Wednesday, February 11, 2009

Jane Austen: Is She Ruining My Dating Chances?

For years, girlfriends of mine swooned and pined over Jane Austen stories.  Or more, her characters.  I never understood the allure of stories like 'Pride & Prejudice'.  I was too busy being a tom boy.  Too busy trying to be hip in the music scene.  Too busy trying never to be a dainty frail female that can't open her own doors or her own pickle jars.  I couldn't stand that image and worked very hard to be the exact opposite.

So while my friends read 'Wuthering Heights' and the like, I stuck with my science fiction and fantasy.  No dainties there, thank you very much.

[A note: my tact above is very useful if you'd like to be best friends with every guy you know yet never have them give you a second look as a dating option.  Knock yourselves out, girls.]

So many of my Awesome Blogger Chicks are fans of Jane Austen.  I silently rolled my eyes as they all discussed and compared and related.  A Boston friend insisted I just had to watch 'Pride & Prejudice' with her. thanks.  I had seen some of the recent Hollywood work-ups of Ms. Austen's stories.  Which is probably the first problem right there.  If it's cast with a bunch of mincing Americans doing HORRID British accents, I'm going to have trouble with it.  If it's also edited to fit the general western attention span (or maybe it's our bladder size), you will miss some very important detail that explains why everyone seemed to be in an uproar when so and so had done such and such.

Enter NetFlix.

In trying to fill my queue with an alternating list of movies that my young boys and I might enjoy (one week a kid's movie, the next week a mom movie), I decided maybe it was time to check out Mr. Colin Firth and all of his swoon-inducing work.

I had been sternly informed that any version of 'Pride & Prejudice' that didn't have Colin Firth as Mr. Darcy was pure poo.  I've only seen two versions.  First, I tried the 2005 Hollywood one with Keira Knightly and Matthew Macfadyen.  Then, I obeyed my friends and got the 1995 BBC TV miniseries with Jennifer Ehle and Colin Firth.

Now, the 2005 version is visually stunning.  Knightly's Elizabeth is just a bit too...snotty.  Yes, I get the that the title rather implies this might be her issue in life.  But for the time period, she is way too bold.  And while I love her in certain roles, I had trouble buying her as her character.  I kept going, "Oh, there's Keira Knightly in a bad dye job."  But then Macfadyen's Mr. Darcy, I have to say I loved him.  I can see how some might say that he was just way too sad-puppy-ish in his facial expressions.  But this worked for me.  I see Darcy as much more saddened by his shortfalls rather than all pissed off.  At times, however, this sadness played a bit wimpy for me.  There needs to be a balance between the sadness and smoldering anger.  Initially, I also found this actor "not good looking enough."  Because I am an American and am totally hung up on beauty.  However, I loved that he totally made me believe the character.  So I'd watch and think, "Oh poor Mr. Darcy is in love with Keira Knightly in a bad dye job!"

My other issue with the 2005 version is the editing they did to keep theater-goers happy.  It's like trying to squeeze 'Lawrence of Arabia' or 'Ghandi' into a 2 hr movie.  You're going to miss some very vital character or situation development.  I remember watching this 2005 version first thinking, "Why is everyone in such an uproar over Lydia Bennet's doings?"  I also didn't really get the whole back story that made Wickham such a scoundrel.  It wasn't very clear.

In the 1995 mini series, Ehle's Elizabeth is appropriately beautiful, but not too.  She is also appropriately indignant at life's injustices relating to social and sexual differences.  But she's not rude.  She's amusingly and intelligently impertinent, which is what I would expect Ms. Austen to be going for.  I did have a problem with the actress playing the "beautiful" Jane.  She was pretty.  But really not all that much.  In the costume and hair of the period, she was a bit...well, it just fell short of inspiring the launch of all of Troy's ships, you know?  But I got over it because her acting was spot on.  Colin Firth as Darcy was visually perfect.  I felt his anger could have been mixed with a bit more sadness.  He just always seemed all pissed off.  How is that endearing?  Anyway, Mr. Firth can act however he wants and I will still adore him.  When he shows love or empathy on screen, I buy it.  Hook, line and sinker.  No matter what movie.  I prefer the 2005 Bingley to the 1995 one.  But again, it still worked for me.

The 1995 version also gives you the whole back story of everyone.  It shows all of the inappropriate missteps of poor Elizabeth's mother and younger sisters.  It gave all the details of why Wickham sucks eggs.  I got all the innuendo.  All in all, I loved it.  And then I called my Boston friend to apologize for ever having turned my nose up at it!

Last night, I watched 'Sense & Sensibility'.  It's the 2008 BBC miniseries.  I loved it.  I think I'd still like to see a version of this with someone else as Col. Brandon (perhaps Mr. Firth?).

Anyway, this has turned into A Former Tomboy Reviews 'Pride & Prejudice' posting.  Which wasn't my intent.

I have to tell you that, any version of Pride & Prejudice that I see, I am left with an empty pining feeling.  Pining for the elusive and imaginary Mr. Darcy.  I don't believe he exists.  And if he does, it's only for a year or two.  I so desperately want to believe in true love but, having only experience fake versions, I doubt it's existence.  I can lose myself in the movie and smile and get all teary eyed.  But then I think how sorry I feel for any man that crosses my path now.  How will he ever live up to Mr. Fitzwilliam Darcy?  I don't for a minute believe that a man of 2009 will climb any mountain, swim any ocean, crawl across any dessert.  I don't see many men of today steal a glance at their girlfriend/wife with that "How did I get so lucky?" sappy look.  I don't see many men treating marriage as anything more than Extreme Dating.

So Jane Austen has ruined my chances at dating.  Mr. Darcy and Edward Ferrars don't exist.  So God's miracle will be either A) create a Mr. Darcy for me or B) shake me into reality and help me live there.

We'll see.


C. Beth said...

OH MY GOSH, there's a BBC miniseries of S & S? I must see it.

Love, love, love, love, love the BBC P & P. Honestly, I loved the 2005 Hollywood version too. But the big, long one holds a very special place in my heart. I own it and it's so great every time I have watched it. The book absolutely rocks too (and is very similar to the movie.)

Agree with you that the actor who plays Jane did not have enough classic beauty but did a great job acting. Bingley is annoying in that version, which is a bummer, considering how good the movie is overall.

Allie said...

Hooray! You have come over to the dark side. Or perhaps light side?

I agreed with and enjoyed almost everything you said. I get the whole point about Jane not being pretty enough, but I've always thought of Jane as being the obviously pretty one - she has the right colouring, the blonde curls, the puppy dog eyes, the smile that switches on for the asking, and I think Jane in the BBC one fulfilled this :) Not necessarily prettiER but pretty in a different way to Lizzy.

I loved your point about Keira Knightley's Elizabeth just being rude, while Jennifer Ehle's is intelligently and amusingly impertinent. That's just what I have been trying to say for ages but haven't quite managed to articulate!

If you want to see another really good version of S&S, with, obviously, a different Col. Brandon, try the version that stars Kate Winslet and Emma Thompson as the sisters, Alan Rickman as Brandon and Hugh Grant as Edward Ferrars. I really like it.

Trish Ryan said...

You don't see it, therefore it doesn't exist.
I question the veracity of that equation! I mean, we're talking about a God who brought you a free freezer full of Omaha steaks!


JenKneeBee said...

Yay! You have no idea how happy it made me to read this. Your reviews were quite entertaining. I think you are absolutely correct about the 2005 P&P. Keira just isn't Elizabeth. And Colin Firth is just perfect in the other one. No man could ever live up to him :)

I agree with Allie about checking out the 1995 version of Sense and Sensibility. I love it so, so much. I don't know how they did it, but it captures the book perfectly and (it's not often that I say this) but I actually like the movie a little bit better. Just a little. Emma Thompson and Kate Winslet are fantastic. And Alan Rickman and his voice are so lovely. Okay, I'll stop gushing now.

Sarakastic said...

Honestly, I was never much of an Austen fan either. Mr. Darcy always just seemed like a guy I could beat up. After watching Becoming Jane, I gained a whole new respect for her work. As for there being a Mr. Darcy in real life, I don't know if that's possible either. Then again if someone was like that everyday it would bug me. Every once in awhile is nice, but every day... What I do know is that you are fantastic & deserve someone equally fantastic & God knows that too!

Stacy said...

I can't bring myself to watch the 2005 version because of Keira Knightley's presence in it.

Jenny from Chicago said...

You are killing me.

I can't be objective on your post because I've watched the 2005 version soooo often. I forget wheat my first impressions were. Now its like an old friend who chatters on while I fold the laundry.