Tuesday, August 2, 2011

My Reviews: Persuasion (1995)


Directed by Roger Mitchell, this 1995 version is probably my favorite movie of all time and is certainly my favorite Jane Austen adaptation. It is wonderfully faithful to Jane’s book and just a heart-warming movie in general with much to recommend it to viewers: a charming script, lovely music, beautiful scenes and costumes, and excellent actors.

Written by Nick Dear, the script comes straight from the pages of Jane Austen’s last completed novel, Persuasion. It catches the quite humor and touching scenes that are her trademark. Its only fault perhaps is in the unclear explanation of Mr. Elliot’s greed, which somehow doesn’t make sense, even if you haven’t read the book. There are also a few omissions such as the story of Dick Musgrove and Anne’s visit to Kellynch Lodge with Lady Russell and strangely enough the changing of some of the minor character’s names around for clarification or whim. A lovely touch to the movie is the way in which the script blends both the common and original endings, which Austen wrote, adding to the movie’s personal charms.

Original music composed by Jeremy Sams, as well as classical pieces from Chopin and Bach, perfectly accent the tone of the movie. The music is touching, rolling, light and exquisite; while an Italian Aria surpasses all as it is sung so beautifully by soprano Rosa Mannion.

Filmed entirely in England, majestic country manors form the homes of the main characters, while outside scenes show charming gardens and fields. The clamor-filled streets of Bath are sufficiently crowded while on the seashore at Lyme the sea fairly dances and you can almost feel and taste the salty breeze. Inside scenes do a fantastic job of contrasting the differences of living qualities between the upper and lower classes in Regency society. As Jane Austen paints with her words so the camera shows how the stark, clean, rich scenes represent the heartless mind-set of the noble; while the dark, damp, earthy feel of the not-so-rich represent love and friendship.

The costumes for this production were accurately designed by Alexandra Byrne and delightfully contrast the difference in status and personality between the characters. Anne’s costumes are like her character, soft and quiet, while the playful Musgrove girls wear brighter colors trimmed with ace and ribbons, and Sir Walter’s suits show in their sheer extravagance his self-important pride. Grand make-up and hairstyle teams were also employed in contrast, creating natural and easy styles fitting each character perfectly. As Anne transforms from appearing plain and sickly at the beginning of the film to appearing truly lovely and blooming at the end of the movie, her conceited sister just seems to grow more unattractive.

Actors On Their Roles:
A delightful cast showcasing some of Britain’s finest actors and skilled artists of stage and film. Their acting is perfectly easy and natural making one feel as if they are watching and indeed living in this marvelous world.

  • Corin Redgrave is brilliant as the entirely self-important and vain Sir Walter Elliot. His style shows the narcissism of the character and he even adopts an aristocratic accent with his “Dalwymples”.
  • Pheobe Nicholls plays Sir Walter’s oldest daughter Miss Elizabeth Elliot. She carries off the very elegant style of the character but is not very pretty. However she truly matches her father in vanity.
  • Felicity Dean is Miss Elliot’s simple-minded friend Mrs. Clay. She has the perfect bucktooth and funny grin but sadly she lacks the quantity of freckles that would seem to constitute the use of Gowlands!
  • Susan Fleetwood elegantly plays Lady Russell, the family’s friend. Always kind and proper she also shows a personable mother-like relationship with Anne, though she seems to have a passion for wearing feathers in her caps!
  • Amanda Root is quite endearing as our sweet-tempered heroine Anne Elliot. I felt with her as she patiently listens to the complaints of all her relations while suffering so much in side herself. Her countenance is quiet and almost melancholy at times, the only thing that shows what she feels is her lovely expressive eyes. As the ends we see her opening up and becoming by turns more open and trusting, and receiving her just rewards for her long-suffering love.
  • Sophie Thompson plays Anne’s younger sister Mary Musgrove, cross, sickly and complaining. Her scenes are so funny and wonderfully executed. 
  • Simon Russell Beale who serves wonderfully as the stout, friendly sportsman plays her husband Charles Musgrove. He is also a caring father and kind brother with good manners. The open, easy friendships between him and the naval officers are charming and real. 
  • Roger Hammond & Judy Cornwell are the jolly, friendly elder Mr. & Mrs. Musgrove and make for a wonderful contrast between them and Elliots. They show that they are real people who care deeply for their children and don’t pretend but live comfortable, loving and joking freely with their family all around them.
  • Victoria Hamilton plays the sweet, pretty Henrietta Musgrove - quiet, friendly, pretty and sisterly. 
  • Emma Roberts is her high-spirited younger sister Louisa Musgrove. She is quick witted and the perfect show-off before the men but not as giggly and silly as you might expect, just determined. Her Lyme fall is executed so much as if it was real but she does seem a strange match for a certain Captain.
  • Ciaran Hinds is the perfect Captain Frederick Wentworth, kind, handsome and friendly. He is sometimes the hearty, teasing sailor and sometimes the feeling, romantic lover but always a gentleman and a true friend.
  • Fiona Shaw plays Captain Wentworth’s sister Mrs. Croft to a T! While a little older than Jane Austen described her, she is friendly, personable, elegant, kind, and a wonderful loving wife. Actor John Woodvine plays her seafaring husband Admiral Croft - friendly, charming, wise and fatherly. There is a wonderful chemistry between Shaw and Woodvine that is so sweet and make them seem the happiest married couple in the world.
  • Actors Richard McCabe (Captain Benwick) and Robert Glenister (Captain Harville) play Captain Wentworth’s two brother officers, winningly courageous as to inspire true naval fervor in myself as well as similar young ladies. Captain Benwick is really a thinking reading man, quiet with an injured heart. Captain Harville is friendly with a believable limp and loving nature. His heartfelt talk with Anne seems to come from his real life experiences, and he is a very good whisperer!
  • Samuel West is the handsome, gentlemanlike cad Mr. William Elliot. He is personable and friendly but at times slightly brooding and snakelike as he should be.

  • After Louisa jumps off the steps in Lyme, a blue car is seen driving up the Cobb behind Captain Wentworth.
  • On one of her visits to her friend Mrs. Smith, Anne can be seen entering the building wearing a pink dress and exits wearing a blue dress.
  • At the dinner at the Musgrove's, the Musgrove girls read from the Navy List that Captain Wentworth’s former ship the Laconia is a 74 gun frigate. Frigates of the era had at a maximum around 44 guns. A ship with 74 guns would have been known as a "ship of the line".
Memorable Quotes:
  • Mr. Shepherd: Women without children are the very best preservers of furniture.
  • Sir Walter Elliot: Anne? You want to marry Anne? Whatever for?
  • Captain Wentworth: I tried to forget you... I thought I had.
  • Mr. Elliot: Have you thought any more about my offer? Anne: What offer was that? Mr. Elliot: My offer to flatter and adore you all the days of your life. Anne: I haven't had a moment, Mr. Elliot, to turn my mind to it.
  • Anne Elliot: We do not forget you, so soon as you forget us.
  • Henrietta Musgrove: Louisa is grown so severe, Mama, I wonder she shall want a ribbon in her hair at all. Give her a book of verse to hold instead!
  • Mary Musgrove: Are you coming in, Henrietta, or is my cottage insufficiently grand for you?
  • Anne Elliot: Are you here for the concert? Captain Wentworth: No, I am here for a lecture on navigation. Am I in the wrong place?

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