Sunday, 23 March 2008

Emma on Masterpiece Theatre



I really resisted seeing this version of Emma, starring Kate Beckinsale and Mark Strong. I was wrong. From the opening scenes, Kate makes the perfect Emma - young, full of pride, with a sweetness and playful spirit that redeems her from the same disdain that Darcy exhibits (or appears to) in Pride and Prejudice. I own the Gwyneth Paltrow version of Emma, and I have to admit that I much prefer Jeremy Northam as Knightley. Not that Mark Strong is a bad Knightley, but I found his hair distracting! it was odd and lanky, making him appear balding, and I found distracted from the actor's performance, which was really good. Which is too bad, because he did have chemistry with Kate Beckinsale. Now, if Jeremy Northam had played opposite Kate Beckinsale, I think the screen might have burned up! I found I preferred this production than Gwyneth Paltrow's;I'm not sure why. I think it has to do with the refined tone of the production - the Paltrow version in comparison is showy to this one. The casting was perfect except for the men; Samantha Morton as Harriet Smith, and Olivia Williams as Jane Fairfax were really outstanding. I prefer Ewan MacGregor as Frank Churchill (from Paltrow version), than Ray Coulthard in this one, but this I think is because Ray didn't bring the same intensity and charisma that MacGregor did, and Frank Churchill has to have in order to blind everyone to his love for Jane Fairfax. So, the casting of the men wasn't quite up to normal Austen production standards, but otherwise, I was delighted by this version. I found myself laughing and smiling, enjoying the mistakes Emma makes as she tries to play cupid, the quiet scenes at home, and the slow realization that she does love someone after all. I winced when Emma slights Miss Bate so awfully at the picnic, and I really enjoyed seeing Frank's family try to set her and Frank up, and as always, Mr Knightley's reproaches to Emma for her behaviour are both deserved and reveal long before either character does, the depth to which they know, care, and have expectations for one another. This was a very pleasing production. If you haven't seen it, do try if you get a chance. I think I might want to buy this version and prefer it (except for the aforesaid missing Jeremy Northam) to the Gwyneth Paltrow version.

I have a feeling, from seeing the clips of the upcoming Sense and Sensibility, that I am going to find this production very different from the Emma Thompson one, which I own. I'm not sure which actors I prefer in which version, and I have to confess that I have always liked Colonel Brandon very much, and indeed, in the clips for next week's BBC production on Masterpiece Theatre, I might prefer the actor playing Colonel Brandon....
Question: So, I thought, I would put out a little question to everyone who has been watching the PBS Masterpiece Theatre Jane Austen series: which actors in which roles do you prefer? They can be any men in any Jane Austen production. Drop me a line and let me know, and I'll post the results when the series of over (next week, I believe, with Sense and Sensibility).
My choices (most of you can guess who they are already!):




Mr Darcy (Pride and Prejudice): Colin Firth




Mr Knightley (Emma) : Jeremy Northam









Henry Tillman (Northanger Abbey): JJ Feild










Captain Wentworth (Persuasion): Rupert Penry-Jones





I have to confess to a slight problem with Sense and Sensibility: I've always liked both Edward and Colonel Brandon, and in the Emma Thompson production, I like both Hugh Grant and Alan Rickman. I've always thought Colonel Brandon deserved better than second choice with Marianne. As I said above, I think from the previews I already like David Morrissey as Colonel Brandon:








and Dan Stevens as Edward might just do:












So, I will let you know next week if I prefer Alan Rickman or David Morrissey in the Colonel Brandon role, and Hugh Grant or Dan Stevens as Edward Ferrars. *sigh* choices, choices.......and I hope you enjoyed the pictures, just to remind us of why we love these men so much!!! Meanwhile, I hope you enjoyed Emma tonight, if you saw it.

22 comments:

Table Talk said...

Somehow I missed out on the version of 'Emma'. I've had a very checkered history with the book anyway, having studied it for 'A' Level with a teacher who couldn't teach and managed to kill it for all of us. However, I find it hard to believe anyone could be better than Jeremy Northam as Knightley, my favourite Jane Austen hero.

Susan said...

You like Knightley! I do, too, Table Talk. I hope you are able to give the book another chance. I find that reading Austen lets me see her deprecating humour - she was always being ironic and poking fun at other people (is there a good vicar in any of her works?) and institutions. I have to go reread Emma, it's been a few years since I read it. I love how he is just there, salt of the earth, what Darcy was except we see Knightley talking to his tenants and caring for them. As always, he is the perfect partner for Emma!

How has this weekend been there for you, as cold as they predicted?

Susan said...

Table Talk - so, that's one vote for Northam as Knightley! :-)

Alina Gordelli said...

Great blog, thank you!
I have to admit I do not like Kate at all and therefore find Gwyneth tolerable.
But then we all agree that Jeremy Northam made an almost perfect Knightly. He knew he would be good and that's why he has persuaded the director to give him this role instead of the other one (he never disclosed though what was the initial offer!). His portrayal of Knightly was elegant, kind and cheerful (the feature attributed to him by Emma in the book)and, in my opinion, Mike Strong's Knightly was deficient in this.

Table Talk said...

Snow, snow and more snow, although for the most part it hasn't settled this far south; it's just made it really miserable if you anted to get out and about. No doubt it will be beautiful tomorrow when everyone is back at work.

Booklogged said...

I forget all about Emma being on last night. I'll have to check out both versions from the library as I haven't seen either one. Thanks for the reminder.

Alix said...

Oh I missed Emma! I did see it a few years ago and much prefer Kate to Gwyneth.
As to heroes-
Colin Firth, Matthew Macfadyen doesn't even come close!
Jeremy Northam
Rupert Penry-Jones - swoon!
And having already seen the first episode of S&S I think Dan Stevens does very nicely and David M is brilliant, as always.
Gosh that was long sorry, you should do the heroines too!

Alix said...

The pictures were very nice :)

Charlotte said...

Thanks for the pictures. Colin is the winner, though. The rest pale in comparison.

Suey said...

I love 'em all!

I just watched this new version of Emma and really liked it. The Mr. Knightley grew on me. I liked his eyes. But it's been so long since I've seen the other version, I can't remember what I thought! I'll have go rent and watch it again.

I too am curious about next week's show. I love the Emma Thompson version of S and S and so it will be interesting to see one without her.

I've been loving this Jane Austen experience and will be so sad to see it over....

Susan said...

I am having so much fun reading all of your comments!
Alina - welcome! And another vote for *sigh* Jeremy Northam. The more I think about Sunday's night showing, the more I prefer Jeremy too as Knightley.

booklogged - I hope you get to see both versions so you can compare! It really is a fun, sweet story, and certainly the idea of playing "Emma" (cupid) occurs in pop culture references now....

Alix: uh-oh, we might have to fight over the men! And raidergirl3 will fight us for JJ Feild (Henry Tillman)...I agree with all your choices. In fact, I was just thinking of Rupert and what a wonderful Wentworth (who I have always liked)he made *sigh*

Charlotte - For a long time, Colin was Jane Austen 'men' for me!! Then I saw these new ITV British productions....as you can tell, they have found some darn good-looking men (who can act too!) and now, well, it's like being in a candy store! The Men of Jane Austen, indeed! :-) *sigh* now I can't decide, though Colin might be the definitive Austen hero

suey - I know, I will miss Austen when it's over, I was thinking to myself this has made our long, long winter pass very enjoyably. I liked Mike Strong's eyes, too, and he did grow into the role, but when compared to Jeremy, sorry! Jeremy is everything a landed gentleman should be, and I'd cry if he yelled at me like he does Emma!

So the total so far is:
Jeremy: 3
Colin: 2
Rupert: 1
I'm abstaining, for now.
And most of the pictures are from the Masterpiece Theatre site (Masterpiece Classic, Jane Austen) at www.pbs.org You can get your own copies! :-) .....I wonder if my husband will let our computer screen show all these men???

Alina Gordelli said...

Thank you for welcoming, Susan!
I am going to say something here that may anger Colin's spporters because he was a very good Mr Darcy, but.... I can see Jeremy in this role too. Remember Enigma? He can be very arrogant! He is an actor who can do almost anything!

Susan said...

Alina -You're right, remember Jeremy in the Sandra Bullock movie where he betrays her? The Net, I think it was called (which I watched for him!) Hm-m-m, now I have to think about Jeremy as Darcy....I think you might be right, Alina. He would have made a good Darcy....He also would have made a good Wentworth....

Suey said...

We just watched The Net again the other day (saw it the first time years ago) and it made me sad to see Jeremy as they bad guy! But... he made a pretty good bad guy too. :)

Alina Gordelli said...

In fact, Jeremy can be easily fitted in any Jane Austin’s novel, can he not? He is a real “king of the high collar” although the whole his carrier he was trying to prove opposite. It is true that he is so talented that he can do anything, but his best films (Emma, Winslow boy, Enigma, Gosford Park, and now Tudors) are indeed period films. I must say though that some of his contemporary sci-fi good works (Cypher, Mimic – yes I like this one too! :)) were overlooked by critics. He was praised for the Net, though.

Susan said...

Suey - you're right, I am always sad to see Jeremy as the bad guy - he was kind of creepy in this one except at the end i wondered if he had liked Sandra Bullock's character (but I am ever romantic anyway).

Alina - hmmm, I think you are a real Jeremy fan!!! I've really enjoyed him in The Tudors, it's good to see him get a serious role and lots of screen time, and I hope Season 2 (whenever we get it) we'll see alot more of him. He is so handsome, and he has that lordly air that makes him perfect for Austen Hero. I wonder if we pitted him against Colin, who would win???
I saw him in Mimic also, and was surprised I liked the film - scifi cheesy, but fun and scary too. Interesting science ideas too. If only he'd been in Love Actually, then the film would have had everyone worth drooling over in it!!!

Alina Gordelli said...

I have discovered Jeremy not so long ago – and through Emma. Two years ago I was reading the book, enjoying it and vaguely remembered that I have seen the ad of the film with Gwyneth on the cover. When I had time I looked up on the web and found one of the youtube versions. I was amazed when I saw Mr Knightly – he was exactly the man I have imagined – it was a 100% compatibility with “my Mr Knightly”. I was so impressed, that I went and bought the film. After watching it 25 times I went on and bought all Jeremy’s DVDs available in London. And I am still impressed (although expecting reimbursement from Mr N! :)
A propos, in my book Mr Knightly’s name is spelled as above, but I more often see the Knightley spelling – which is the correct one?

Becky said...

I prefer Henry Tilney actually from Northanger Abbey. JJ Feild did such a great job there. He left me and mom grinning from ear to ear.

I do like Colin Firth as Darcy. But if I'm being honest, I still prefer Mr. Tilney. Maybe I just like to be contrary. Everyone's a Darcy fan after all.

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