Pemberley (Lyme Park, Cheshire)

Pemberley (Lyme Park, Cheshire)
Oh, to be in England...

Tuesday, May 18, 2010

Northanger Abbey

 Masterpiece Theatre: Northanger Abbey
This happens to be one of my favorite Jane Austen novels and one of the best adaptations of her work.  The youthful exuberance of both are quite delightful. There are many parts of this adaptation during which I cannot wipe the grin off my face. Andrew Davies has tapped into the teenaged spirit of her early work to bring this tongue-in-cheek gothic satire to life.  It is lovely to see the world of Georgian Bath through Catherine Morland’s eyes and Felicity Jones is perfectly cast in the role.  With wide open eyes and a hugely expressive face (countenance shall we say?)  she makes me feel like a teenager again and has me longing for another trip to Bath.

JJ Field has obvious fun with the role of Henry Tilney, whom screenplay writer Andrew Davies called the Austen leading man with whom he would most like to share a pint at a pub (he said Mr. Darcy would be too haughty).  Henry’s delight with Catherine’s naivete and her appreciation of Mr. Tilney’s sense of humour is spot on.  He may not have the smouldering sexiness of Mr. Darcy or Mr. Thornton but he is a lot of fun and has some great tender scenes and a few aroused looks when looking at Catherine. And, oh those sexy big ears...sorry, lost it for a minute there.  Actually, I think his smirk is his most endearing feature.

 (This photo shows both smirk and ears to best advantage, although the high collar is sadly missing.)

Carey Mulligan, who has received so much acclaim for her recent role in An Education, is wonderful here as the shallow, fickle friend Isabella Thorpe.  One almost feels sorry for her as her world starts to unravel.  The role of her brother John Thorpe is played by an actor a bit too creepy looking for my taste. Eeeewwww.  I think his acting is quite good but he makes Henry Tilney look like a heartthrob.  His hat, I think, does him a disservice as it makes him look like a lecherous leprechaun.

In any case, Andrew Davies has done it again with his humour and his insight into what makes us swoon.  The scene where Henry wipes the mud off of Catherine’s face is pure electricity and the proposal scene when she backs him into the shrubery with her kiss is classic Davies fun.

The acting and direction are superb.  Catherine’s facial expressions, such as when she is introduced to the snooty brother Captain Tilney and she curls up her lip at him, are priceless.  The younger siblings of Catherine are used to full comic extent here also and they obviously enjoyed the over-the-top dialogue -from the saucy “Cathy, mama says will you bring Mr. Tilney to the drawing room.” to the eye rolling ”But you can see their house from the window!”.  And Felicity Jones’ mouth hanging open for a good part of the film is actually very endearing.  She takes Catherine from sheltered teen to budding bride-to-be at a romping pace.  

This is now right up there with my most beloved adaptations and the short length makes it perfect for an evening’s fun.  However, I leave it to be settled  whether the tendency of this story be to recommend  parental tyranny or reward filial disobedience.

1 comment:

  1. I thought Henry and Catherine were adorable and the supporting cast first rate. For a long time, I under appreciated this novel. No more.




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