wilde that I frankly admire in spite of the sad treatment and incarceration he received because of his double life that included homosexuality.

It’s a story of two friends, Algy (Algernon Moncrieff) and John aka Jack Worthing, who create characters in their lives so that they can move about freely and come and go as they like. Jack makes up a brother named Earnest so he can use him as an excuse to leave his country home and travel to London. The imaginary brother is always in trouble in one way or the other. However, when he’s in London, he takes on the name of Earnest living a double life.

His friend, Algy, who thinks that Jack’s real name is Earnest, has also invented friend by the name of Bunbury who is always sick. Whenever he wishes to leave town to avoid society and debt collectors, he uses the excuse that Bunbury is ill, and he must attend to his friend elsewhere.

Algy and Jack are aware of each other’s deceptions, which turn into a rather comical outcome. Jack (Colin Firth) is in love with Algy’s cousin, Gwendolen (Frances O’Connor). She adores the name of Earnest because it’s a divine name that produces vibrations. Jack proposes to Gwendolen. When her mother interrupts the scene by walking into the room, she tells him, “Rise from this semi-recumbent posture. It is most indecorous.” Lady Bracknell quickly puts a stop to the engagement when she finds out that even though Earnest is financially well off, he has no family background. In fact, he was an abandoned baby discovered in a handbag at the Victoria Station. Of course, a man without birth isn’t good enough for her daughter.

Ernest2Algy then proceeds to play a trick on Jack and pretends to be Earnest his fake brother by visiting Jack’s estate in the country. He’s always been keen on meeting Jack’s ward, Cecily (Reese Witherspoon). In a rather comedic twist, Jack suddenly returns home with the ashes of his supposedly dead brother only to be surprised his brother has arrived at the estate. When he discovers Algy is playing the game so he can meet his ward, it becomes a comical scene. Cecily is also obsessed with marrying a man named Earnest (apparently it was a popular name at the time, and the meaning held an important Victorian quality). Algy and her quickly fall in love.

In the meantime, Gwendolen defies her mother and travels to see her Earnest. Upon her arrival, she meets Cecily, and they discover the ruse the men have played. Algy and Jack end up in hot water when the truth comes out that neither possesses the name of Earnest.The ending is a rather convoluted revelation of who Jack is in the scheme of things. In spite of objections and obstacles, everyone ends up with an HEA.

For me, it’s not just an entertaining and light, quirky movie, it’s more of a delightful feast of Oscar Wilde’s immortal lines sprinkled throughout. Some of my favorites are:

  • I really don’t see what is so romantic about proposing. One may be accepted – one usually is, I believe – and then the excitement is ended. The very essence of romance is uncertainty.
  • My dear fellow, all women become like their mothers, that’s their tragedy. No man does, and that’s his.
  • The only way to behave to a woman is to make love to her if she pretty and to someone else if she’s plain.
  • The good ended happily, and the bad unhappily. That is what fiction means.
  • I do not approve of anything that tampers with natural ignorance. Ignorance is like a delicate, exotic fruit. Touch it, and the bloom is gone. The whole theory of modern education is radically unsound. Fortunately in England, at any rate, education produces no effect whatsoever. If it did it would prove a serious threat to the upper classes, and probably lead to acts of violence in Grosvenor Square.

There are so many good quotes that I could go on forever. You may need to watch it a few times to pick up all the gems sprinkled throughout. Oscar Wilde possessed a talent for wit and mocking the Victorian system. He was indeed a talented individual.

You will love Colin Firth and Rupert Everett who are a great match in this comedic story of what it means to be earnest For a period movie, it’s a lighthearted addition. Oh, and the costumes and dresses that Dench and O’Connor wear are fantastic, along with their outrageous hats.

Stream on Amazon The Importance of Being Earnest

Outlander Season 2, Ep. 205 (Untimely Resurrection)

Well, I remembered to tune in at nine p.m. last night, even though by Friday night at nine I’m feeling like a Zombie from a week’s work.  Nevertheless, for the sake of staying on top of the latest episode my Starz subscription Amazon gives me, I tuned in to watch the continuing Outlander saga.

I must admit that I waffle between bored and interested most of the time.  Frankly, I think because Season 1 (or at least what I watched) kept my interest by the premise of time travel and Claire’s journey back into the past.  However, I’m still struggling to keep my attention during this French portion, except for a few parts that poke at me to concentrate.  Episode 205 and the “Untimely Resurrection” of Jack Randall turned out to be a rather intriguing, if not entertaining, scene.

The earlier part of the episode deals with Mary Hawkins’ aftermath of rape, and Claire’s bid to try and convince the younger Mr. Randall not to marry the disgraced woman.  After all, Claire is now on a bid to make sure that Frank gets born.  It’s quite a conundrum because she loves Jamie, of course, but cannot bring herself to change the future enough to have never loved or married Frank.  What’s a time-traveler to do?

As the episode progresses and Claire and Jamie attend a horse-fair of sorts at Versailles, while Jamie is off checking the teeth of mares and studs, she takes a stroll with Annalise de Marillac.  If you remember, that is the young lady who knew Jamie before Claire.  It’s obvious by her remarks of how much Jamie has changed that she’s not too keen on Claire’s influence in his life.

Then it happens.  Off in the distance, dressed in his British red uniform, comes Black Jack Randall strolling toward her in all his glory.  Naturally, Claire’s jaw sets for the next fifteen minutes in the scene, while Randall enjoys the reunion immensely.  Once again, as much as I hate the freaking sadistic character, Tobias Menzies pulls off an excellent performance.  Unfortunately, Catriona‘s set jaw and words that were spoken through her clenched teeth fall short in comparison.

When the King arrives with his entourage, a rather amusing scene of the French degrading the English occur, while poor Randall endures the humiliation and insults. Better to bend one knee than to lose one’s head.

And then Jamie arrives upon the scene.  Both men place their hands on the hilt of their swords but restrain from carrying out a bloodbath in front of the King and Claire. After the French depart, Jamie challenges Randall to a duel.  Of course, if you didn’t know, dueling was illegal in France at the time.  I know because I researched it for one of my books.  However, duels still occurred in secluded places where one could draw first blood and be declared a winner or one could duel until death. (Extra notes below.)

When Claire learns of it, she becomes unhinged. Jamie cannot kill Randal or Frank won’t live!  Will she convince the young Scot to keep his sword sheathed or will Jamie draw it anyway to get his revenge?  You’ll just have to watch the episode and find out.  If you read the book, I’m assuming you already know.  “You have a choice! Him or me!”

Maybe I should take French lessons.  I might enjoy it better than reading the sub-titles.

The Duel

Of course, there are rules to the game, even if the game was illegal during this period. Nevertheless, duels continued, and not many were prosecuted over the act. If a man wanted to regain his honor from the offender, the first course of action would be the challenge or what is terms as, “throwing down the gauntlet.”

Once accepted, the location and weapons were chosen. Each man brought a representative to witness the act. The challenger set the rules as to location, weapons, and number of steps to pace off. It was his call. I noted, however, in this episode that Randall had the choice.  What I have read, that is not the case unless Starz took some creative liberty.

The type of duel could either be any of the following: (1) to first blood, which meant until one was wounded, (2) until severely wounded and unable to continue, or (3) to the death. Each pistol had one shot, and if there were misses the first round, the guns were reloaded and they would continue until one of the above conditions were fulfilled but usually no more than three reloads.

To learn more, visit Wikipedia.

Emma the Movie (1996) vs. Emma (ITV 1996) vs. Emma the BBC Series (2009)

Kernel Tossing – Movie 5 – Series 4 – ITV 3

emma-2009-serialI just finished completely watching the 2009 BBC Emma, after only having seen portions. I’ve watched the 1996 movie versions more times than I can remember. Also, ITV in 1996 released another Emma.

Of course, most of you die-hard period drama and Jane Austen fans have no doubt watched all of these adaptations until you ran out of popcorn and tissues. Nevertheless, there will always be a new generation sucked into period drama asking about these portrayals. In case you read my blog ten years from now, here is my two cents worth.

My feelings about these two versions bring me to the lyrics, “Twisted every way, what answer can I give?” (Phantom of the Opera wiggling it’s way into my review again.) At times like these, I fear offending fans. It’s as bad as answering the question — who is your favorite Darcy — and then not answering Colin Firth. On the other hand, it can be a good thing that we have choices representing our romantic heroes. You get three kinds of Emmas, Mr. Knightley’s, and the remaining cast of characters in Jane Austen’s story of ill-fated matchmaking.

Emma-1996-one-sheet-poster-001So which one do I like the best? Okay, I’ll admit it — the movie version. Mostly because of Jeremy Northam’s portrayal of Mr. Knightly, and Gwyneth Paltrow’s Emma.  However, it rates the lowest among public opinion on IMDb.

I agree the series has its merits as well. I’ve always like Romola Garai, whose smile is stunning. She’s a perky misguided Emma even though reviews paint her otherwise with some hating her constant eye rolling. In my opinion, the chemistry and attraction between Emma and Knightly (played by Jonny Lee Miller) lack in the television version. Of course, I could be partial to Northam’s smoldering looks. I mean when he was in his younger years, who wouldn’t? His voice is enough to melt the winter’s snow.

Another good point, of course, is the length and slower portrayal of the story in the series. Scenes are longer and set in different settings than the movie. Some of the other characters that were cast in the series I frankly like better than in the movie, i.e. Frank Churchill, Mr. and Mrs. Elton, and Miss Bates. The remaining characters in the series, I prefer better in the movie version. Well, gosh, that sure puts my preferences in a pickle. Too bad I couldn’t mix and match and pick the cast I loved the best on my own. I’d make them do a new version just for me.

emma beckensaleAnd last but not least is the ITV version of Emma with Kate Beckinsale as Emma and Mark Strong as Mr. Knightly. I know that this is a favorite of many as well.  However, I will admit that it is not mine.  I think that I am terribly spoiled with new and more up-to-date cinematography.  The costumes, settings, and terrible sound quality detract from the story.  As much as I enjoy Kate, the other cast of characters is not my favorite.  Mr. Knightly does not “float my boat,” to quote Miss Price on Lost in Austen. What I find interesting is that both this ITV version and the movie version came out in the same year.  I don’t quite understand the timing.

So let’s survey this one. What version do you like better? Vote below and have fun.  Are their more versions of Emma?  Yes.  One in 1948 (film), 1960 (television series), and 1972 (television series).   For a list of all the Austen adaptations of her various stories, here is a great page on Wikipedia.

Oh, and my favorite Darcy is Elliot Cowan. (I can hear the moans across the internet.) I mean, who cannot like that shirt scene in the lake while Miss Price has her Colin Firth moment?

Coming up – those multiple versions of other Austen greats.  Where’s the popcorn?

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