FYI….

Due to so many requests to write movie reviews, and my interest in commentating on various movies and characters in blog posts, just for fun, I have started up a movie-related blog. 

Floating Lanterns
http://melaniesshelf.blogspot.com/

The title unashamedly admits by huge fandom for “Tangled”. 🙂 
I may be transferring my period dramas review to that site.

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The Young Victoria ~ A Review

“Do you ever feel like a chess piece yourself? In a game being played against your will?”
“Do you?” 
“Constantly. I see them leaning in and moving me around the board.”
“The Duchess and Sir John?”
“Not just them. Uncle Leopold. The king. I’m sure half the politicians are ready to seize hold of my skirts and drag me from square to square.”
“Then you had better master the rules of the game until you play it better than they can.”
“You don’t recommend I find a husband to play it for me?”
“I should find one to play it with you, not for you.”

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Every little girl dreams of being a princess.  But to young Princess Victoria (Emily Blunt) being a princess was not all it’s cracked up to be.  Growing up, she endured a host of regulations– she could not walk up or down stairs without holding the hand of an adult, she could not read popular novels, she could not make choices for herself.  Upon the death of her uncle, the king, she would become Queen of England… and when a child is faced with such a huge responsibility, the people around her will jump at the opportunity to use her as a pawn for their own power.

Now as the death of King draws near and the princess comes closer to becoming queen, Victoria’s mother and Lord Conroy, her mother’s adviser, put on the pressure to control her reign.  Around the same time, Victoria receives a visit from her German cousins, Albert (Rupert Friend) and Ernst.  Her uncle Leopold’s goal is for Albert and Victoria to marry for political reasons; however, the two find themselves appreciating each other for who they are, not as a political match.  Victoria is unwilling to rush into a marriage, but she and Albert keep in contact by writing letters, and Albert’s love for her grows, despite her friendship with Lord Melbourne (Paul Bettany), the British Prime Minister.

The king dies and Victoria is made queen.  She relies heavily–sometimes too heavily–on the advice of Lord Melbourne, but it is Albert who will be a source of strength to her as she faces the turbulent events of her early reign that nearly threaten her reign.

ACCURACY


Not having studied as much as I would like on the life of Queen Victoria, I point to the knowledge of others regarding historical accuracy.  My understanding from others is that it follows the real life events very closely, though some incidents have been modified (for instance, there was an attempted assassination, but in real life, neither Albert or Victoria was hurt).  One thing I found fascinating was comparing the actors and actresses with the portraits in my copy of Queen Victoria by Lytton Strachey.  Many of them bear a very strong resemblance, down to hair styles, gowns and suits, and facial features.  Also, if you keep your eye open in some scenes, you’ll catch site of several real historical paintings of Queen Victoria in the background.
If I might add for my fellow historical costumers here, the film features some absolutely gorgeous and period-correct gowns worth studying, as well as a look at less-obvious pieces such as corsets, corded petticoats, stockings, and elaborate hair pieces. 😀

OBJECTIONABLE CONTENT
The Young Victoria is rating PG for “some mild sensuality, a scene of violence, and brief incidental language and smoking.”  Personally, I would be hesitant to recommend it to younger viewers. Albert and Victoria share passionate kisses and embraces after their marriage, and you do see them kissing in bed, clothed.   As to language, I only recall one use of the word “d**n”.  The violence mentioned in the rating consists of a man being shot in an attempted assassination, but it is not overly graphic.
A more detailed break-down of content that may or may not be objectionable can be found at Plugged In.  



CONCLUSION
Next to Secretariat and Miss Potter, The Young Victoria is probably my favorite movie about real events and people.  Watching it, I didn’t feel rushed or confused (except perhaps when it came to some of the politics, but then, politics are always confusing, right? 😛 )   The cast is nearly perfect, the costumes are delicious, the music is beautifully heart-stirring, the relationship between Albert and Victoria is unspeakably sweet, the end is a definite tear-jerker.  Albert’s selfless love for Victoria, even to the point of putting his own life in danger to protect her when she was treating him unlovingly, is beautiful, reminds me of Christ’s unconditional, self-sacrificing love for us even when we reject Him.  He is faithful and loyal to Victoria, strong in his convictions, and kind-hearted and accepting even to people who are difficult to love, such as Victoria’s mother.  Victoria’s courage and determination despite of opposition, her firm resolution to “be good”, and her concern for the welfare of common people and workers, inspires me to be strong and courageous in the positions God puts me in and to do what’s right, no matter the voices around me that try to convince me otherwise.  Victoria fails at times, but she admits her wrong and learns from her mistakes, allowing them to drive her to be a better queen and to deepen her relationship with her husband.  A Christian worldview is reflected throughout the course of the movie, as it was in the historical reign of the real Victoria.

The Young Victoria is definitely a keeper.  I highly recommend this beautiful rendition of one of the most beautiful love stories in recent history.

Luther (2003)

It was October 31, 1517. In the town of Wittenberg, Germany, a monk named Martin Luther posted on the door of the Castle Church a list of 95 Theses, confronting the error and ungodliness in the Roman Catholic Church. In the Theses, he exposed the wrong in the sale of indulgences—remission for sins, and confronted the idea that any man can give—or sell for money—forgiveness for sins, as God alone has power to remit sins. Later, when his writings against the unscriptural teachings of the Roman Church were addressed at the Diet of Worms, and he was commanded to recant his teachings, he spoke these famous words: “My conscience is captive to the word of God. To go against conscience is neither right nor safe. I cannot and I will not recant. Here I stand. I can do no other. God help me.”
Martin Luther’s 95 Theses and his words at the Diet of Worms had a great impact on Europe, and indeed, on the whole world. Men and women of every rank began to look to God’s Word again as the source of truth, not to traditions made by men. In returning to God’s Word, they saw that salvation comes not by works of penitence and self-depreciation, or by paying money to the Church, but only by the grace of God in Heaven, through faith in the work of Jesus Christ upon the Cross, where He paid the penalty of sin for all mankind and reconciled man to God. We now refer to this return to the Scriptures as the Protestant Reformation, and it still touches lives today.
The film Luther, made in 2003, follows the life of the German monk Martin Luther, as well as the beginning days of the Reformation. This high budget independent film stars Joseph Fiennes, Jonathan Firth, Sir Peter Ustinov, and Alfred Molina.
PLOT
While travelling during a thunderstorm, Luther, in terror of the lightning, pleads with God to save his life and vows to become a monk. He keeps his vow; however, even as a monk, he faces doubts about the justice and the love of God. He battles with depression and wishes for a God who loves him, and whom he can love. His mentor, a monk named Johann van Staupitz, encourages him to look to Christ and rest in Him for salvation.
A visit to Rome opens Martin’s eyes to the immorality taking place inside the Roman Catholic Church, as well as to the emptiness of indulgences and the evil in the Church taking money from people while claiming to give forgiveness, which God alone can give, and that freely, through Christ. Soon after this, Martin is sent to Wittenberg, where he digs into a study of the Scriptures. There, he discovers that God is indeed a God of love, and that salvation from eternal punishment for sins can be found, not in works or indulgences, but in faith in Jesus Christ.
Martin begins to speak up about his discoveries in the Word of God, and openly challenges the Pope’s selling of indulgences to raise money for St. Peter’s Basilica in Rome. This creates great debate, and Martin must make the choice to stand boldly on the truth of the Word of God, even if it means excommunication, capture, or death.
HISTORICAL ACCURACY
I ought to be ashamed of myself; I have done little reading on the life of Luther. However, I know that the d greater part of the film follows his life very accurately. That was not hard to do, for Luther’s life really was as exciting as a novel! Inaccuracies (mostly small details) are pointed out in this article under the subcategory “Historical Inaccuracies”: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Luther_%282003_film%29

CONTENT ADVISORY
If there is a damper on my being able to complete enjoy the film Luther, it would be the language. There is quite a bit of language that is just not necessary. The “s” word is used in a few scenes in which Luther is rebuking the devil (we often fast-forward these scenes), and some mild language is used here and there as well (some are mixed into conversation and easy to miss, but still there). The Lord’s name is used in vain a couple times.
Luther is rated PG-13 for “disturbing images of violence”. We see a few dead bodies hanging (one is a suicide), Tetzel burns his hand in a fire to illustrate the terrors of hell, one man is burned at the stake (the camera fades out before it gets graphic), and dead bodies fill the Church after the Peasant’s Revolt.
There is no sex or nudity; Luther and his wife are seen in bed, but are clothed. Immorality is hinted at during Luther’s visit to Rome, but not shown.
FROM A CHRISTIAN PERSPECTIVE
Luther is a thrilling and challenging movie for a Christian. These days, we often take for granted the multiple copies and translations of God’s Word that we keep around our house, the freedom we have to worship as we believe God has commanded, and the privilege we have to know God’s truth rather than having it hid from us. Luther reminds me of the great struggles men and women went through to overcome the darkness of the Catholic Church and proclaim the truth God has spoken. Luther’s boldness is a challenge to me as I find myself to be such a coward when it comes to declaring the truth.
Interspersed throughout the film are pieces from Luther’s writings mixed in with dialogue or in the sermons he preaches. Perhaps the most stirring of these, for me, is included in his sermon before going to Augsburg. “Terrible. Unforgiving. That’s how I saw God. Punishing us in this life, committing us to Purgatory after death, sentencing sinners to burn in hell for all eternity. But I was wrong. Those who see God as angry do not see Him rightly, but look upon a curtain as if a dark storm cloud has been drawn across His face. If we truly believe that Christ is our Savior, then we have a God of love, and to see God in faith is to look upon His friendly heart. So when the devil throws your sins in your face and declares that you deserve death and hell, tell him this: ‘I admit that I deserve death and hell. What of it? For I know One who suffered and made satisfaction in my behalf. His name is Jesus Christ, Son of God. Where He is, there I shall be also.’” What a thrilling blessing it is to reflect on this glorious truth—If we have turned to God in faith for salvation, we need no longer fear judgment or spiritual death. Jesus has indeed made satisfaction on our behalf—taken our place and paid the debt of our sin—so that we might be reconciled to God and live with Him forever, free from guilt and sin and death.
Luther also challenges me to share Jesus Christ with others. Luther sees many people in the movie who are downtrodden by darkness and hopelessness: a boy hangs himself in despair, impoverished and starving people give money for indulgences that mean nothing, many people live with no hope of anything but the same daily routine until they die and suffer eternally. Luther reaches out and points them to Christ, the only true hope. I need to as well—for, just as in his day, so in our day do people live their lives day by day with no hope or joy or peace. We hear of suicides and crimes and broken lives and despairing people everywhere we turn—even among the people of high standing whom we look up to as a culture. We cannot pass these people by without heeding the cry of their heart; if we have seen the light and come to know Jesus Christ, we must pass it on to others. We may not affect a whole continent, as Luther did, but each soul we touch counts in Jesus’ eyes.
MY THOUGHTS
This is definitely a favorite film of mine, and I have enjoyed renting and watching it with my family in honor of Reformation Day both last year and this year. Besides being a stirring and convicting film, Luther is also very well done. Music, costumes, sets (especially the castles 😉 ), and acting are wonderfully done. And while the movie, being only two hours long, does not cover even half of the details of Martin Luther’s life, it is a great start to studying this great man’s life. Due to the topics covered under “Content Advisory”, I would not recommend this for children under 13. For older teens and adults, however, I highly recommend it for spiritual and educational value and very uplifting entertainment. I would particularly recommend making it part of your Reformation Day (October 31st) celebration. Instead of obsessing over the death and darkness promoted on this day, we may instead rejoice in the life and light God has given us through His Son, Jesus Christ, and made known to us in His Word!
Trailer:
Note ~ Mild language at 0:34 and 1:24

Our Mutual Friend (1998) ~ A Review

Our Mutual Friend is the 1998 miniseries created by BBC and based off Charles Dickens’ last completed novel. The film, with a screenplay written by Sandy Welch (North and South, Emma, Jane Eyre), runs for approximately 351 minutes, in four episodes. Some of the familiar faces in this adaption are Keeley Hawes (Cynthia, Wives and Daughters) and David Morrissey (Colonel Brandon, Sense and Sensibility).
PLOT
Dickens’ last novel, and one of his most complex and unique plots, finds its beginnings with a man named Harmon. Harmon was a hard, greedy, and unfeeling man who gained a great fortune in dust mounds. Upon his death, his inheritance is to go to his son John, who has been living abroad for most of his life, on the condition that he marries a woman whom he has never met—one Bella Wilfer. However, at the time that young John Harmon was to return to claim his fortune and his bride, he is reported drowned.
At this unexpected turn of events, the Harmon fortune goes to Mr. Harmon’s most trusted servants, Mr. and Mrs. Nicodemus Boffin, while various people become suspect for the murder of the drowned man. Happy-go-lucky, endearing, and unspoiled Mr. and Mrs. Boffin decide to “go in for fashion” and take in John Harmon’s intended bride, beautiful but somewhat mercenary Bella, to help soften the injury at being willed “like a dozen spoons” and at losing a prospective fortune. Joining the Boffins to act as a secretary is a mysterious man called John Rokesmith, who appears to have no back history but who studies Bella quietly and faithfully.
At the same time, a carefree, idle young laywer named Eugene Wrayburn makes attempts to clear Gaffer Hexam, the man who recovered the body of John Harmon, of the suspicion of having done the murderous deed. Not only does he wish to clear Gaffer, but he also finds himself attracted to the man’s modest and gentle daughter Lizzie. He is not the only man attracted to Lizzie’s beauty and sweet temperament; the girl also finds herself followed by her brother’s somewhat psychotic schoolmaster.
In his masterful way, Dickens weaves together a tale so complex and so compelling, and at the same time packed with rich spiritual truths, and all of it finding its center in the “mutual friend” of the title. Six hours of viewing will sweep you up into a tale consisting of sweet romance, murder mystery, stalkers, the painted lives of high society and the stark realities of riverside London, wealth and poverty, disputed wills, midnight chases, and a vast array of unique characters (some totally loveable and some absolutely detestable).
ACCURACY
Our Mutual Friend may be one of the most accurate of the Dickens films I’ve watched. Of course, as the book is very lengthy, some very minor subplots have been omitted (for instance, Georgiana and Mr. Fledgeby’s) and some scenes left out or condensed, but the order of events and the dialogue are, in my opinion, profoundly similar to the book. Most of the lines come straight from Dickens’ own pen, and very little (or nothing) is added by the screenwriter. As I read in another review, it’s like reading Dickens “on-the-go”. There are a few scenes that I wish the filmmakers had not left out—for instance, the movie leaves it very unclear as to whether Gaffer Hexam was ever cleared of suspicion or not (the chapter in which that issue is addressed I found most intriguing when I read it, and wish the filmmakers had not omitted it, though I suppose they did so because of the time limit). Overall, however, the story development and the characters are very true to the book. It even begins and ends the exact same way as the book, with the exact same scenes.
CONTENT ADVISORY
Sadly, one can barely find a movie anymore that does not contain at least one or two questionable elements. There is some brief nudity in Episode 4, in which a character Bradley Headstone bathes in the river, which is easy to predict and fast-forward, and isn’t essential to understanding the plot. Language is hardly an issue in this miniseries—there are a very few exclamations of the Lord’s name; I can remember one use of “the devil” and one “d**n” (but then, I have not watched it with the subtitles—my apologies if I have missed anything!) There is one violent scene at the end of episode 3; one character attacks another, beats him up, and throws him in the river.
Besides that, there are a few images that may be disturbing to some viewers (myself included). As one of the recurring themes throughout the miniseries is the river, a number of characters drown (or almost drown) and their bodies are recovered, some looking disturbingly…decaying. These camera shots are easy to predict and to shut one’s eyes to if desired.
Ladies’ gowns in some of the “society” scenes reflect the styles of the day, which translates rather too low in the front and rather too far down off the shoulders.
FROM A CHRISTIAN PERSPECTIVE
I wonder whether Charles Dickens realized the fascinating Christian aspects of his stories. Not only does Our Mutual Friend commentate on the social ills of the day, but it also portrays a variety of Biblical truths that leap right off the page (or screen) into the very lives of the readers/viewers.
My favorite spiritual “allegory”, so to speak, would be Bella’s storyline. I cannot go into detail without giving away spoilers, but I will say that her journey from selfishness, worldliness, and love for money to humility, trustfulness, and true love reflect the work I long to see continually in my life. Like Bella, I (and many other young ladies, I’m sure) struggle with putting too much emphasis on worldly and fleeting things, but our Heavenly Father is so good and lovingly tests us (as Bella is tested!) to bring us to the point of realizing what truly matters. In addition, Bella’s story encourages me in the area of faith and trust in God; I wrote an article about this parallel some time back, which can be found here (WARNING: article contains spoilers).
Lizzie Hexam also shines as an inspirational character. Until the middle of the film, she stands as a notable contrast to Bella. One of the scenes that struck me recently was that in which Bella visits Lizzie across their paths cross for the first time directly. When Bella confronts Lizzie on her choice for living in secret, she asks, “What’s the gain in that?” and Lizzie replies so selflessly, “Does a woman’s heart seek to gain anything?” Her love throughout the film is so selfless and so beautiful, so Christlike—for a love that loves without thought of what it can receive, and regardless of the other person’s failures and weakness—can only spring from a heart where Christ reigns freely.
Bradley Headstone’s character also creates much food for thought—perhaps not so pleasant food for thought, however. 🙂 How does a man descend from being a respectable (though somewhat unstable) schoolmaster to such a mad and conscience-seared…well, I won’t say what for sake of those who don’t want spoilers. 🙂 This aspect is further explored in this article (also containing plot spoilers).
MY THOUGHTS
While some may find the “dark” aspects of the story too much for their taste, and while others may find fault in the extent of complexity in the plot and extreme situations, I have to admit, Our Mutual Friend may be my favorite of all Dickens’ books that I have read or watched. It is such a beautiful love story; and I love deep and complex plots and thought-provoking storylines…and besides, it has some great one-liners (particularly thanks to Eugene Wrayburn! 🙂 )
In addition, I think the filmmakers did a wonderful job in bringing this classic work of Dickens to screen. I’m pretty near crazy over Steven Mackintosh’s portrayal of Rokesmith, and Anna Friel does wonderfully as Bella Wilfer. It was a surprise and delight to see the actress of the selfish and fashionable Cynthia Kirkpatrick of Wives and Daughters as a quiet, sweet, good young woman. Perhaps one of the best actors is one of the worst characters—how David Morrissey could play such a detestable character in Our Mutual Friend and then such a steady, good, and romantic character in the 2008 BBC version of Sense and Sensibility seems proof to me of excellent acting skills (even if he acts well enough to make my mom dislike this movie simply for his role! 🙂 ) Along with the excellent casting in the good points of the series are the beautiful score, consisting of a good deal of cello and piano; gorgeous costumes and hairstyles reflecting the decade during which the story takes places (the 1860s); and stunning cinematography that captures the very emotions of the characters and the details of both the grand houses and the miry river. Beautifully done.
All that said, I highly recommend this movie to those who enjoy a good Dickensian tale. It will either climb to your favorites list by the time you are done with it, or you may want to throw it into Old Harmon’s dust mounds in disgust over the very-well-acted slimy characters. 🙂 I will again refer you to your remote control for the one questionable scene I mentioned and would add that the story may not be suitable for younger children (due to the complexity of the plot in general and the darker elements). I hope you will enjoy the miniseries as much as I have.
More on Our Mutual Friend:

Little Dorrit (2008) ~ A Review


Little Dorrit is a miniseries based on the novel by Charles Dickens. Written by Andrew Davies and put out by the BBC, it runs 8 1/2 hours and stars Claire Foy, Matthew MacFadyen, and Tom Courtenay.

PLOT

Little Dorrit follows the story of a young girl named Amy Dorrit, born in a debtor’s prison to a long-serving inmate known as the “Father of the Marshalsea”. While her sister Fanny works as a dancer and her brother hops in and out of jobs, Amy finds employment as a seamstress and companion to a stern, crippled woman named Mrs. Clennam.

Around that time, Mrs. Clennam’s son Arthur returns from China after a 15-year absence working with his father, who is recently deceased. The older Mr. Clennam died with something troubling his mind, and Arthur is determined to find out. Upon meeting Amy, known as “Little Dorrit”, Arthur suspects that perhaps his family is responsible for some of the misfortunes that have befallen the Dorrit family, and befriends Amy.  With the help of a friend, he digs down into the Dorrits’ family history to find the truth, unaware of the truths surrounding his own family.

Little Dorrit features a wide array of characters: some humorous, some tragic, some endearing, and some downright evil. Murder, mystery, and romance all find their place in this engaging adaption of Dickens’ classic rag-to-riches story.

ACCURACY

I have not read the novel yet, so I cannot say much regarding how accurate the movie is to the book. I have heard that overall it follows it closely, but, as is his habit, screenwriter Andrew Davies made one or two changes of his own, which will be covered in the following section.

RATING

For all that Little Dorrit is a fantastic story with some of my absolute FAVORITE characters in fiction, it just isn’t my favorite movie to watch. It is a rather “dark” movie (darker than Bleak House, I think, but not so dark as Our Mutual Friend), and there are some parts that are not so comfortable for me to watch, as a Christian.

There is some violence– one man murders a couple people (thankfully those are never shown clearly), one man commits suicide (very graphic), and some other intense parts. One man (the murderer) is also a little overly fond of ladies, and there is one scene at the end of Episode 2 that we skip due to that. There is some nude art in the scenes in Venice. One character (Miss Wade) Andrew Davies concluded was “gay” (though Charles Dickens never implied such a thing) and, though that is not stated in the film, there are some strange things about that woman that may make some people wonder. Some of the costumes (particularly Fanny’s and Mrs. Merdle’s) have alarmingly low necklines.

Some of those aspects are easy to skip over if desired, but what’s harder to skip is the language. Little Dorrit is probably worse on language than most of the other BBC costume dramas I’ve seen. You get a lot of the Lord’s name in vain, the word “d–n” and several others frequently used throughout the 8 1/2 hours. I think I would enjoy the film a lot better if we could bleep out the language.

FROM A CHRISTIAN PERSPECTIVE

Like all of Dickens’ works that I have read or watched, there are some good examples of Christian character and subtle parallels to Biblical truths throughout Little Dorrit. Amy Dorrit, in particular, shows a great deal of longsuffering, forgiveness, and patience with the people around her– most of whom are very selfish and unkind. I blush when I think of how patient she is with such intolerable people and how impatient I am over absolute nothings. She and Arthur are both beautiful portraits of selflessness, and characters I would wish to be more like.

The story shows the dangers of becoming “ingrown”, consumed with one’s self and with trying to live up to society, and thereby losing sight of the blessings around one’s self. In contrast, it shows the beauty of a life willing to serve others, be a blessing, and count the blessings the Lord has given it. Furthermore, it shows the difference between a life that claims to be serving God but whose life do not correspond with their words (Mrs. Clennam), and a life that simply lives out the Christlife in his/her daily experience (Amy Dorrit).

So the story itself is full of good Christian principles; it is just the screenplay that makes me not so comfortable watching it as some parts.

MY THOUGHTS

Like I said, I like many of the costumes, love the storyline, and ADORE the hero, Arthur Clennam (probably my favorite hero of period dramas, alongside Mr. Knightly 🙂 )!!! But there are enough “cons” to the movie that make it not one of my absolute favorites. I love to sit and watch the last episode, and watch the story wrap up in that thrilling way (for it has a very delightful ending 😉 ), but I do not care to sit for 8 1/2 hours and try to sift out all the cons to enjoy the pros.

Still, it is a very popular miniseries and most people like it very much. If the “cons” I mentioned don’t bother you, or if you have a language “bleeper” and a remote control in working order, I am sure you will enjoy this film. It has such an intriguing story line; features some beautiful music, costumes, and cinematography; and includes some of wonderful Dickensian characters, which, combined, make for an enjoyable and award-winning miniseries.

More on Little Dorrit:

Next Movie Review…

Hi everyone!

I am sorry I didn’t post my movie review on Thursday. I’m still without my computer and it’s a lot harder to sit down and write something on someone else’s computer if you are used to your own. 😉 Also, I am not sure what to review next. Which would you like of the following?

Sense and Sensibility (1995)
Sense and Sensibility (2007)
Persuasion (1995)
Luther (2003)
Little Dorrit (2008)
Wives and Daughters (1999)

I also have seen a really good docudrama about John Wycliffe, along the same lines as “Luther” (though not as well known) that I might want to review too. Eventually I’ll do one on “Our Mutual Friend” too but I have only seen it twice and my mom doesn’t like it so I am not sure when I’ll be watching it again…though I think I remember enough to give an overview and an opinion…

So which would you like next?

P.S. AWESOME votes on the “Emma” poll!!! 19 “LOVE IT-swoons”, 3 “it’s okays”, 5 “haven’t seen it yets” and ZERO “hate this adaptions”!! 😀 BBC must have done something good… 😉 Go Emma!! 😀

Emma (2009) ~ A Review

Emma is a miniseries made in 2009 by BBC. Featuring a screenplay written by Sandy Welch (screenwriter for North and South, Our Mutual Friend, and Jane Eyre), and a stellar cast including Romola Garai, Jonny Lee Miller, and Michael Gambon, Emma makes for a delightful, 4-hour adaption of Jane Austen’s beloved novel.

THE PLOT

According to the first line of the famous novel, “Emma Woodhouse, handsome, clever, and rich, with a comfortable home and happy disposition, seemed to unite some of the best blessings of existence; and had lived nearly twenty-one years in the world with very little to distress or vex her.” Emma is the second of two daughters of an simple, elderly widower. She is a young woman of great importance in her social circle, and is very witty, and the problem is… she knows it! She enjoys arranging other people’s lives, especially in the area of matrimony. Having successfully married off her sister to a long-time friend, and her governess to a local widower, Emma considers herself a successful matchmaker and becomes determined to carry on her matchmaking career. But whether it is with the sweet, simple, artless Harriet Smith; the handsome and engaging vicar, Mr. Elton; or her former governess’ charming stepson, Frank Churchill, her plans all seem to go ridiculously wrong, and she comes to realize that she is not so knowledgeable about the ways of the heart as she thought she was; and her efforts to match up others cause her to nearly mistake and lose her own perfect match.

ACCURACY

While there are some who may differ with me on this point, I really do think this is the most accurate version of Emma of the three I have seen (Mirimax, A&E, and this one). While Mirimax leans more towards the Elton storyline, and A&E leans more towards the Churchill storyline, this one gives the whole story equal attention and includes many details that the other film versions left out. It also, I think, captures the spirit of the book very well and presents most of the characters accurately. It also answers questions that the other films didn’t answer very well (see two paragraphs below) and acquaints you better with some of the characters such as Mrs. Goddard, John, Isabella, and Mrs. Elton. (Oh!! Mrs. Elton!! Christina Cole tops them all! She is so the best Mrs. Elton…)

That said, the filmmakers for this adaption of Emma did have their own take on some of it. They attempted to make it more “modern” in some of the language, music, manners, etc., to make it more accessible to a modern audience. I know that sounds terrible– it sounded terrible to me when I heard they were doing that!– but when you actually sit down and watch it, the modernization is, to me and many others at least, very forgivable. You feel like you know the characters, like they could live in modern days. Those who haven’t exercised their language abilities so as to catch on to the period language of Jane Austen’s original works will find it perhaps a more enjoyable and understandable watch. True, a Regency girl isn’t going to be lounging with her arm up over the back of the couch, but somehow it is forgivable when Emma does it, and makes her seem like a very real person. 🙂
A few other changes the filmmakers made were very slight. They began the screenplay with “flashbacks” of Emma’s childhood, giving a better understanding of Emma’s, Frank’s, and Jane’s backgrounds. This answers questions some viewers may have, such as “Why is Mr. Woodhouse so overprotective of Emma?” “How is Jane related to the Bates again?” “Who is this Knightly guy who comes back and forth to and from Hartfield all the time?” Mrs. and Miss Bates’ personalities were somewhat drawn about in such a way that they are more tragic characters. Instead of just being deaf, Mrs. Bates is withdrawn in herself because of the way her life has been; and Miss Bates has a lot more emotional depth than in the other film versions.

RATING

Emma is an absolutely deliciously clean movie. Most of the costumes are modest; there is much less emphasis on cleavage than there is in several of the other Jane Austen adaptions. There is no sexual content (though there is a kiss and some flirting). One of the things that makes me absolutely love this version is the absence of questionable language! You know the absolute annoying superabundance of “Good God!” and “O, Lord!” in those other adaptions? You don’t get that in Emma! When a character is expressing surprise, they either exclaim, “Oh my goodness!” or just show the surprise in their faces. Someone told me that one character uses the Lord’s name in vain once in frustration, but she knew it only from the subtitles, and when I listened during that scene after she pointed that out to me, I still couldn’t detect it. Besides that, one character uses the term “d–n” but it too is not very noticeable.

FROM A CHRISTIAN PERSPECTIVE

As when I read or watch Jane Austen’s other works, I usually come away from Emma in a mood for spiritual application. Jane Austen really had a way of working in the matters of the heart and the importance of godly living in her stories. This adaption of Emma, developing Emma’s bad character and her realization of it and her change, was very good, and made me think: Am I, like Emma, full of myself? Vain? Prideful? Immature? Inconsiderate of other’s feelings and needs? Impatient? Or do I allow the Spirit of Christ to control me and influence what I do? Do I truly desire others’ good? Am I kind? Do I use what influence I have to help others do right? Am I bold to speak up, like Mr. Knightly? Life isn’t about us– it is about loving God and loving others. Sometimes we must fall hard after a major mistake, like Emma, but God uses those falls to make us dependent on Him and moldable in His hands.

Of course, I have a couple quibbles with Emma. Despite promoting Christian morality in her works, Jane Austen didn’t lift up Jesus Christ by name in her works. The one notably “religious” person in the movie is Mr. Elton, who is actually (SPOILER ALERT) a real jerk! and I kind of wish Jane had decided to pick on another occupation besides clergyman (albeit, I am sure a lot of clergyman were NOT Christians back then, as it is today!) Still, besides that, I do find Emma very challenging and thought-provoking spiritually.

MY THOUGHTS


I suppose I have been expressing them throughout as it is! If you haven’t been abl
e to tell yet, this is my FAVORITE VERSION OF EMMA EVER MADE!!!!!!!!!!!! I love the casting… perfect Emma, perfect Mr. Woodhouse, perfect Mr. and Mrs. Elton, perfect Mr. and Mrs. Weston, perfect Frank Churchill, perfect Jane Fairfax, 100% PERFECT MR. KNIGHTLY!!!!!!!!!!!!!!! 😀 And perfect or nearly perfect everyone else. 🙂 The music is absolutely delicious and the ball scene has got to be the best Jane Austen ball scene ever to be filmed. Wow.
Most of the costumes are very lovely, and, again, most are modest. The sets are beautiful too. I love the whole thing! I do think the beginning is a little too slow, and the ending is a little too fast, Harriet’s a little too dense, Miss Bates not quite silly and talkative enough, and I wish they had left in the “Bro
ther and sister? No indeed!” line, but besides that, I love it! 😀 Now this is one I do faint in delight over. 😉

I do highly encourage you to get a copy of this adaption of Emma, or pull it up and watch it on YouTube, if you haven’t seen it already. Who knows, you might not like it– I’ve known a few who don’t, but I know more who do (and believe it or not, I even know a GUY who has it on his iPod and watching it now and then! So your brothers might not pretend to be all grossed out when you pop it in, who knows! :-D) In any case, I highly encourage you to give this adaption a try. 10 to 1, you’ll buy it the instant the end credits pull up. Serious. 🙂