The scenery as usual, is heavenly. I was especially enchanted with the location for Hartfield which was filmed at the unusually named Squerrye’s Court, Kent. I absolutely want to move there. Ok, visit there? It is very pretty inside and totally breathtaking outside. The grounds, the house, I even liked the 6 chimneys on the roof. I very rarely have house envy in these adaptations, but I really could live there. Anybody want to come with me? It is open Wed and Sun all spring and summer and only £7! The house used for Donwell Abbey is not really too appealing, so I can understand why Mr. Knightly is not bothered at all to move in with the Woodhouses.BBC obviously spared no expense on this one.
Well cast is Jonny Lee Miller (aka the former Mr. Angelina Jolie) as Mr. Knightly-very yummy indeed. His scolding isn’t really too heavy handed and the chemistry between him and Romola Garai is lovely. So much said with only a few wistful looks on each side. Sigh.Mr. Woodhouse is lovingly played by Michael Gambon, who has enchanted us before as Squire Hamley in Wives and Daughters and Mr. Holbrook in Cranford. He gives a more sympathetic portrayal than others have done. You can see that he was devastated by his wife’s sudden death and all of his fussing actually seems justified in this light. He is also more active, outside more and less feeble than we are used to in a Mr. Woodhouse, although still very well bundled up.Miss Bates, Tamsin Greig, is very good, although she channels Sophie Thompson’s version a bit at times. But again, more sympathetic and less over the top than in other versions.
Mr. Elton, well, what can we say here? They have certainly made him more handsome by casting Blake Ritson, which works well with his foppishness and conceit and also makes it more likely that he could have the girls of Highbury swooning. This also shows that Emma is not impressed by a handsome face alone. The fact that both he and Jonny Lee Miller played Edmund Bertram in the last 2 versions of Mansfield Park is unusual to say the least (as is the fact that Jonny Lee Miller’s second acting gig at the age of 11 was the role of Charles Price in the 1983 BBC Mansfield Park). This just goes to prove the 20 British actors theory of my sister’s. I have to complement Blake’s acting, both in the carriage proposal scene and at the end where he is joining Harriet and Mr. Martin in matrimony. Priceless!
Christina Cole as Mrs. Elton (Augusta!) is starting to get a little typecast in the witchy-poo role in so many productions, starting with Clarissa in What a Girl Wants and more recently as Caroline Bingley in Lost in Austen. She does it well however, and she looks to be having a great deal of fun tossing her curls and attacking Jane Fairfax at every corner.
Now the role of Harriet Smith is rather tenderly done by newcomer Louise Dylan. She plays more of the innocence and naivete of the character rather than the stupidity and goofiness of other Harriets (sorry Toni Collette). I thought she did a lot with a rather difficult role.
Jodhi May is a little under utilized here as Miss Taylor/Mrs. Weston. To truly see her act, just pop in Daniel Deronda (you will also not be disappointed with Hugh Dancy’s countenance or with Romola Garai’s dresses in DD!) The actress playing Emma’s sister, Poppy Miller, sort of steals the show at the end where Emma and Mr. Knightly set out on their honeymoon. For that matter, the character of John Knightly is a lovely surprise as played by Dan Fredenburgh. He is playful and fun to watch. The Frank Churchill and Jane Fairfax characters are well played but unexceptional. Perhaps this is more to do with the fact that I never really warm to these two in any version. Must be how Jane Austen wrote them.
I have to say that I love to get a little misty eyed when watching an adaptation for the first time and I counted at least twice that I was a little sniffy. Maybe it was hormones but I think the production must be given credit for the tears.Well done Emma, well done indeed.