I've noticed an alarming tendency in my posts lately: they've all got single-word or single-phrase titles. You know: Tantrum, Superhero, Blue, Mansfield Park... While there is something to be said for telegraphic language, it can, undoubtedly, be overdone. So I sought to rectify the situation with today's title. I hope you appreciate it.
My mind is still running on the subject of Austen. Specifically, Austen film adaptations. Okay, confession time: I have a major crush on Mr Darcy. Well, no, actually, I have a crush on Colin Firth playing Mr Darcy. Not Colin Firth, the man (although he's probably cute enough when you get to know him), and not Mr Darcy, the man (a bit too stiff for me, really; although he's probably alright once Elizabeth teaches him to laugh at himself), but Colin Firth being Mr Darcy. Oh, but - I also have a crush on Hugh Grant playing Edward Ferrars. And Dan Stevens playing Edward Ferrars. And Ciaran Hinds playing Captain Wentworth. And Jeremy Northam playing Mr Knightley, and Jonny Lee Miller doing the same. And Kenneth Branagh playing Benedick. (Oh, wait, that's Shakespeare. Never mind.)
So, in case you've missed the point: I like Austen movies. They're my comfort films when I feel bad, and my pleasure when I feel good. After a hard day, pour a glass of wine, pop in Pride & Prejudice, sink back into the couch cushions, and let yourself get lost in the English landscape. Two riders galloping over the field - "A fair prospect!" "It's pretty enough, I grant you." "Oh, it's nothing to Pemberley, I know, but I must settle somewhere..." It is a truth universally acknowledged that a tired woman in possession of an overdeveloped sense of romance must be in want of an Austen movie.
And after this latest reading of Mansfield Park, I pulled out the VHS of the movie I'd recorded off the TV four years ago, and popped it into the machine (yes, I still own a VCR. Long may it live, because if it doesn't, I won't be able to replace it. You can't buy those things any more). I hadn't watched it since then, because I wasn't terribly impressed with the film at that point. Oh, sure, it's an improvement on the 1999 version, but that's no great feat. (That movie is terrible. I'll spare you the rant; just two words will suffice: sex & violence. In Austen. Yup.)
So, I started watching the 2007 version. And right off the bat, I was complaining. The costumes! The hairdo! Fanny is played by Billie Piper, who, while still a bit too lively for my taste, does a good job on the role. But her hair is all wrong. A Regency woman should wear her hair up, not in shoulder-length ringlets like a school girl. The way Billie looks, you'd expect, at any moment, to hear the sounds of "WOOoooo-eeeee-ooo", and see the Tardis landing in Mansfield Park (Billie is best known for playing Rose Tyler in Doctor Who). And the dresses? I'm not sure exactly what time period this is meant to convey; Fanny's outfits, in particular, have a quasi-Victorian feel to them that's not from any part of the nineteenth century I'm familiar with, instead of the proper Regency style with the waistlines just below the bust.
So there I was, waffling on about how wrong the clothes are (although, mind you, they're nothing like as bad as the costumes in the Laurence Olivier version of Pride & Prejudice, which somehow seems to have got muddled with Gone With the Wind. Yikes.). But then- but then- I got pulled into the story.
You know how I got to liking Edmund as a character in the book this time round? This version of Mansfield, he's played by Blake Ritson. And I tell you, that man is a revelation. You see, I'd only ever seen him play Mr Elton, the highly annoying and self-absorbed clergyman, in the 2010 Emma. And he really plays Mr Elton to perfection; you just want to smack him, or dump something cold and slimy down his shirt (as Mr Knightley says: "That man is so full of himself, it's a wonder he can stay on his horse!"). So I thought Blake Ritson, himself, was annoying and unlikeable. But here, as Edmund Bertram - it's like he's a different man entirely. Same outfit, same hairstyle, but it's like he's got a different face! As Mr Elton, he's got this pinched, pursed mouth that at best can produce a self-satisfied smirk. But his Edmund, he's just like he is in the book. Well, I had pictured Edmund a bit different physically - taller, maybe fair, not smallish and dark with a pointy nose - but I forget all that when I watch how he brings to life all those emotions that made me like Edmund so much in the book (this time). I don't even mind the changes they made to the story, because Edmund is so well played.
So as of the day before yesterday, I'm adding "Blake Ritson as Edmund Bertram" to my list of crushes. Never mind the fact that he's short, and more than ten years younger than me. It's my inner Fanny Price that has a crush on him, anyway, and she's perpetually eighteen, and probably only a little over five feet tall. (That's him in the picture, at the moment the penny finally drops and he realizes that it's Fanny who's the girl for him. Awww...)
And as it is a truth universally acknowledged that this post has already become too long, I'll tell you about my favourite Austen heroines and the actresses who play them some other time. Just one hint: one of them is Blake Ritson's girlfriend! Be still my heart...
And that, for today, is Life, the Universe, and Truths Universally Acknowledged.