Diagnosis Jane

I’m a Jane Austen Junkie.  And I mean it in the worst way.  I wish I could brag that I’ve read all her novels four times each, but truth be told, I haven’t read them all even once.  I’ve made it through three:  Pride and Prejudice, Northanger Abbey, and Emma.  I’ve enjoyed them all immensely and will one day complete all six books.  What makes me a junkie then?  I will eagerly and expectantly watch every film version of these books gladly and on repeat.  And I don’t feel ashamed one bit.  Proof:  Last Christmas, not only did I complete my collection, but I copied it (Shh!) for my sister.  Did I include just one version of Emma?  No no.  One requires all three for whatever quirky and spirited protagonist you’re interested in viewing that night.  I’ll break it down for your cinematic netflicking pleasure (What is the present tense form of netflix?  Past tense:  I netflicked it?  Sounds too raunchy for my Miss Austen.  tsk.)  Just get them from your local library, it’s simpler and most likely closer and FREE and smells like old books and has happy, educated individuals who wear business casual called “Librarians!”

First of all, GO READ THE BOOK!  Why not?  Emma is a girl full of joie de vivre.  Her favorite hobby is matchmaking with a track record of 1 out of 3.  Not terrible odds.  She can tete-a-tete with the rest of the boys and likes to do good unto others when it suits her liking.  Honestly, Emma might be the character some people hate, but I adore her.  She means well, and it takes a few social blunders for her learn the importance of being true to oneself, and allowing others to do the same.  And it doesn’t hurt that Mr. Knightley is above and beyond a gentlemen, one of the best Austen created men for sure!

Side note, don’t you wonder why Jane Austen gave her romance worthy men names like Fitzwilliam, George, and Edmund?  I always sigh at this fact.  Then again, I’m kind of a Colonel Christopher Brandon girl, you know an older, well studied, worldly man devotes himself to the over passionate girl who takes long walks on the moors and reads poetry.  *sigh, another post, another day…

If you are looking for the abridged, cinematic version, I feel it is my duty to break them down for you.

Click for IMDB review

Released in 1996, this version of Emma stars Gwyneth Paltrow as the lead and Jeremy Northam as Mr. Knightley.  Though the version takes the most liberties I’ve seen, it still maintains the major plot points, only witnesses of said events may differ from the novel.  You’ll find Paltrow’s version of Emma to be the most witty in the role, she uses facial expressions and adlibs a little providing a fun, entertaining banter between her and Northam.  A charming addition to the cast in this version is Toni Collette as the makeover-of-a-lifetime friend, Harriet Smith.  You will never see Collette in another role like this, it is amusing.  Allan Cumming is an eerily creepy and smarmy Mr. Elton, the town vicar.  And Ewan Macgregor plays Frank Churchill, and you won’t want to miss his wavy red locks of hair!  Ha!  A smaller standout role includes Juliet Stevenson as Mrs. Elton.  I’m not so sure of the Jane Fairfax in this film, she seems too old and dressed too well for her character’s circumstances in the book.  All in all, the costumes are simple and elegant, the acting quite good and humorous, if not a little exaggerated, but this was the version I grew up on, so if you want introductory Austen in under two hours, I recommend this film version.

Click image for IMDB review

Also released in 1996, I can’t say much for this TV version of Austen’s Emma starring Kate Beckinsale.  I find her portrayal of Emma almost too doe-eyed and naive which makes me want to gag.  If this version is your favorite, I’m sorry, but I recommend you try the third option and seek physician care if side effects from this film still occur.  Mark Strong makes an odd and ugly appearance as Mr. Knightley in this film suffering from hair too boy band for my likes.  Harriet Smith is played by Samantha Morton, a rare cameo, where performance is good, but her looks don’t seem true to the book.  Harriet is supposed to be a great beauty, and I think they make Morton look rather plain.  I’d give you something else about this film as I recently started watching it for the second time, but I can’t get past pouty old Kate Beckinsale.  *Eject*

Click image for IMDB review

The newest version from 2009 is the best and truest tale of Austen’s classic.  Starring Romola Garai in the first good role I’d say she’s done (I know, I know, I love me some Dirty Dancing:  Havana Nights too, but it wasn’t exactly the SAG Awards now, was it?)  Garai does an exceptional job of capturing Emma’s playful nature, combining the daydreams with the duties of a lady of the house.  Jonny Lee Miller plays a believable older Mr. Knightley, and many of you who are Austen Junkies too will recognize Blake Ritson as Mr. Elton (he plays Edmund in BBC’s version of Mansfield Park!)  The BBC 3 part edition is very congruent with the novel, and all of the characters are age appropriate and befitting their looks and mannerisms of the book.  Most notably, I think you’ll enjoy Miss Bates played by Tamsin Grieg and Jane Fairfax played by Laura Pyper.  And the Mr. Frank Churchill of this version is right up there with cads such as Willoughby!  Do yourself a favor if you have a day off, and enjoy this version of Emma; it’s wonderful!

What’s your favorite Jane Austen book and why?  Do you have a favorite film version?  Why do you like it?  And what Jane Austen character is your man of choice?  No, I won’t accept Colin Firth, it must be based on the novel character, not a sexy English actor who jumps into a pond and comes out with his shirt clinging to his muscled chest.  You can do better than just that.  Movie night, anyone?

17 responses

  1. I loved all the books. The BBC version of P&P with Jennifer Ehle and Colin Firth is my favorite. Sorry. I absolutely hated P&P with Keira Knightley. It seemed so rushed after watching the BBC mini-series.

    I also have enjoyed some of the more recent books written a la P&P, such as the trilogy “An Assembly Such As This,” “Duty and Desire,” and “These Three Remain.”

    1. Yah, cutting out 3 hours would seem rushed. I understand. I’ll have to check out the trilogy you recommend. I did read Pride and Prejudice and Zombies last year and found it entertaining. I may read Sense and Sensibility and Sea Monsters too. Why not? They were funny. A really awesome read is Lost in Austen. Wait for it…it’s a choose your own Jane Austen adventure book!!! OMG!!! You get to track points for things like accomplishments, embarrassments, and etiquette and switch from different storylines. But be careful what you choose, I was mauled by gypsies after only one page! I started over and ended up with Mr. Knightley!

  2. I enjoy your break down of the Emma movies. I admit I have not seen the Romola Garai version. But I agree that the Kate Beckinsale version is sub-par. I really enjoy the Gwyneth Paltrow version, despite the fact that I’m not a huge Paltrow fan in general. And I absolutely adore Jeremy Northam as Mr. Knightley.

    I am most definitely an Austenite in the truest sense. I have read all the books, including Lady Susan, and even the Juvenilia and the unfinished works multiple times, a few as many as 10-12 times each. I began with Pride and Prejudice in 6th grade and never looked back. I have taken not one but TWO different college courses on Jane Austen and her contemporaries. One in my undergrad, and one in my graduate work. I own the biography that her nephew wrote about her. And I even enjoy Clueless on occasion (despite the fact that it is honestly a BAD movie) simply because it is a modern interpretation of Emma.

    1. Oh, how could I have forgotten to include Clueless on here?! I’ve totally seen that one a hundred times too. What’s the name of the biography by her nephew? I’d love to check that out! And I’m jealous of the courses you took. I took a women authors class but we didn’t read any Austen. It was Kate Chopin and Toni Morrison mostly. And the only author cause I remember seeing on the registrar for was Chaucer. Nope! Canterbury Tales and I will have nothing more to do with one another and that’s that.

      1. The biography is called *A Memoir of Jane Austen* by Edward Austen-Leigh. It’s really interesting.

        The courses I took on Austen were great. In my undergrad one of the profs was an Austen expert who’s written a couple books on her work, so that class was all Austen and nothing but Austen. The one I took in grad school was essentially about the evolution of the novel. It started with Eliza Haywood went through Richardson, Burney, Radcliffe, etc. and then ended with Austen as the culmination.

        And how can you not like The Canterbury Tales? They’re hilarious!

  3. I don’t know. I seem to enjoy Jane Austen more when it’s not forced down my throat by my high school teacher.

    1. Well, I recommend you read her for pleasure.

  4. I haven’t read any Jane Austen because, well, I’m a guy. I don’t think I’m the intended audience. But the mash-up “Pride, Prejudice And Zombies”? Now THAT is something I might check out…

    1. Actually, I approve of this, because you’ll still be reading mostly Austen’s work.

  5. […] are not supposed to dive into the political, so if you don’t want to listen just click on my Jane Austen post instead.  But I can’t silence my head.  I’ve argued with people, paced around […]

  6. I tried to read Northanger Abbey once and one of the footnotes gave away the ending of the story! I was super disappointed and so far I haven’t been able to make my way back to Austen.
    I guess I’ve never fully understood the mythos that surrounds Jane as an author. Maybe it’s simply because I’m estrogen deprived, but I can’t quite seem to bring myself to sludge through the ancient prose for a story that everyone else already knows.

  7. I’m a Jane Junkie too! I have watched practically all the film version for each novel available…and more than once. I’ve even watched a few in French when they have happened to be on TV (I do not speak French THAT well by any means). I have read all the novels, as well. But the films are also lovely to sit down and watch.

    1. You have me beat. I don’t speak any french. However yesterday, to cheer me up, my boyfriend bought me Mansfield Park, which now completes my collection!

  8. gotta be honest, jane austin never quite did it for me…i always thought she was a little to uncivilized for my tastes.

    1. I’d believe you if I knew you’d actually read even a page of Jane Austen, Steve. But thanks for commenting and stopping by!

  9. My favorite Jane Austen movie is the Kate Winslet/Emma Thompson Sense & Sensibility! I’ve not yet read the book, but I intend to in May, when the annotated copy comes out. (I’m excited.) I’ve watched parts of the Gwyneth Paltrow Emma and found it annoying :(, and two versions of Pride and Prejudice which were so-so to me. I think I need to read the books to gain a true love of the stories.

    The only book I’ve read so far is Pride and Prejudice. I have a feeling Sense and Sensibility will be my favorite. I’m going to read every one, though. I’ve read that Emma was her most courageous. 🙂

    1. Totally, Emma is definitely the most bold in public, while Elizabeth is bold, but her status makes it more difficult to be so.

Tell me a story...

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: