Sunday, June 9, 2013

Of Charles Dickens and BBC miniseries

Hello, my dearies!

   My sister and I have recently had the pleasure of watching two new BBC miniseries! Actually we watched them both within the course of about four days...hey, I was sick, I'm allowed to indulge in British drama. : )Anyway. They were both based on novels by the brilliant Charles Dickens, whom we all love, I'm sure (if you don't love him, that's an issue), and of course they were both very good, as was expected. They were...

Our Mutual Friend (1998)

    This was a miniseries we had heard about for some time, but it wasn't really one of the top priorities of things to watch. However, when I found it at the library, I couldn't resist getting it out and so Sadie and I watched the whole thing during the course of three days last week. (Like I said, I was laid up with a horrible bout of my infernal allergies, so this was a very welcome diversion.) It was very good- but then, I'd expected nothing less. :) I didn't like it nearly as much as Nicholas Nickleby or Bleak House or Great Expectations, or even Little Dorrit (which is indefinitely growing on me....), but it was not a disappointment and I thoroughly enjoyed it. Well, come on, people. It's Dickens. : )

Cynthia Kirkpatrick and Mr. Bush. Who would have thought?

   I will freely admit that one of the main attractions this series held was the fact that Paul McGann was in it. I will also freely admit that I think he is an absolute dream and one of the most handsome people I have ever seen. With all that being said, Eugene Wrayburn wasn't my favourite. : ( It was rather disappointing that I didn't completely fall in love with the character, but from the first moment he appeared on screen, slouching in a chair like a bum and smoking a huge cigar like the caterpillar in Alice in Wonderland, I knew he wasn't Mr. Bush. He had improved by the end of the series, he had several very clever remarks, he wore one of those capes that make me go weak at the knees- you know, the ones that fasten with the chains that they wear all the time in Hornblower- and he was an honourable man, but, as I said, he just wasn't my favourite. I can't really think of a better way to put it than that!

*Emma falls into a swoon*
   I really liked Lizzie Hexam. Considering that this is the only movie I have seen Keeley Hawes in where I actually liked her character, I will say that I thought she did quite a splendid job. I've always thought her a good actress, but it seems that she usually plays weak and shallow characters- Lizzie was neither. She was strong and courageous, she never weakened her resolve and she knew she was right. (Hehe, did you catch that?) :P I am continually surprised how much more I like Dickens' heroines than I originally thought!

 John Harmon and Bella Wilfur's story was sweet, I suppose, although I admit I thought their wedding was a bit queer, being that it seemed to be extremely spur-of-the-moment, no one was invited besides he father, and then they went and had a photo shoot in the park. I didn't really like that, but in general I did like John Harmon, and by the end I really liked Bella as well. The actress seemed very young, but Bella is supposed to be young so I suppose that was good.

Mr. Venus looks like he got stuck with all the leftovers from everyone else's costumes.

  The Boffins were hilarious. Admiral Lord Hood and Mrs. General- who would have thought? Peter Vaughn never fails to make me laugh, and I was surprised at how much I liked Pam Ferris as Mrs. Boffin. I did not like, however, the fact that they all deceived Bella into thinking them spoiled by their wealth. It seemed kind of inaccurate that they would go to all that trouble, put on that whole charade, just for her sake. Maybe it was necessary, I don't know. I just didn't really like it that much. Other than that, I loved the Boffins.
  Mr. Venus (on the left) was another hilarious character. Timothy Spall is one of those actors who just keeps popping up everywhere, especially in Dickens, and I feel like I've seen him in so many things- as Charles Cherryble in Nicholas Nickleby, as Mr. Poe in A Series of Unfortunate Events, and now this. He was also the voice of the hound Bayard in Alice in Wonderland, if that counts. Mr. Venus was rather pitiful, but he really wasn't a bad man, he had just fallen into bad ways. His peculiar "bone business", which he seemed to consider great art, was so typical Dickens! He was one of those characters who, if you saw him anywhere, you would know he was from Dickens. : )
  Oh, and I cannot forget to mention....*giggle* MR. SLOPPY!!! *Emma falls into uncontrollable fits of mirth and tries desperately to recover her composure*. : ) Okay. I'm alright. Of all the silly, hilarious names Mr. Dickens has ever come up with, Sloppy is the most hysterical! I mean, really, who would ever think to name their character Sloppy? It's just ridiculous! I'll bet he's the only character in all of literature with that name! When I first heard *I-can't-remember-the-old-lady's-name* call him that, I wasn't sure I'd heard it right, but his name is Sloppy all right! Needless to say, I find it absolutely hilarious.
    Mr. Wegg was simply grotesque. I did not like him. I did not like Rogue Riderhood either- although I have to admit, I really like his name. : ) He actually didn't seem that bad until almost the end of the movie, and then I made up my mind to loathe him. And speaking of loathing....

  I can't stand this man, can you? You know, at first you wouldn't think him to be the half-mad villain he turned out out be- he seemed so calm and in control of himself. But from the time Lizzie turned him down, he went from bad to worse...and then worse still....until he was just plain out of his mind with his jealousy and hatred. Some Colonel Brandon you would make, pardon me for saying so, sir. ;P

    Okay, these two were just plain an annoyance. Alfred was purely mercenary, thinking only of himself and how he could become richer, and Sophronia was no better. In fact, she may have been even worse. She was also very possibly one of the most unattractive people I have ever seen....but that's a terrible thing to say. Forgive me. :P In short, they were both terribly evil and greedy and just a downright bother.

    In general, I enjoyed it very much. It wasn't my favourite, but as I said, all of Dickens' stories are very good and I really liked the acting in this adaptation. I would highly recommend it to all you period drama fans!

Oh yes, and Sadie and I were absolutely CONVINCED that Charlie Hexam was Bailey from Martin Chuzzlewit, but when I looked it up on IMDB it said they weren't the same actor...but we still think it's him. : ) IMDB is sometimes wrong about these things, you know, and the actors had the same first name...:P And Charlie, do us all a favor and get a haircut. Good grief.

The Mystery of Edwin Drood (2012)

 This was a miniseries- actually, it's more like a movie- that we had heard about, and the fact that it was by Charles Dickens was one of the main appeals to it, but I must confess that what originally made Sadie and I interested in it was the fact that Matthew Rhys, who plays John Jasper, is a close friend of actor Ioan Gruffudd. Yes, we are that fan-ish. Anyhow, Sadie had seen it at the library and so we decided we wanted to get it out, but whenever we went it was NEVER there, or else we forgot to look for it. It was always one or the other, but finally last week we borrowed it from the library and then watched it all in one evening. : )
  It wasn't the best Dickens I have ever might actually be the worst, but it's still considerably good, because pretty much ALL of Dickens' stories are somewhat brilliant. It was perhaps the most somber yet I have seen, but I have heard that his novels got darker after David Copperfield, and this was the last novel he ever wrote- in fact, he never finished it. That was another thing I didn't really care for about it- you could tell that it wasn't his ending. I'm not exactly sure how much of it he wrote and how much he left unfinished, but I do know that he probably would have wrapped things up a little bit better than that. Plus it was much shorter than any other Dickens adaptation I have ever seen, only 2 hours. (What?! 2 hours for a BBC miniseries?!) Not that it seemed too short, it just seemed different. There also weren't nearly as many characters, but I suppose by the time he wrote it Dickens was getting on in years and probably didn't want to have to worry about two-dozen characters like he usually did. But in short, I did enjoy it, and I also liked the fact that it was a mystery.

Alright, Matthew Rhys was absolutely OUTSTANDING as John Jasper. Just amazing. Enough said.
  However, I will venture to say more. : )
Matthew Rhys is what Sadie and I call a "thundering good actor." (Actually, we stole the expression from Roger Moore.) He was just so amazing as the crooked and perverse John Jasper. An award-winning performance if ever I saw one. The character himself is terribly disturbed and tormented- he actually at first reminded me a little of a certain Mr. Headstone in Our Mutual Friend, but that was quickly dismissed- but sometimes you almost feel sorry for him, especially at the end when he tells about how his father never loved him and always preferred Edwin. Of course, all that laudanum really took its toll on his mind and general well-being, but STILL, it was no excuse for the dreadful way in which he behaved. Actually, it was really the opium that drove him to madness. (And don't even get me started on his creepy friend from the opium house. Good grief, she looked like she had just walked off the set of Les Mis- but I guess I'm sort of prejudice.) Mr. Jasper was also really creepy, but not in an Alec D'Urberville kind of way- more like a mysterious, intriguing kind of way. He was definitely horrible, and Matthew Rhys played the character to a perverse perfection.
  (Oh, and I also loved it when he was shown directing the church choir! "Prove to me you can sing sharrrrppp, as well as flaaatttt....") :P

   Personally, I think they could have gotten someone a mite prettier to play Rosa Bud. That is not to say that Tamzin Merchant isn't pretty, she just...isn't...pretty. Heh. Sorry, Georgiana. Her dresses, however, were gorgeous, and she really was a very nice girl. I didn't know if I would like her at first. because she seemed  a little spoiled and flighty, but she wasn't at all and I thought she was a very nice character.

  Edwin was spoiled, I thought. He wasn't a bad character by any means, and he was usually good natured, but sometimes his lack of seriousness and his sarcastic nature got him into trouble. I don't think he really deserved Rosa, but I respected him for agreeing to break off the engagement and just be "brother and sister". I was just as surprised as Rosa when everyone was sure he was dead, and then there he was! In short, I don't think he really meant any harm, and he really did care about Jasper. He was a good boy, but not my favourite.

   Yay! Alun Armstrong was a nice character this time! Of course, Bucket's nice, but not like Mr. Grewgious. He was so sweet, it was as if he wasn't even the same actor that played Jeremiah Flintwinch- but of course, the ability to be all different kinds of characters is what one of the things that makes him such an incredible actor. I loved Mr. Grewgious, and I was so happy to find out that Alun Armstrong was in it!

  Septimus Crisparkle and his mother were just adorable. I was so pleased to see Rory Kinnear play a genuinely nice character- his name was still Septimus, but whatever. (Anyway, that way I can still call him Septimus. Of course, even if his name were something different, I'd probably still call him Septimus. :P) He seemed to be a genuinely kind and compassionate man, and he was one of my favourite characters.

"The uniform penny post. Oh, the excitement."

   Okay, I have to mention Grewgious' clark Bazzard! (Or however you spell his name.) He brought some much-needed humour to the movie and actually turned out to be one of my favourite characters. His melancholy complaints about his dislike for the indoors made me laugh, and I loved his comment about the "uniform penny post- oh, the excitement". I was kind of hoping he'd employ his Scottish accent when he was (finally!) allowed to go outdoors, like he said he might, but it wasn't to be. : ( And did anyone else think of Thomas Clarkson when they first saw his hair?

The ending was just a tad confusing. Heh. On top of that I didn't think the person who finished it- whoever they were- made it very clear either, but it would seem that Edwin, John ( who is, at this point, the late), and Neville and Helena, the twins from Egypt, were all siblings. Wow. It was kind of like in Little Dorrit, when I momentarily thought that Amy and Arthur were brother and sister (I know....), only this time, they were all brothers and sisters. It was a mite weird, I must say. And I didn't really like the end with Septimus and Helena...Someone took too many liberties there, because I don't think Charles Dickens would have approved. But at least it wasn't too terrible. In short, it was a worthwhile miniseries, and while it may not be for the faint of heart, I'd recommend it to any avid Dickens admirer.

What is your favourite Dickens movie/miniseries?
Have you ever seen Our Mutual Friend or The Mystery of Edwin Drood?

1 comment:

  1. Fun post! I actually haven't seen either Our Mutual Friend or The Mystery of Edwin Drood, even though I have watched quite a few Dickens films. I didn't watch Our Mutual Friend because it just seemed too over-the-top (not that most Dickens aren't, just...), and I didn't watch The Mystery of Edwin Drood because Dickens didn't actually write the whole book. I tend to be prejudiced against "completions" of an author's unfinished novel.

    Of other Dickens films, I have watched Little Dorrit (which was okay), the Nicholas Nickleby with James D'Arcy (which wasn't all that great), and Bleak House (my personal favorite).
    ~Ekaterina "Kitty" Alexandrovna Shcherbatskaya (I am using this strange Tolstoy name in place of my own for three reasons: a) I don't want to use my real name. b) I really love long Russian names - they're such fun. c) I like Tolstoy!)


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