Monday, April 30, 2007


Well, this post is better late than never, I suppose! Apologies for it's tardiness.

Persuasion starts with Anne Elliot, our main protagonist, rushing about her large stately house, making notes, which transpires to be an inventory of the household goods. Her house is to be rented out, as her vain and foppish father Sir Walter Elliot, played by the marvellous Anthony Head, had frittered it all away after his wife's death. That he is fond of spoiling his eldest daughter Elizabeth (Julia Davis) with strawberries and extravagant ringlets, has nothing to with being broke. Anne, who we have already guessed from her plain clothes and scraped back hair, in contrast to her flamboyant relatives, is the sensible one.

She pleads with her friend and confidante Lady Russell (the wonderfully nuanced Alice Krige) to stop her father and sister from being so free with their money and settle quietly in a rented house to save money. The house is to be rented to Admiral Croft and his wife, who as soon as they move in are taken aback at the number of mirrors, all belonging to Sir Walter, who is so vain, he carries a small mirror fastened at his wrist lest he go five minutes without seeing his own reflection.

As both father and elder daughter are set on glamorous Bath instead, Anne eventually waves them both off, in an ostentatious carriage and instead lodges with her sister Mary Musgrove (Amanda Hale), who is a hypochondriac bore. Mary professes ill health and then contradictorily proceeds to inhale the contents of the tea tray in one vast inward breath. Anne is saved from a fate worse than her sisters company all afternoon, by the arrival of her brother-in-law Charles Musgrove (Sam Hazeldine) and his cousins, Louisa and Henrietta Musgrove (played respectively by Jennifer Higham and Rosamund Stephen). Both of whom are willowy and pretty, but at the same time appear far plainer than Anne.
Both Anne and Mary are asked to tea up at the big house and when they get there are told that Captain Frederick Wentworth will be arriving soon. A successful and handsome naval officer who is the brother of Mrs. Croft, Anne's tenants. At this news Anne is upset, and Sally Hawkins, a fine and talented actress, displays all of Anne's dismay, repressed excitement and suppressed love in a scene not lacking in vast amount of tears and snot.

Wentworth (the incredibly gorgeous Rupert Penry-Jones) is Anne's lost love, he had proposed eight years ago, but was refused by Anne's family and Lady Russell as he was only a lowly naval officer then, but now after a short and successful career has returned, as a man of substance and means. And of course, in the words of Jane Austen herself, "a single man in possession of a good fortune must be in want of a wife", and so he becomes the neighbourhoods most eligible bachelor.

Anne it seems is fated to meet Captain Wentworth when asked to dinner, but a small child with a dislocated shoulder, which is popped back into it's socket by Anne herself, puts paid to that; however the child's parents both think they ought not disturb their own plans for the evening!

Eventually Wentworth comes to visit and catches sight of Anne, whereupon both he and Anne try to avoid each other as far as common courtesy and politeness will allow, but on a walk during which Louisa flirts outrageously with Wentworth and launches herself off a stile straight at his head, Anne manages to trump her and flings herself off a tree and into a river. She is rewarded with Wentworth tenderly gazing down at her bedraggled form as she comes round now that they've pumped all the water out of her lungs.

Anne and the Musgroves now decide to go to the seaside, but not for them sandy beaches, ice creams and deckchairs, no, they go on holiday, in what appears to be winter and stroll up and down the wettest, slipperiest and bleakest looking seafront in Britain.

I can only imagine that Wentworth's ulterior motive was to lure everybody to the end of the walkway, let them get washed off and carry Anne off on his horse. Alas this doesn't occur as Louisa Musgrove in a vain attempt to get Wentworth to notice her ability to fly, attempts her now patented stile vaulting routine, 10 feet in the air from the top of a flight of steps, onto concrete. Wentworth, ever the sensible fellow, realises that the weight of girl, corset, bonnet and ringlets from that height would squash him quite flat, moves imperceptibly out of the way, hoping that the girl's petticoats will act as a parachute and she'll glide safely down to him. Unfortunately Louisa decides to launch herself head first and manages to sustain a serious injury. Anne resists the temptation to throw herself in the ocean in an attempt to get attention and instead inspects the inside of Louisa's bonnet which appeared to be the only thing holding her brain in.

Wentworth, Anne and Henrietta travel back home to break the news of Louisa's accident to her parents and Wentworth and Anne exchange smouldering looks, while Captain Benwick and Captain Harville, friends of Wentworth, stay with Louisa, Mary and Charles.

While at the seaside a man later known to be William Elliot (Tobias Menzies), who it transpires is to inherit Sir Walter's estate after his death, is seen to observe the party and Anne in particular. More of him later.

Anne now travels back to Bath to rejoin her father and sister, who have been making the best of society and ingratiating themselves with distant relative, who has the distinction of being a Viscountess. They both practically prostrate themselves when she is in the room.

Anne of course is far too sensible and intelligent for such nonsense and she spends more time in the company of her friend Mrs. Smith (Maisie Dimbleby), who is not in the best of health. Her father takes great exception to these visits and berates her quite vituperatively.

While in Bath, William Elliot pays a visit to Sir Walter on the pretence that he wants to make amends for their previous falling out. Sir Walter labours under the impression that William wants to marry one of his daughters. William's actual aim is to prevent Sir Walter from marrying Mrs. Clay, Elizabeth's widowed companion. As Mrs. Clay is young and still capable of childbearing, he's afraid that a wedded union would strip him of his inheritance.

William makes himself agreeable to Anne and appears quite an honest and good man, the benefits of her marriage to him, especially at her advanced age would, mean that she would get to live back in her beloved house, but despite his kind and charming manner her obvious love for Wentworth, she finds her resolve being assailed by the persuasive remonstrations of her father and Lady Russell, and Anne feels that she could marry William and be tolerably happy.

Meanwhile back at the seaside, Wentworth and Benwick are walking in a field and discussing Wentworth's tangled love life. Wentworth knows that he doesn't want to marry Louisa, and Benwick, who was heartbroken when his first love died, tells him to seize the day, i.e Anne. Wentworth misunderstands and seizes a horse instead and rides away, but he rides in the direction of Bath, so all is not lost.
Once Wentworth reaches Bath, he hears that Anne and William Elliot are close, this disheartens him and he follows Anne around several Bath functions in a lovestruck manner, all the while trying to avoid Elizabeth's creative hairstyles and trying to get Anne alone with him.

Anne is being steered towards marrying William, and Wentworth fearing that he is too late, sends Anne a passionate love letter. Anne upon reading it finally realises that Wentworth still loves her as constantly and as passionately as she has loved him and waits for Wentworth to visit as he promises in his letter. At the appointed time, the door is knocked upon and instead of Wentworth, in walk the Musgroves.

Anne eventually tires of waiting and decides to go to find Wentworth herself, on the way she meets Mrs. Smith, who informs her that William Elliot is a scoundrel and a knave, he never wanted to marry Anne out of love, he just wanted to secure his inheritance and had managed to persuade Mrs. Clay to be his mistress. The scales fall from Anne's eyes and she decides to spurn Elliot and to run the length of Bath twice, (without her bonnet, the hussy) in an attempt to find Wentworth.

Eventually she gets tired and returns home to find Wentworth calmly standing on the doorstep talking to Charles about guns. Eventually Charles leaves them alone and love is professed, which ought to be sealed with a kiss, which takes about half a hour. Just kiss him love, you've waited eight years for this moment and now you just stand there. He's just as bad, she's short, she can't reach up that high, but he just stands there ramrod straight smirking down at her. Perhaps the kiss took so long she was just trying to catch her breath after running so far.

And what better way to end this film, but with a kiss.

Sally Hawkins and Rupert Penry-Jones were both marvellous, Sally demonstrated Anne's enormous wealth of feeling for Wentworth even after such a long separation and Rupert aptly implied all of Wentworth's pent up emotion and longing for Anne. The production was beautiful and the adaptation was faithful without being slavish. Adrian Shergold, the director, brought out the best in the cast and the locations and the drama was accented with slivers of humour and wit without resorting to the campiness that affected Mansfield Park. All in all, it was a fine end to the Jane Austen season.