Links of Import

Saturday, August 18, 2012

Persuasion (1995)

This is one of my favorite Jane Austen novel adaptations.

It's one of the few movies that doesn't have Hollywood Syndrome, where beautiful people are cast to play the plain and average-looking characters. One of the victims of this Beast to Beauty transformation (and a big one) is Jane Eyre's Rochester.

Take the latest adaption for example. Even if you don't think Michael Fassbender is hot, you have to face the fact that most other people do. The actors who portray Rochester in Jane Eyre adaptions are often just roughed by the makeup department to crank up the Byronic aspect, and that only serves to make them hotter. 

ANYWAY, this tangent has a point. Austen did not write Persuasion's Anne and Captain Wentworth to be striking, and the actors are properly average looking. Ciarán Hinds brings great charisma to Cap'n Wentworth, and you come to think of him as attractive due to that (and his lovely eyes!) He also happens to have played Rochester in the 1997 adaption (And I thereby justify the above Jane Eyre rant.)

This was a quality adaption, with a great cast. Just be aware that it's been a while since I've read the book, and I've forgotten most of it, so physical appearance is where I end the comparisons.

Anne Elliot
Although Anne Elliot (Amanda Root) was excellent, I just LOVED the supporting cast members.

A) The Family

Walter Elliot enjoying Mrs. Clay's flattery
Corin Redgrave as Sir Walter Elliot, Anne's father, was excellent as the peacock of the family, and Phoebe Nicholls as Elizabeth Elliot played the shrill, self-satisfied daughter to perfection.  I really enjoyed the family and the details that fleshed them out. Walter Elliot's love for flattery, for instance. Its power almost attaches him, (as the Victorians would say) to Elizabeth's simpering friend, the widow Mrs. Clay (Felicity Dean.) 

Elizabeth Elliot was stick thin despite constantly appearing on screen with a box of chocolates. If I have any complaints, one is that I would have liked the actress to be a little chubby to reflect her rich diet and lazy lifetyle. Otherwise, I just distracted myself with theories.

Elizabeth (left) and Mrs. Clay (right)
As for Sir Walter Elliot and Elizabeth Elliot as a duo, they showed constant disrespect and disregard towards Anne, and raised the mindless Mrs. Clay far above her. Poor Anne had quite the family to deal with. Two of them were social climbing, class-worshipping jerks, and the other (Anne's married sister, Mary Musgrove, played by Sophie Thompson) was a hypochondriac. A loud, complaining hypochondriac.

B) More about the Elliots, the quarters

I wasn't a big fan of Anne's coral jewelry, but the costumes were good overall, and I loved those white-on-white rooms that the Elliots rent in Bath. They were so overdone and superficially grand, which is a great setting to represent the Elliots and their ambition.

C) The super small roles

I also enjoyed Mrs. Smith (Helen Schlesinger) and her maid / companion / helper. They play small parts, but I enjoyed them nonetheless. I'd totally take tea with them. They're among the few characters who give Anne the appreciation she deserves. Yes, the maid kind of looks like she should be running a brothel, but I'll take that over Elizabeth's upturned nose.

D) The Weasel
William Elliot

Lastly, I'm not going to deal out any spoilers, but there is a reason that Anne's cousin, William Elliot, (Samuel West) looks faintly like a weasel.

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  1. Love, love, LOVE this movie! I've seen the newer one from 2007 and it's not bad, but the 1995 is the best by far.

    1. I totally agree. Although the 2007 version is beautiful, the 1995 is just more enjoyable as an overall experience. I love the cast.

  2. EEE! Perusasion's my favorite Austen and this is my favorite adaptation of the book! Isn't it the best? And your review totally nailed it. The actors are perfectly ordinary - as in perfect in their ordinariness, and very rough around the edges. Also, Rupert Perry Jones is good-looking and all but Ciaran Hinds steals the trophy for best portrayal of Wentworth - Hinds displayed so many more layers.

    Having said that though it did bother me that Elizabeth (or whoever played her) wasn't a little better looking, 'cause Austen does make that clear in the novel. In this film Anne actually looks better than Elizabeth. Sir Elliot was perfect though. And Fiona Shaw as Wentworth's sister! Yayness! As you can see I have a lot of feelings about anything re Persuasion. K, Ima go now.

    1. Persuasion has a great idea behind it. I did really enjoy the concept of two people reuniting after so many years. One has raised up in the world through professional success and the other has approached the identity of the old maid. It shows the consistency of love, and I thought that was interesting as a major theme. It also addresses an aspect of the time it was written, where women just remained unmarried after not successfully finding a husband. It was so all or nothing! I'm just glad that I don't live in a time when 27 is near to being an old maid, haha.