Monday, January 14, 2008

Jane Austen's "Persuasion" on Masterpiece (the artist formerly known as Masterpiece Theatre): Spoiler Alert!

Spoiler Alert? How can there be a spoiler for a novel that's almost two centuries old? Everyone knows what happens, right?

Well, that's unless the writers decided to tack on a weird ending. So if you TiVo'd the new adaptation of "Persuasion" and plan to watch it later, stop reading here.

OK, I didn't think this adaptation was very good. Obviously it is difficult to condense a novel into an hour and a half and the previous adaptation had the luxury of being a bit longer. But the length was not a major issue for me. I'm sure we could have used more character development; if I hadn't been familiar with the story, I certainly would have been lost with some of the finer points of the plot. But what was included was not handled very well. I don't think the casting was very good, although there were some fine actors involved. All the humor of Austen's writing was sucked out of the story. And the end was ridiculous!

The end has Anne running through the streets of Bath like a mental patient and then kissing Captain Wentworth right there on the street. A lady would have been locked up in an asylum for that kind of behavior. That's the kind of thing that knocks you back into reality when you want to be sucked into the film and carried away.

And then at the very end of the film Captain Wentworth gives Anne her home, Kellynch, as "a wedding present." WTF? How did he do that? Yes, maybe he leased it from Anne's father and by "present" he meant "we can live here temporarily." But the implication was that he somehow bought it for her, which I don't think is possible. The property was entailed to her cousin and I don't think her father or cousin would have been able to sell it even if they had wanted to.

It was just a tiny detail in the last few seconds of the film but it kind of ruined the whole thing because instead of feeling happy for the lovers and being satisfied that everything turned out well, you were left wondering why the writers added such a strange ending. Wasn't it a happy enough ending already? I don't get it.

It did look good in high definition, though; the picture quality used to be so bad on Masterpiece Theatre.

Anyway, if you are an Austen fan be sure to check out our friend Ms. Place's Jane Austen blog Jane Austen's World and her post about Masterpiece's adaptation of Persuasion, The Complete Jane Austen.


Ms. Place said...

Eric, that review was spot on! Thank you for the shout out. Mostly, I enjoyed reading your thoughts. I was flummoxed by the ending. First, Kellynch Hall was not for sale: it belonged to William Elliot. Second, I thought Anne wanted to follow her captain abroad (like Mrs. Croft followed the admiral.)

Film makers. Sheez. They can't leave well enough alone!

mumblesalot (Laura A) said...

I agree this was very awkward version and the ending was not plausible at all. I had the same thoughts when she ran down the street and that painfully long kiss me thing going on. I kept thinking he could do better. hah

I listened to the dialogue and found it lacking any attraction. Oh well. I think the budget must have been verrry low, so low they couldn't afford to rent the original dialogue.