Links of Import

Thursday, July 21, 2011

North and South (2004)

North & South is an adaption of Elizabeth Gaskell’s novel (not the American North v. South TV series, although easily mistaken for it in conversation.) I set out to review the series, but found myself focusing on Thornton. So here ya go! A Thornton review.

I think I read Richard Armitage saying in an interview somewhere that he didn’t believe that Thornton was a very romantic character. To you, sir, I say right on. Right. On. You obviously do not know how attractive you are, and I admire that in a super-famous dude. Not that Mr. Thornton is a creeper, but good looks do wonders for making otherwise weird, brooding characters really compelling to female audiences.

Exhibit A) Eddie Cullen

“Aaah, I’m super creepy, but you can’t tell ‘cause I’m so hot.”
 Um, the DEAD, very-elderly guy who likes high schoolers? WTF dude. I’ve been out of high school for one year and I don’t like high schoolers.

Exhibit B) Not needed. Exhibit A was pretty convincing.

The viewer eventually learns that Thornton is not as cold-blooded as Margaret initially believes. He's even sensitive. Crazy mother + Thornton conversations revealed as much. Admittedly, his initial meeting with Margaret, which consisted of him beating one of his workers, did not make a great impression. But let’s just dismiss his unfortunate tendency to get extremely anger and beat people up. That could not possibly interest someone living with him. The reason for his action was something to do with punishing people now so that he can save lives later. Anger justified. Next!

Movie characters have this tendency to have very few friends, or having only a single one that they favor in particular. Unless they have many friends to make a point, no one wants to meet that many extras for the viewer not to care about. So it's not that odd. Girls have their bosom buddies and guys have their best pals. Thornton has...

These guys? Well, they're more like his business acquaintances.

I’ll be your friend, Thorny! He does have Margaret’s father, who is also his tutor / mentor. They share a love of Plato. Other than that, Thornton doesn't really have anyone to confide in other than his mother. She is... difficult. In a starched, "my son is the best and the most worthy" kind of way, not in the Bennett family kind of way.

Eventually, in the miniseries, as in the book, Thornton redeems himself. Richard Armitage plays him well, with some signature dark looks and an extremely deep voice.

Daniela Denby-Ashe as Margaret, on the other hand, drove me nuts with her bashful half-blinks. My mistake was seeing the miniseries a second time, because it didn’t even strike me the first time around. I really wanted to like her, but it stood out so blatantly once I recognized it. It’s like Arnold Schwarzenegger’s roar-gargle. It’s just part of the whole “I'm saying all these clumsy things. How dear and embarrassing.” No, it's not dear at all. :l

Excepting Daniela Denby-Ashe, the rest of the cast was excellent. Thornton Mother and Sister were so unpleasant that I don’t wonder why Mr. Thornton wanted to trade them in for a different female. Yeah, Thorny, you trade those women-folk.

"Marry you? Freck no."

I also loved learning about the differences between the North and South of England. I didn’t think much about that before reading Gaskell’s book and watching this miniseries. Although filters can be overused, I thought they were appropriate in showing the difference between the bright South and the gray city of Milton below:

Margaret's house in the South of England

The land surrounding the house
Stairs of Scary in the Hales' new home (Milton)
Thornton's factory (where he also lives... O_O)
A walk through the park graveyard

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  1. OMG, this was such a funny, entertaining take on a miniseries I LOVE! I'll marry you, John Thornton/Richard Armitrage!

  2. @Naima Haviland

    Agreed! As far as fictional heroes go, I would definitely not consider Thornton an arranged marriage. No one need force me. I would go willingly. I still prefer the book Thornton, but I give Armitage an A on his performance.

  3. Did you also notice that at the end of the series Milton is brighter than at the beginning???

    1. I didn't notice that! My friend actually just gifted me the show, so I will keep my eye out this time. But it makes sense that it would be brighter. :)

  4. I loved all the characters in this production, with the exception of the sniveling Boucher. DDA really had quite a feat before her in trying to convey with very little verbiage her transforming feelings for the northern tradesman she was so sure was uncouth and heartless. I really warmed up to the character in the book, where you understand all that she was going through at that stage of her life.
    Don't you harbor even an eensy-weensy sympathy for mum Thornton? I love her devotion to her son. Heck, she's the one that set him on the path to success.
    Oh dear, I could go on forever. At least we all agree that Thornton is a great romantic hero.

    1. What I appreciated most about Mama Thornton was that she recognized how much her son had accomplished, and I found her faith in him endearing. But she seems like a nightmare of a in-law.