Some Thoughts on the Sanditon Screen Adaptation

Books & Mags, Movies & TV, Stunt Double

As a Jane Austen fan, I’ve followed the birth of the screen adaptation of Sanditon in this blog. Having seen the series and allowed my brain to properly chew it for a couple of months, now it’s time to share some of my throughts.

Note: Spoiler warning is in effect!

According to IMDB, the main writing credits for this miniseries belong to Andrew Davies, with assists from Justin Young (episodes 3, 4, 6 and 7) and Andrea Gibb (episode 5). I haven’t seen any of Young’s writing, but I have seen Gibb’s Call the Midwife episodes and as far as I can remember, I liked them. In the past I’ve had mixed feelings of Davies’s work, but I’d assumed it was due to the material he was adapting (Dickens just doesn’t do it for me).

I may now have to adjust my opinion of Davis’s writing. Although I should like to know how big of a say the producers and/or financial backers had, for his earlier adaptations were much more internally consistent.

The best I can say about the writing in Sanditon is that it was very uneven throughout, which hurt both the characters, plot and pacing. Moreover, the ending was left open, clearly fishing for season 2, but since this first season didn’t give us much to recommend itself, the intended cliffhanger feels rather insulting instead.

Guest blogger Yosa Addiss critiqued the costuming at Frock Flicks. I don’t have much to add except to say that for a fantasy story set in the regency (or regency-like) period the choices would’ve been more acceptable.

The same goes for the sets. Indeed, some of the interior scenes, specifically at the masqued ball, remind me of the 1986 movie Labyrinth. Just compare these two photos below, the first from Sanditon and the second from Labyrinth:

Ethical Hedonist Magazine The Dance Sanditon

Sanditon (2019) via Ethical Hedonist Magazine

Basement Rejects Labyrinth Ball Scene

Labyrinth (1986) via Basement Rejects

There were other sets that looked more period-appropriate, but I don’t know enough of the details of period architecture and interior design to really say. For instance, the Parkers’ house had a room or two with multiple faux framed paintings that were literally painted directly onto the wall (or wallpaper?). That was a very interesting choice.

Frock Flicks Sanditon Ep1 Faux Paintings on Wall

Sanditon (2019) via Frock Flicks

Overall the sets and photography looked gorgeous, and the lighting was just lovely; I just don’t know how well the design choices represented regency in general.

All of the faults would be more tolerable, however, if the adaptation cast of characters equalled that of Austen’s writing. Sadly, it does not.

The best thing about Jane Austen’s characters is that even when they’re superficially the same, they’re all different. They remain their own people. Every single Bennet daughter, for instance, has their own individual personas, habits and characteristics. Poor Jane Fairfax is different from poor Fanny Price. Notable men in their thirties like Colonel Brandon and Mr. Knightley are very different indeed from each other.

In addition, even the most odious of Austen’s characters often have one or more redeeming qualities. The Sanditon adaptation lacks in this respect, too. Our supposed hero, Mr. Sidney Parker, is initially barely distinguishable from his two foppish drinking buddies he drags to Sanditon for a change of scenery, and it looks like we were supposed to fall for the forced, artificially drawn-out, unconvincing hate-love tug-of-war between him and Miss Heywood a la Pride & Prejudice.

(Incidentally, one of Mr. S. Parker’s London buddies surprisingly turns out one of the best invented characters of the series, but I’ll return to him later.)

Miss Brereton and Miss Denham both come across as bickering sour bitches, with the only difference that Clara is a sexually abused gold digger and Esther a lovelorn gold digger. Miss Lambe reminds me of Lydia Bennet, apart from having a fortune, and the young ladies she lodges with are completely bland. The rich Lady Denham is simply a copy of Lady Catherine, only with an ailment and sans a daughter. Mr. Denham’s a slimy git who resembles Mr. Wickham; of him I have very little to say and none of it good.

Young Mr. Stringer, a builder and aspiring architect, was an enjoyable addition, but sadly he wasn’t given much to do besides complain about not being paid, pine after Miss Heywood and eye moodily at his competition, Mr. S. Parker.

Mr. Parker is defined by his monomania over Sanditon and his irresponsibility, but at least he genuinely loves his wife. I liked the little we were given of Mrs. Parker, but, again, her character fell quite flat; apart from the role of supporting wife and devoted mother, she was good-natured and that was all.

The hypochondriac comic relief characters, Miss Parker and Mr. Arthur Parker, perhaps stay truest to the kind of characters Austen had a habit of writing, and they remain simply delightful throughout.

As I said, it was quite a surprise to find Lord Babbington rise to the level of an Austen hero. He accidentally meets with the pining Miss Denham, falls for and attempts to pay court to her. As we learn more about him, Lord Babbington starts to redeem himself in our eyes and to display quite a different set of characteristics than his drinking buddies (one of whom’s a drunk git and should never have been given as many lines as he was).

Babbington was looking better and better, and the we hit episode 7 where Mr. Denham bursts into a ball and makes a final plea for Miss Denham’s affections despite her obvious disinterest. Mr. Sidney Parker and Lord Babbington physically stop him from getting close to Esther. Later Babbington tells her: “Your brother is not going to make a victim out of you. I’ll not allow it.”

Seriously, crushing hard here! He’d become attractive before, but this kind of determination and caring? Romance novel stuff. Jane Austen romance stuff! This here, right here, is exactly how Austen heroes behave. So why the everloving fork is it that the whiny Mr. S. Parker is the protagonist of the adaptation and Lord Babbington is not?!?

In fact, Lord Babbington and Esther Denham’s story is more compelling to me than that of Miss Heywood and Mr. S. Parker. Babbington and Esther even get the gorgeous wedding at the end:

Ethical Hedonist Magazine Babbington Denham Wedding

Sanditon (2019) via Ethical Hedonist Magazine

I seriously suspect I have a headcanon coming…!

I still need to watch Sanditon again to be sure, but it seems I’m leaning into the direction of not considering it a Jane Austen work, but a more generic (fantasy) regency drama.

Have you seen Sanditon? What did you think of it?

Bright Idea: British Murder Mystery Where Stewart and McKellen Garden and Solve Crimes

Geek out!, Movies & TV

Connecticut-based author M.L. Brennan had a brilliant idea the other day and tweeted it out. Basically she posits a murder mystery show set in Britain where “Patrick Stewart and Ian McKellen are elderly widower neighbors who bicker a lot about their gardens, and also solve crimes”. Brennan also suggests plot points and gives her casting choices for the supporting characters as well.

 

I really encourage you to read as much of the long, rambling thread as possible. It brightened our evening a lot one night when positivity was needed.

Here’s the beginning:

 

Absolutely fabulous, right? Stewart and McKellen be amazing together.

Like I saw someone remark, I bet we could crowdfund this baby in a second. I sure would watch the hell out of this show! 😀

Note: I wasn’t paid or perked to mention this; just passing along a good thing.

The New Emma Launches Tomorrow!

Books & Mags, Movies & TV

Almost time: the new Emma movie adaptation written by Eleanor Catton and directed by Autumn de Wilde opens tomorrow here in the U.S.!

IMDB Emma Johnny Flynn Anya Taylor-Joy

Anya Taylor-Joy and Johnny Flynn in Emma. Focus Features via IMDB

Yay – more Jane Austen on screen! 😀

If, like for me, the wait is almost too long for you, here’s an introduction to the costuming in Emma by Alden O’Brien to tide you over. O’Brien is a curator of costume at the DAR Museum in Washington, DC, and a life-long lover of historic clothing. Enjoy!

Note: I wasn’t paid or perked to mention this; just passing along a good thing.

The Trailer for the New Emma Production Is Out

Books & Mags, Movies & TV

It’s almost time for the release of the new Emma production written by Eleanor Catton and directed by Autumn de Wilde that I blogged about earlier this year. Here’s the trailer:

Emma – Official Teaser Trailer (Universal Pictures) HD by Universal Pictures UK on YouTube

Judging by the trailer only (which I know to be a precarious business), I’m not sure what to think, except that Bill Nighy’s Mr. Woodhouse might completely steal the show. And this looks to be a tonally very different reading of Emma than the previous screen adaptations.

It’s hard to say anything about Emma and Mr. Knightley from these super-short glimpses; furthermore, I haven’t seen either actor before (Anya Taylor-Joy and Johnny Flynn). On the other hand, I know Miranda Hart as Miss Bates is going to shine! The music-making looks lovely, and what we can see of the propping and costuming seems great.

Emma will be released on February 14, 2020, in the UK and February 21, 2020, in the U.S.

I am excite! 🙂 😀

Note: I wasn’t paid or perked to mention this; just passing along a good thing.

Blast from the Past: MacGyver Is Now on DVD

Geek out!, Movies & TV

Whoa – the 1980s tv series MacGyver is now available on DVD. I had no idea! Husband and I’ve been borrowing it through the local library.

MacGyver Season 2 DVD

Technically we’re both rewatching it, although neither of us remembers much, just details or perhaps a line from time to time. There’s quite a shocking amount of action – shooting, fisticuffs and various vehicle chases – that I apparently completely bypassed as a thing when I was a kid. Fortunately, that’s not the point of the series: MacGyver is all about problem solving and finding inventive uses for everyday items, and Mac himself famously hates guns.

The first season has some inconsistencies, but once they got the character and the rest of the cast figured out, MacGyver settled into a generally considerate and polite, sensitive male action hero model. (There are some glaring deviations which may be due to rotating writers; I don’t know.)

Although the marketing copy on the second season DVD cover really makes me crack up: “His mind is the ultimate weapon.” (Can you imagine a deep, sonorous male voice reading the line!) LOL! 😀

Note: I wasn’t paid or perked to mention this; just passing along a good thing.

Downton Abbey the Movie Is Out on Friday!

Movies & TV

Downton Abbey the movie comes out on Friday! Here’s an official trailer:

DOWNTON ABBEY – Official Trailer [HD] by Focus Features on YouTube

Situated in 1927, this story will have the king and queen – George V and Mary of Teck, of whom I know nothing – visit the Abbey. From the IMDB casting list it sounds like we have a few new characters.

Since there seems to be little hope of another Jane Austen production (beyond Sanditon, which has not been released yet, and another Emma, which is of very unknown quality) I guess Downton will have to do. Even though I’m not really a fan of the era, I am looking forward to seeing the fabulous, fabulous acting (especially Maggie Smith!), multi-faceted characters, and gorgeous costuming and sets again.

I do, however, confess that the rigid adherence to artificial rules of “good” society really rubs me the wrong way at times. Sadly, a royal visit makes it sound like there might be overly much of the artificial, but we’ll see.

Cross-posted from Co-Geeking.

Avengers: Endgame Cast Sings “We Didn’t Start the Fire”

Movies & TV

Europe is already there, but here in the U.S. the release of Avengers: Endgame will take place tonight. In honor of Stan Lee et al., plus the remarkable sequence of 20+ Marvel Cinematic Universe stories, here are some of the cast members singing together:

Avengers: Endgame Cast Sings “We Didn’t Start the Fire” by The Tonight Show Starring Jimmy Fallon on YouTube

Their version of Billy Joel’s “We Didn’t Start the Fire” is delightfully tweaked to fit the MCU. I also love how zooming out, at the very end, the comic panels form a photo of Stan Lee. A very fitting homage.

Husband and I are still figuring out when we’ll be able to get to the theater. This weekend, definitely. Until then, time to hide from spoilers!

Note: I wasn’t paid or perked to mention this; just passing along a good thing.

A New Emma Production Is Filming

Books & Mags, Movies & TV, Thumbs Up

Great news for Janeites! Just after I blogged about the casting for Sanditon series penned by Andrew Davies, I found out that we’re about to get a new screen version of Emma!

Instagram Autumn de Wilde Emma Day1

Autumn de Wilde on Instagram.

It’s written by Eleanor Catton and directed by Autumn de Wilde. Neither name is familiar to me, but I do recognize a few names from the cast list released thus far: Bill Nighy plays Mr. Woodhouse and Miranda Hart Miss Bates – if her previous performances are anything to judge by, she’ll be brilliant! Anya Taylor-Joy heads the film as Emma; I have seen her in an episode of Endeavour, apparently, but unfortunately I don’t remember her.

The director-writer team sound new in the field: Emma is de Wilde’s first feature-long project (she’s previously worked as a photographer as well as music video and commercial director), and Catton has only written one miniseries before (based on her novel The Luminaries which won the Man Booker Prize in 2013; she’s the youngest author to win the literary award). That should guarantee a fresh take on the classic!

IMDB lists the movie as filming at this time, and MSN reports that release is expected in 2020.

I can’t wait – the world can never have too much of Jane Austen on screen if you ask me! 🙂

P.S.: Just FYI: this is not an April fool’s joke.

Note: I wasn’t paid or perked to mention this; just passing along a good thing.

Cast Announced for Andrew Davies’ Miniseries Version of Sanditon

Books & Mags, Movies & TV

In 2018 we got news that a screen version of Jane Austen’s unfinished novel Sanditon was being produced. Now we also know some of the cast!

Re-reading Jane Austens Lady Susan

According to the PBS, Rose Williams will play the protagonist Charlotte Heywood and Theo James appears as Sidney Parker, a young man she meets at the up-and-coming seaside resort of Sanditon. I have unfortunately not seen Williams before, but I know James from the Divergent movie series and one episode of Downton Abbey. The head of the Parker family, Tom Parker, will be played by Kris Marshall; I haven’t seen him on screen before either.

Lady Denham, another person of note in Sanditon, will be played by Anne Reid, whom I’ve seen in passing in episodes of the Doctor Who reboot and Doc Martin. Crystal Clarke was cast as Miss Lambe; she appeared in Assassin’s Creed and had a small role in both Star Wars: Episode VII – The Force Awakens and Episode VII The Last Jedi but I can’t say that I remember her.

In addition to the cast list, IMDB has updated its listing for Sanditon. Yay, it’s really happening!

For a full cast list, visit the PBS article.

Note: I wasn’t paid or perked to mention this; just passing along a good thing.

Loved on Screen: The Theory of Everything

Movies & TV

We recently saw the movie The Theory of Everything, a biopic of physicist and cosmologist Stephen Hawking focussing on the relationship between him and Jane, his first wife.

The Theory of Everything

I picked the movie basically because I really like the female lead, Felicity Jones; she also rocks in Northanger Abbey and Rogue One, plus visits as a society burglar in the Doctor Who episode “The Unicorn and the Wasp”. Every performance in Everything, however, was excellent, as was the writing and directing.

The stunning, gripping soundtrack is by Icelandic composer Jóhann Jóhannsson, who was nominated for a Grammy, BAFTA and the Academy Award and won a Golden Globe for it. I really loved his work on Arrival, too. Jóhannsson sadly passed away in 2018, about a month before Hawking.

Here’s the end credits music: “Arrival of the Birds” & “Transformation” performed by The Cinematic Orchestra.

The Theory of Everything – Soundtrack ending scene (The Cinematic Orchestra – Arrival of the birds) via sintomopersistente on YouTube

I don’t think these two pieces are Jóhannsson’s, but they’re nevertheless so, so beautiful.

Note: I wasn’t paid or perked to mention this; just passing along a good thing.