JANEITE SHOPPING ALERT
For those of you who are bored with television's summer re-runs, you might be interested in a few of the great selections of Jane Austen adaptations and spinoffs available at Amazon.com and Barnes & Noble. I have narrowed down the field based on the price of $9.99 or less, and their lasting appeal and curiosity factor. So check it out. Start the Austen collection that you have always wanted, or fill out your library, because one can never have too much of a good thing!
Persuasion 1995: Unarguably, the BEST version of this Jane Austen classic love story gone astray by bad advice and a bad family. Amanda Root is luminescent as Anne Elliot, a baronet’s daughter whose decision to decline the marriage proposal of the young unproven naval officer Frederick Wentworth (Ciaran Hinds) haunts her even after seven years. Now considered an old maid, and with her once-rich family on the verge of bankruptcy, Captain Wentworth returns with a new fortune under his cap and marriage on his mind. Will their bitter sweet reunion rekindle their romance, or has Anne lost her bloom and Wentworth only has eyes for younger women? Other standout performances are Corin Regrave as Sir Walter Elliot, Sophie Thompson as Mary Musgrove, and Samuel West as William Elliot.
Sense and Sensibility 1995: It’s easy to see why this visually stunning and emotionally captivating version of Jane Austen’s tale adapted by actress Emma Thompson, (who also stars), won the Golden Globe Award as Best Picture of the Year (Drama) in 1995. The Dashwood sisters, sensible Elinor (Emma Thompson) and passionate Marianne (Kate Winslet) chances for marriage seem doomed by their family's sudden loss of fortune. Alan Rickman, Hugh Grant and Greg Wise co-star as the well-intentioned suitors who are trapped by the strict rules of society and the conflicting laws of desire. Still my favorite of the three versions presently available solely due to Winslet’s searing performance.
Clueless 1995: ‘As if’ anyone could ever forget Alicia Silverstone as Cher, the rich and clever matchmaker of Beverly Hills high whose penchant for helping others with their relationships and self-esteem is a cover for her own loneliness. Director Amy Heckerling (Fast Times at Ridgemont High) made a smart, funny variation on Jane Austen's novel Emma, sweetly romantic and gently satirical of 90210 social manners. The cast is unbeatable: Dan Hedaya as Cher's rock-solid dad, and Paul Rudd as the boy who has always been Cher's surrogate brother—who is a real ‘Baldwin’ in disguise. Brittany Murphy is hilarious as Cher's ditzy protogee Tai and Stacey Dash shines as Cher's so hip friend Dionne who is also named after a 1960's pop star! 'Whatever'! If you don’t like it, we can shop on without you!
Emma 1996: Emma Woodhouse (Gwyneth Paltrow) might be handsome, clever and rich, but she is clueless about relationships! Against the better advice of her friendly neighbor Mr. Knightley (Jeremy Northam), she endeavors to match make for her young protégée Harriet Smith and makes a hilarious tangled mess in the process! This delightfully fun and lighthearted comedy is a lighter interpretation of Jane Austen’s masterpiece. Emma may be as silly as a goose, but you'll enjoy all the comic confusion ... until Emma herself falls in love. Hated Toni Collette as Harriet, but Northam as Mr. Knightley makes up for her with his charm and guile. Alan Cumming and Juliet Stevenson make the perfectly pompous Mr. and Mrs. Elton, and Greta Scacchi as Mrs. Weston rounds off an excellent cast.
Mansfield Park 1999: Imagine Jane Austen’s simple and strong heroine Fanny Price infused with the personality of her witty, sparkling and sharp Elizabeth Bennet from Pride and Prejudice, and you might understand writer/director Patricia Rozema’s unique interpretation of Jane Austen’s often misunderstood novel. Young and impoverished Fanny (Frances O’Conner) may have been sent to live with her rich and privileged cousins the Bertram’s at Mansfield Park circa 1800, but that is where the similarities in the stories end. At least the producers fess up on the DVD cover and admit that the story is based on Jane Austen’s novel, letters and journals. Since there are no known journals by Jane Austen, this may account for the creative script!
Bridget Jones’s Diary 2001: Loosely inspired by Jane Austen’s novel Pride and Prejudice, dear Ms. Jones may actually have very little in common with her doppelganger Elizabeth Bennet, but she will always be the ultimate singleton in search of a life and her Mr. Darcy (Colin Firth as Mark Darcy) to many fans of Helen Fielding’s best selling novel. Featuring a blowzy, winningly inept size-12 heroine, Bridget Jones (Renée Zellweger) is a London-based publicist who divides her free time between binge eating in front of the TV, downing Chardonnay with her friends, and updating the diary. Delightfully funny, watch this one with your friends, and escape into Bridget’s slightly booze hazed world! I love it when American actress Zellweger trys her best at a British accent, but ends up sounding like Audrey Hepburn as Eliza Doolittle with marbles in her mouth!
Bridget Jones – Edge of Reason 2004: Renee Zellweger is back as everyone's favorite witty heroine in Bridget Jones: The Edge of Reason. Not that Bridget's counting, but it's been six wonderful weeks, four fabulous days, and seven precious hours with one flawless boyfriend, Mark Darcy (Colin Firth). But when mischievous and devilishly charming Daniel Cleaver (Hugh Grant) arrives on the scene claiming to be a reformed man, can Bridget find a way to make true love last forever? Not quite as fresh and funny as the first one, but the reprise of the Firth vs. Grant girly fight is well worth the money, and the laughs. Gemma Jones and Jim Broadbent star as Bridget's middle age maddness parents, and Shirley Henderson, Sally Phillips, and James Callis all return as Bridget's zany friends.
Bride and Prejudice 2005: A Bollywood musical of Jane Austen’s Pride and Prejudice? Ok. This I had to see, - and - I did not regret it for one moment. All of Austen’s famous character’s are there, Mr. Darcy, Mr. Bingley, Lizzy Bennet and her sisters, but the story has been transplanted to modern India and it is a perfect match of the retelling of a young spirited girl Lalita Bakhsi’s (Aishwarya Rai) search for her Mr. Right (Martin Henderson as William Darcy). Some of you might recognize Marsha Mason as Catherine Darcy, Naveen Andrews as Balraj Bingley and Alexis Bledel as Georgiana Darcy. When this one ends, you might go buy yourself a sari and the CD of the music to continue the magic!
Pride and Prejudice 2005: One of the greatest love stories of all time is condensed to a slim two hour major motion picture staring Keira Knightley as Elizabeth Bennet and Matthew MacFadyen as Mr. Darcy. Tisk, tisk! The Bennet family are much earthier in this version, with pigs running through the house, and a grubby peasant-like appearance, but it makes for a deeper contrast to the wealth and social aspirations of their new neighbors the Bingley’s and the pomposity of Mr. Darcy. I understood where director Joe Wright was trying to go with this, but it was painful to see the Bennet’s brought down so low in society. The Netherfield ball dance between Darcy and Lizzy is stunning, and saves this version for me.
Happy Fourth of July to all. Laurel Ann, Austenprose