Wednesday, March 24, 2010


I love period pieces, especially ones based on my favorite books, I was watching the new 2009 BBC version of Emma last weekend (the one with Romola Garai and Johnny Lee Miller) and was reminded again why I love the British acting pool.

First, I absolutely love the Jane Austen-Agatha Christie crossovers. In the '96 version of Emma, Mrs. Elton-one of the most obnoxious, detestable characters in all of literary history- is played by Juliet Stevenson. Later in '07 she plays Gwenda in Christie's Ordeal by Innocence. She did such a good job as the nasty, moronic Mrs. Elton that my reaction when she was stabbed in the base of the skull was as follows:

Mrs.Elton/Gwenda: *is stabbed by the murderer*
Me: Woo hoo! I've been wanting to do that for five years! Oh, wait. She's the good guy this time...shoot. I still don't mind.

I'm fairly certain that my reaction would've been different had Juliet not played Mrs. Elton.

Funnily enough, the other JA-AC crossover on my mind also involves Mrs. E. In the '04 version of Murder at the Vicarage (with Geraldine McEwan) Christina Cole plays the snobby, precocious Lettice Protheroe and completely rocks the 40s look. She was brilliant as Mrs. Elton-she grates on my more when she's closer to my age-but didn't do the Regency look nearly as well.

Regency: meh. 40s: yes.

(Speaking of looking good, someone really should bring back the 40s. So classy! Check this out. Rachael Stirling:
Okay-looking. But now let's see Rachael Stirling in 40s style:

The coloring is better, the clothes are better, and the hair is better. Class! And the same goes for Christina Cole:

Again, okay-looking. Good features Christina Cole in 40s style:

Much, much better.)

Ahem. Sorry about that tangent. Moving on, and then there are the Harry Potter-Jane Austen crossovers. Michael Gambon plays both the wise (if eccentric) Albus Dumbledore (RIP, Alby, RIP *sniff*) as well as the worry-prone, invalid Mr. Woodhouse. (Both parts were played extremely well.) Emma Thompson plays the slightly crazy Professor Trelawney and the responsible Eleanore (Sense and Sensibility). And who can forget Alan Rickman as the snarky Severus Snape and the reserved, gallant Colonel Brandon (S&S). With all due respect to his talent, he still grosses me out in that role.

I've always loved Emma; I connect with Miss Woodhouse more than any other Jane Austen heroine (yes, even more than Lizzie Bennett). We're both clever, meddlesome, well intentioned, and incurably vain. I loved Gwyneth Paltrow's portrayal of Emma for the longest time. Then my neighbor let me borrow the new BBC version with Romola Garai and Johnny Lee Miller.

Gwyneth got pushed to second chair. The new version is gorgeously done, and the characters look closer to the ages of the characters in the novel.

And Romola Garai!!! She was so real, so quick witted, so Emma! You know how Kiera Knightley never closes her mouth? (google it; I defy you to find one where it's completely closed) Romola has this characteristic little smirk that was absolutely perfect for the role.

(Okay, I lied. This is from Amazing Grace, but she uses it in Emma too.)
Her interactions with the other characters were positively believable. Her love for Miss Taylor/Mrs. Weston, her attachment to her father, her chemistry with Frank Churchill (who is played by Rupert Evans this time around rather than the nasty-haired Ewan McGregor. Compare and contrast:

Nasty haired Frank. Good-looking Frank.

As for Mr. Elton, he was still inane and obnoxious, but he was good looking enough to make Harriet's crush on him and his eventual marriage to the wealthy Mrs. Elton make sense. He had no money; why would she marry him if he looked like this?

Of course, Mrs. Elton was no beauty herself in that version. Blech. But contrast him to the new Mr. Elton.

Better looking. Not great, but better.

Anyway, the contrasts and similarities amused me. You don't have to read this; it's mostly for my own enjoyment. Another post is coming soon. About a book signing I attended last night.


Brandon said...

I win.

jim said...