Coming soon: Les Mis marathons!

If you missed it, there’s going to be a miniseries of Les Misérables! (Links to articles/news about this here, here, and here.) It will be a six hour show written by Andrew Davies, who wrote the 1995 miniseries of Pride and Prejudice with Colin Firth and Jennifer Ehle (you know, the one that was faithful to the book, but also takes six hours to watch?). Among his other adaptations of classic literature are the 1996 version of Emma starring Kate Beckinsale, the 2007 miniseries of Northanger Abbey with Felicity Jones and JJ Feild, the 2008 miniseries of Little Dorrit with Claire Foy and Matthew Macfadyen, and this year’s miniseries of War and Peace with Lily James, Paul Dano, and James Norton.

Basically, this is the perfect guy for a six hour period drama.

War and Peace and Les Misérables are both extremely long books. Their exact length honestly depends on who’s translating them from Russian and French, but the Penguin Classics editions with the paintings on the covers of the books are about the same length: War and Peace has 1440 pages, while Les Misérables has 1456 pages. If War and Peace can be done in six hours, Les Mis can too.

I’m excited. I’ve said before that there were scenes and backstories that were cut from the movies and musical. I’ve told my friends that I enjoyed the musical because its length allowed for character development that does not exist in some of the other adaptations. If you want proof, consider that in the 1998 movie with Liam Neeson, Eponine doesn’t even exist, and the story ends with the Javert and Valjean’s last meeting. In the musical, Eponine is indeed a character, and Cosette lives happily ever after. In the movie musical, Marius has a relative.

Hopefully, in the miniseries, Cosette will live part of her childhood in a convent. Marius will have a Bonapartist father. Gavroche will have siblings. Fantine will be a girl who fell in love with the wrong guy. Jean Valjean will meet a child called Petit Gervais.

The miniseries will be twice the length of the stage musical, and we’re going to get a faithful adaptation of the book. That makes me so happy.

It will probably take a little while for us to actually get to see this miniseries, but I’ll be ready with my velvet ballgown and a loaf of bread.


Love and Friendship and a Lady

Last night, for the first time in a long time, I saw a Jane Austen movie without knowing the original novel. What I knew going in was that Love and Friendship is an adaptation of Lady Susan, which is a different story than another novella called Love and Freindship. Jane wrote both stories when she was a teenager, before she wrote her famous novels. I read and loved Love and Freindship, and I was annoyed when I heard that the Love and Friendship movie was not an adaptation of Love and Freindship, but a story that I had never read.

Lady Susan is told through letters, and I read the first 3 of 41 this morning. Because I have to work before I can finish the novel, what I say next is based more on the adaptation than the four pages I’ve read.

While I’ve told friends for years that Jane Austen is a comedic writer, I did not expect to see a movie that focused more on her humor than her romantic words. Most directors focus on flirting, dancing, and broody Mr. Darcy. It’s not obvious in most adaptations that Jane mocks and parodies her society.

Then we get this movie with Kate Beckinsale as a widow who never. stops. talking. Lady Susan’s husband has died, and she has a teenage daughter with questionable education. They’re penniless, so they’re left bouncing around the homes of friends and family members until one of them can marry rich.

Did I mention that Lady Susan flirts with married men?

Before the story starts, Susan tries to talk her brother-in-law out of marrying his current wife, and then refuses to ever visit. Now that she’s widowed and kicked out of another couple’s home, she suddenly decides that it’s time to see her nieces and nephews and moves in.

If Lady Susan sounds harmless, maybe I should mention that her best friend’s husband has sworn that he will ship his wife back to America if the two of them don’t end their friendship. That’s because Susan is a homewrecker.

There are other men in the story, of course. Susan’s sister-in-law’s brother is young, rich, and susceptible to Susan’s charms. There’s a rich guy who tries to court Susan’s daughter, but he’s an idiot. There’s a married man who keeps trying to visit Susan in private.

Unlike the novels that Jane wrote later in her life, the protagonist is the one made ridiculous. She represents that relative who stays for a week, which turns into three months. She’s stingy and brilliant, and she gets away with the most ridiculous things (like not paying her kid’s tuition because it’s too expensive and that obviously means you’re not supposed to pay it). She’s beautiful and charismatic and toxic, and you can’t criticize her because everyone else in your family is in love with her.

Somehow, what sounds like an awful story ends up being funny on screen. Maybe it’s because Lady Susan is so over the top. Maybe it’s because no one seems to realize what’s happening. Maybe it’s because everyone else is so ridiculous. All I know is that I laughed the entire film, and that I’m probably going to see it three more times in the theatre.

Pride and Prejudice and Zombies: A review

Last night, my friend and I dressed in Regency gowns and went to a nearly-empty showing of Pride and Prejudice and Zombies. That in itself was a fun experience, because we had strangers who wanted to laugh at us, but didn’t want to be rude to two strangers. I would assume that the real critics’ reviews have deterred people from seeing this four day old movie in the theatre, but I actually (generally) enjoyed it.

I should state that I am a highly sensitive person who doesn’t like scary movies because my overactive imagination makes the nighttime shadows look like movie monsters. That being said, I thought the movie was entertaining and worth my future DVD purchase, even though it was a terrible adaptation of Jane Austen.

Things I enjoyed:

  1. The voiceover of the quotes from the book, and the opening scenes of Darcy hunting down a zombie during a game of whist.
  2. Matt Smith as Mr. Collins. Oh wow, did I cringe! My favorite part was when he told the family about his complimenting skills, asked to marry Jane, then talked for five minutes about how unattractive Elizabeth was. At the breakfast table. In front of her. That’s obviously how you get the ladies, sir.
  3. A Mrs. Bennet who wasn’t a complete fool. I know she’s written that way, but after seeing her made so ridiculous in all the adaptations, I was ready to see one who just wanted her daughters wed before their brains were eaten. It seems silly to worry about things like entail and marriage when your neighbors are being killed by the undead, but (in the P&P&Z world) life goes on. Mr. Bennet is even more likely to die at the hands of a zombie, and these daughters are going to end up homeless if they don’t find husbands.
  4. The class division of Miss Bingley and Mrs. Hurst, who could afford to study in Japan, versus Elizabeth, who could only afford the less fashionable China. The scene where they talk about her in Japanese was priceless.
  5. That same scene where Elizabeth told Darcy, in Chinese, that one has never truly read The Art of War until they’ve read it in the original language was even better.

Things I did not like:

  1. The second half of the film was a random Wickham plotline that wasn’t in the book. I don’t know why it was there, and it was weird. Small deviations are expected in movie adaptations, but we didn’t have big battles in either novel.
  2. Charlotte Lucas’s minimized role. My favorite scenes in the P&P&Z book had to do with Lizzy’s reaction to visiting her married friend, and that didn’t happen in the same way.
  3. Random cultural/historical inaccuracies. Look, I know we’re talking zombies, so we can’t really expect this to be a believable story, but social convention can’t go out the window when it’s an old book. Mr. Bingley could not introduce himself to the Bennet women; he needed to have either Mr. Bennet or the (male) Master of Ceremonies introduce him. Lizzy couldn’t go on a random horse ride to a secret location with Wickham without an escort, because that’s how you get raped or killed. I’m pretty sure this little trip would have taken them a couple of days, which is pretty noticeable and scandalous. Lizzy’s not the type of girl to live in sin with a man or elope in Gretna Green, but that’s kind of the social implication of disappearing for a few days with a man outside your family.
  4. Elizabeth was more sensitive in the movie than in the book. In the book, she’s about to slit Darcy’s throat for insulting her at the ball where they first meet. In the movie, she goes outside to cry. In the book, she is not a woman who needs to be rescued, but one who finds an equal partner in fighting zombies.
  5. Because the focus of the second half of the movie was on an impending zombie war, the romance was underdeveloped. In the book, Elizabeth gets to visit Pemberley and hear about Darcy’s gentleness from a woman who watched him grow up. They run into each other after he learns humility, and she sees the man worthy of her heart. In the movie, I guess she decides that his fighting skill is sexy, and so is his desire to give her sister his horse so he can fight zombies alone, because I didn’t see any other reason for her to suddenly fall in love with him. Her character didn’t grow at all, and neither did his.
  6. The famous quotes were in the wrong places. “Half agony, half hope” is a quote from Persuasion, another Austen novel with a letter. “I was in the middle before I knew that I had begun” is indeed a Darcy quote, but one from a flirting scene after Elizabeth has already accepted his hand.

I feel like the script was written by someone who liked the concept of Pride and Prejudice, because it’s the original “boy and girl hate each other until they fall in love” trope, but didn’t really understand the source material. I previously wrote another post about Pride and Prejudice and Zombies, and I’m sad that this was so unfaithful to the book. The movie tried to be an action/horror film, while its novel was a B-movie comedy, and the original P&P usually either a drama or a romantic comedy. I mean, the P&P&Z book had a character who was a zombie for like five months, and no one noticed that their face was decaying and their speech slurring.

If you legitimately want to see how zombies would affect Pride and Prejudice, I would suggest reading the novel. If you want to watch some entertaining fight scenes, I’d suggest watching the movie. As a Jane Austen fan, I would suggest adjusting your expectations from horror and romance to something more like action with pretty dresses. Don’t expect it to be a recognizable adaptation, because it doesn’t really comment on society and is only funny because Matt Smith is so brilliant as Mr. Collins. It’s a way to spend 1 hour 47 minutes, and I plan to buy it on DVD for the sake of the Mr. Collins and first half of the movie. It’s just not Pride and Prejudice.

Be excited for Pride and Prejudice and Zombies

If you haven’t heard, the movie adaptation of Pride and Prejudice and Zombies comes out next year. To be honest, I read the book when it first came out in 2009, and I hated it, though I think it’s because I couldn’t get my head around the writing style. Perhaps the best way to read the book is to read it as a parody of Jane Austen rather than a Jane Austen book with zombie slayers thrown in. It’s not meant to be a serious novel about zombie slaying in the 19th century.

So what is Pride and Prejudice and Zombies? Obviously it’s Pride and Prejudice during the zombie apocalypse. The five Bennet sisters are known for their beauty and fighting skills, and Mr. Darcy for “having slaughtered more than a thousand unmentionables since the fall of Cambridge.” The famous lines are the same, as are the general plot points, but zombies make a nice, and absurd, addition. Here are some examples of the hilarity you’ll find in the book:

“As Mr. Darcy walked off, Elizabeth felt her blood turn cold. She had never in her life been so insulted. The warrior code demanded she avenge her honour. Elizabeth reached down to her ankle, taking care not to draw attention. There, her hand met the dagger concealed beneath her dress. She meant to follow this proud Mr. Darcy outside and open his throat.”

“The mere stateliness of money or rank she could witness without trepidation, but the presence of a woman who had slain ninety dreadfuls with nothing more than a rain-soaked envelope was an intimidating prospect indeed.”

“Five daughters brought up at home without any ninjas! I never heard of such a thing.”

“You are mistaken, Mr. Darcy, if you suppose that the mode of your declaration affected me in any other way, than as it spared the slightest grief which I might have felt in beheading you, had you behaved in a more gentlemanlike manner.”

After rereading the book, I’m really excited for the movie. They might ruin it; the director says they’re playing it straight and not making it into a zombie B-movie (oooh SyFy would do a hilarious rendition of this idea, I think). In movie form, a serious Jane Austen film where people are being attacked by zombies sounds questionable. There’s a possibility that the combination of Regency dress/manners meshes awkwardly with the execution of the ninja fight scenes. Some of the costumes don’t look completely historically accurate, which might be an unfair complaint when we’re talking about a zombie film, but the fashion history-lover in me shudders at the sight of the ruffly bloomers.

Nonetheless, we get Lily James (Lady Rose in Downton Abbey and Cinderella in the live-action Cinderella) as Elizabeth Bennet and Matt Smith as Mr. Collins. Mr. Darcy is played by the bird guy from Maleficent, so I guess weird Disney fans have the opportunity to ship Cinderella with Maleficent’s servant. Cersei Lannister from Game of Thrones is supposedly in it too, as are a few people from Mr. Selfridge, Bridget Jones, and the adaptation of Austen’s Lady Susan that’s being called Love and Friendship. I don’t really recognize anyone besides Lily James and Matt Smith, but all the young faces in the pictures serve as a great reminder that P&P is about a bunch of teenagers.

In short, the book is hilarious, and the movie will probably have some fun scenes when Elizabeth fights off zombies while wearing a ballgown. The movie comes out in February 2016, so you have time to read the book and possibly the prequel and sequel before then (I haven’t read Dawn of the Dreadfuls nor Dreadfully Ever After so I can’t say if they’re good or bad). Read P&P&Z. It’s definitely worth it.