Jane Austen on Masterpiece

I had been wanting to mention that Masterpiece (formerly Masterpiece Theatre) on PBS was going to be showing a series of films based on Jane Austen novels, but Masterpiece can be a mixed bag sometimes, so I thought I’d better watch the first one before mentioning it.

Persuasion was shown this past Sunday night. I taped it and watched it in two parts yesterday.

I mentioned in an earlier review of the novel that Persuasion is my favorite of the Austen books I have read so far, and I loved the 1995 film adaptation with Amanda Root and Ciaran Hinds, so any new version would have a lot to live up to.

I have to say I didn’t like this new version as well. Rupert Penry-Jones made a handsome enough Captain Wentworth, but I couldn’t really see him as a naval captain. Sally Hawkins showed a lot of the nuances of Anne’s feeling perhaps a little more than Amanda Root did, but I felt the latter “blossomed” from the mousy bedraggled Anne into a woman in love and more sure of herself more than the former did. Mary, Anne’s sister, is supposed to be annoying, but this version of her grated to me.

I didn’t like the jumpy camera shots in this production, nor the way Anne kept looking directly at the camera. I especially didn’t like the chopping up of Austen’s narrative, particularly placing Anne’s line that “The one claim I shall make for my own sex is that we love longest, when all hope is gone” at a dinner party in the middle when Wentworth is out of earshot rather than near the end, in a conversation which Wentworth overhears and which leads his to reveal his love for Anne. I know some changes have to occur when adapting a book to film, but placing such a major line out of sequence is jarring and disappointing. I found Anne’s running through the streets trying to catch up to Wentworth near the end to be very uncharacteristic of what a lady’s behavior would have been at that time in that culture, though I know the producers were trying to show that Anne was determined this time to let Wentworth know her feelings. And that was about the worst movie kiss I have ever seen, or at least the worst lead-in to a kiss.

Overall the production felt very rushed. I don’t think 90 minutes can do the story justice.

I much preferred the older introduction to Masterpiece Theatre, with an affable host and a cozy, book-filled room. I suppose the new look is supposed to be glamorous, but I felt the hostess was somewhat stiff.

Still, there are worse ways to spend an hour and a half. And from what I have read many who were unfamiliar with the story liked it, so perhaps this series will usher in a new generation of Austen fans.

I’m looking forward to seeing the rest of the series, which continues Sunday nights through April 6.

1 thought on “Jane Austen on Masterpiece

  1. Haven’t seen the new Masterpiece theater version (no tv) but loved the older version of Persuasion. It is one of my favorite productions of a Jane Austen story. I am often surprised at how few people have even heard of it. Sounds like I will not be getting this version on DVD when it comes out–I will stick with my favorite version.

I love hearing from you. I've had to turn on comment moderation. Comments will appear here after I see and approve them.

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.