Monday, April 30, 2007

Persuasion

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.

13 comments:

fi said...

Hi Penny

It took some time coming, but again your witty analysis of Persuasion was worth waiting for! I thought this production was easily the best of ITV’s Austen trilogy, largely I think due to the brilliant casting, acting and direction. I think it was also enhanced, for me anyway, by being filmed in Bath itself (except for the fantastic “seaside” scenes which were filmed in Lyme Regis on the Cobb, of course).

Sometimes I wish they’d put pop ups on the screen to tell you what shows some of these actors have been in before, because once I saw Lady Russell, I was distracted for the next half an hour or so trying to remember what I’d seen her in – for the penny to finally drop that it was in Star Trek – she was the Borg Queen!! By then, poor Anne was practically betrothed to William Elliot, but at least it gave me an excellent excuse to watch the whole thing again!!

It has been a long time since I read the book, so I can’t really criticise the faithfulness or not of this production to the fine detail of the original story (I do remember the basic plot though). Happily, this production was such that it has prompted me to buy another copy of Persuasion and read the whole thing again. Obviously, they took a pretty big liberty at the end by having Sally Hawkins sprint through the streets of Bath, particularly as she ran almost and fast and energetically as Kelly Holmes. Still, we have to remember whom she was running after and if I’d just had a letter from someone as gorgeous as RPJ declaring undying love, I’d have got me Nikes on as well…..

I’ve read lots of commentaries about “the kiss” and Harry Hill (who I normally don’t like that much) did a pretty funny commentary (which, let’s face it, he had plenty of time to do) as the lips of our two excellent protagonists slowly came together. I thought it was fabulous, with the time it took reflecting the plotline itself really. It was indeed an enormous relief when the two pairs of lips finally docked though!! Until then, you were always a tad nervous that yet another pesky personage might pop up between them to try and scupper their plans for eternal happiness and lots of long awaited rumpy pumpy.

It was lovely to see RPJ in a classic role and I’d never seen Sally Hawkins in anything until this and have to say that she was a revelation. I’d also like to single out Anthony Head – he’s such a lovely actor, I absolutely adore him.

Cheers

Fi

pennyforyourdreams said...

Hi Fi,

Glad you liked the post! I totally agree that this was the most superior dramatisation of the season. Bath looked lovely and the scenes on the Cobb looked fantastic, slightly dangerous, but definitely fantastic.


I like Anthony Head too, he's lovely, pity he didn't have too much to do, it would've been nice to see more of Sir Walter. I also have that problem of going, "Oh, look it's that guy! You know, he was in that thing?" Whenever I see someone I vaguely recognise. Many of these character actors are favourites now. Danny Webb, for example, never gives a dud performance.

I haven't read the book for ages either, I ought to dust it off, but I have other books awaiting completion before that! I think Harry Hill is very funny, I particularly liked his snark on the Jane Austen shows. And is it any wonder that Sir Walter is going broke when they appear to employ a full time ink maid to stand around in corridors just in case a passing inhabitant needs their quill replenished?

Sally Hawkins was really good, as was Rupert Penry-Jones. And the dashing about Bath: if you watched the behind the scenes special, you'll have seen poor Sally slip on some wet cobbles and take a big tumble, ouch! And the kiss took three takes to get right apparently.

Regards,

Penny

Calvin said...

OMG! The minute I read about this film, I have been waiting for its DVD arrival in my country (Malaysia).

I love to read Jane Austen's books. I am now re-reading her 'Sense and Sensibility'.

I came across your blog when I was searching for Persuasion.

pennyforyourdreams said...

Hi Calvin,

Thanks for your comment!

There is to a new Sense and Sensibility adaptation in few days here in GB. If I have time I might snark that too!

But I'm busy at the moment so don't hold your breath!

Kind regards,

Penny

Anonymous said...

Loved your recap of the movie Love...and I loved the movie as well. I am a newbie Austen fan but I truly love the films. I thought Pride and Prejudice did it for me, but this gave it a run.

The stories make me believe in love again. I haven't read Jane Austen's works though (I know, shame on me), but if they are nearly as good, I'm sure I will be delighted.

You Brits certainly know how to put on a good show. (I take liberty to say that...hope I'm right).

Much happiness to you,

Luvsupreme

pennyforyourdreams said...

Hi Luvsupreme,

Thanks for your comment. Read the books, you'll love them.

Kind regards,

Penny

Anonymous said...

Penny,

I did a search on your wonderful blog site and seen some of your recaps on a few other BBC productions. I could sit all day watching period films based in the UK. I love the backdrops, the scenery and costumes...the men(smile).

How do we find these delightful BBC productions in the States? Television is so boring here. How much reality TV can they shove down ones throat?

Any ideas you can share would be most welcome.

Thank you for the entertaining posts on some of your favorite shows. Very exciting to read.


Luvsupreme

pennyforyourdreams said...

Hi Luvsupreme,

Thanks for your kind comment and your shared love of period drama!

I don't subscribe to Netflix, but I've been told that they are a goldmine for classic drama. You choose a list of DVD's and then pay a monthly fee and then when you've watched one, they send you the next one on your list.

The most extreme thing that you could do would be to move to Britain, then you could get lots of period drama on the telly!

I'm sorry that there's so much reality tv on American TV at the moment, a ghastly by product of the Writers strike I imagine.

Kind regards,

Penny

annie said...

Oh goodness Penny. I just watched Persuasion on youtube (I know... but it's not available for rent anywhere; I missed it on the TV, and couldn't bring myself to buy it outright - although I was close) and stumbled across your website here. You had me laughing out loud! Well, almost. My husband is sleeping, so I had to stifle it. :D Quite funny, your re-telling. Great work.

pennyforyourdreams said...

Hi Annie,

Thanks for your very kind comment, I hope you get to see it soon!

Kind regards,

Penny

Anonymous said...

Your review made me laugh! I love this movie (saw it a couple of weeks ago on PBS) and absolutely adore RPJ. ;) I have never seen him in anything else (I am in US) but I think he did a great job playing the captain. Sally did a superb job as well. I remember watching the scene when Wentworth helped the girls across the fence and Louisa jumped into Wentworth's arms, I looked at Sally's face and my heart ached for her. :)

I wasn't into Jane Austen's work and honestly I watched Northanger Abby last night and wasn't that impressed by that. But I intend to read Persuasion with RPJ and Sally in mind. :)

Anyway, this turns out to be not much of a comment on your post. :-P But I do love your witty review!

Q

pennyforyourdreams said...

Hi Q,

Thanks for your very kind comment! Do read the book, it's fantastic!

Penny

Anonymous said...

Well of course not all this happened as stated but your analysis was hilarious...Loved the bbc production. thanks for the laughs