Wednesday, February 20, 2008

Open Air Dancing

I have a few more thoughts to add about the ITT/ Masterpiece adaptation of Mansfield Park. After watching this show again, and already over my initial disappointment, I wanted to add a few things about the outdoor dancing.
Why was Fanny Price’s ‘coming out ball’ replaced with a picnic? It is our of character because I don’t think she would have stood up to Sir Thomas to object to his suggestion. But Fanny’s character is changed in this movie, so I guess she could have had a ball, picnic, or gone skydiving and it wouldn’t matter that much as far as being out of character. My guess is that budgetary restrictions were the guiding factor. The costs of using a real room in a great house, and the work involved in fitting it up and then restoring it back for the owner was probably prohibitive, though as far as I’m concerned they could have saved money by hiring a lesser known actress who may have actually read the novel.
And then why through in the second dance after the wedding? It was out of place and Fanny would never have been the one to introduce the waltz to the local society.
In my opinion Fanny is one of the best creatures ever written up and a credit to Jane Austen that no one can touch her. No one has come close to the sweetness and the sadness and the complexity. I still hope to see the real Fanny on screen someday.

Monday, February 11, 2008

Miss Austen Regrets, Part Two

The other day my husband and one of my daughters watched ‘Miss Austen Regrets’ with me. I managed to get through it the second time without the tears…..But oh, how my hubby disliked that show! He said it was so awful, so mean…. He’d rather watch a concentration camp documentary… How could I like that show. In effect I think it surpassed ‘Old Yeller’ as the saddest show he’s watched in his life.
I think they definitely pushed the limits of the meanness, but it was very well done all in all.
My youngest daughter ordered an interesting book off of a book order from school. The book is ‘Enthusiasm’ by Polly Shulman (Incidentally that is also the name Fanny knight wanted to give the novel she was writing. Her Aunt Jane suggested ‘Which is the Heroine?’ a name that wouldn’t fly for a kids book these days). It is about a High school sophomore girl who loves Jane Austen novels, and what happens when her flighty, enthusiastic friend ‘discovers’ Jane Austen too, and wants to wear only long dresses to school, and find them a pair of handsome single gentlemen. One of the boys they meet is Charles Grandison Parr, named after the hero Charles Grandison of one of Jane Austen’s favorite novels.
Well, I LOVED the book, it was really fun, but there was so much kissing that I told my fifteen year old daughter she could read it, but I will try and distract my eleven year old who ordered it, by telling her it’s a little boring. The only thing I really didn’t like was the author’s way of trying to write teen dialog. You get the feeling she is trying to write ‘down’ without really knowing how teens talk. But I do appreciate her efforts to make a bunch of boys sound like boys without being too vulgar and foul mouthed. That’s one good thing about juvenile books.
On the other hand, after reading it I had a weird dream that I was a teen girl ( I think I was Gabriella from High School Musical) and I was sitting in a diner booth with a really cute blue eyed boy…. Was it Charles Grandison Parr, the boy from ‘Enthusiasm’? I think so, but I can’t be sure because it turned into a baby and then a dog and I carried ‘it’ home.
Last but not least, I am trying to have a little fun and plan a Jane Austen activity or two to do with my sisters and nieces for spring break, or midwinter break if I can get it together that fast.
My ideas were: A group reading, probably adapted from juvenilia, a tea (cocoa and punch) party, View one of the movies together, and maybe even learn a dance. We’ll see how it goes!

Miss Austen Regrets

I just finished watching “Miss Austen Regrets”, staring Olivia Williams as Jane Austen. This touching portrayal was well written and wonderfully acted. My instinct is that this was so much like her. I don’t know if someone can read enough biographies to give them the right to say that, but so many times I found myself nodding and thinking, that is so right…….
Fanny knight was wonderful and sweet, and yet I believe you could see the seeds there of a woman who may grow to look back on her aunt with such a critical and conceited eye, making disparaging remarks about her clothes and her manners.

I am glad I watched it alone today. I cried through the last half hour, and if my girls want to watch it I will have to leave the room until I’ve become more accustom to watching the show.
How might I think Jane Austen was different than the portrayal in the show? I think the humor, with the bitter edge, was probably there, though family remembrances seem to indicate more of an effort on Jane’s part to give comfort to those around her, and not be quite so open. Is there such a thing as good natured bitterness?
Anything I say at this point though might lead to the idea that I didn’t like the portrayal in the show. I loved it. I found it sweet and heartbreaking, and probably very close to reality.