A Most Clever Girl: How Jane Austen Discovered Her Voice by Jasmine A. Stirling
I have been meaning to write this review since July, when I purchased this book for my niece, but it just seems like every time I try to sit down and write it something gets in the way. Don’t you hate when that happens?
But no longer, I am happy to finally post my review of this book.
Back in August of 2020, Jasmine Stirling reached out to me regarding her new children’s book on Jane Austen. As part of a lead up to the release of her book, she was reaching out to various Jane Austen bloggers, writers, etc.; and creating a resource center for parents and children wanting to learn more about Jane Austen.
She asked if she could interview me, and I agreed. It was the first time I have ever been interviewed and I found it to be such an honor, especially as she included me alongside some powerful Austen players. I have copied the interview below:
What Jane Austen film adaptation do you think would most appeal to kids?
Me: For a modern adaption, I believe Clueless is probably one of the best gateways into Jane Austen. It is funny, has great lines, and is something that teens will immediately love. Another great modern adaption of Jane Austen for kids is The Lizzie Bennet Diaries as it is a series of short videos (something they are more used to watching with tiktok, Snapchat, etc.) and with it being told in the format of a Youtuber, kids can easily connect to it and the story. For a Regency adaption I would suggest Sense and Sensibility (1995) to start with. While Sense and Sensibility (1995) is an older adaptation it has really good pacing with comedy and drama. Kids can sometimes find it hard to connect to period drama but this has romance, drama, grief, mean girls, etc.
What’s a kid-friendly Regency or Jane Austen-related activity, craft or other entertainment you might suggest for families to try?
Me: I love crafts so I have a few suggestions. One easy and fun craft to do is make silhouettes of each other as kids will love tracing each other and having themselves traced. Another cute craft is to make paper fans or paper boats. Or if your children enjoy playing with dolls making paper dolls, felt dolls, or clothespin dolls is also something they will always find fun.
If you know how to to embroider or sew, working on a group project together-such as making a quilt, pillows, hand towels, tea towels, pillowcases, etc.-is also something you can do.
What’s one thing you love about Jane Austen? Why?
Me: There are two things I absolutely love about Jane Austen. The first is that I love the pacing and plotting of her books and the balance between drama and comedy. All her novels have extremely somber or heart wrenching moments; along with comedic lines or hilarious scenes. She also always knew how to end a chapter leaving you wanting more.
The other thing I love about her books is how the stories and characters transcend Regency England so that the motifs, personalities, and points raised in her books are still relevant today. Who hasn’t meet a social climber like Caroline Bingley? A schemer like Lucy Steele? Manipulators like Isabella and John Thorpe? Had a regret like Anne Elliot? Met a flirt like Henry Crawford? Known a person who wanted so badly to have a friend they did whatever someone asked of them like Harriet Smith? Haven’t we all been accused of being an ice queen like Elinor Dashwood? Let our heart rule our actions like Marianne Dashwood? Misjudged someone and actively disliked a person when they insulted you like Elizabeth Bennet? Had to make a choice whether to stick to what we believe in, even if it meant losing something you hold dear like Fanny Price? Disliked someone because they were better than you at some things like Emma Woodhouse? Let our imaginations run away with us like Catherine Morland? I think one of the reasons we still read Jane Austen 200 years later is that it is so easy to connect to her work.
How do you share your love of Austen with children?
Me: I do not have kids but that hasn’t stopped me from sharing Jane Austen. For little ones I like to gift the Babylit Jane Austen books by Jennifer Adams. They are on different subjects like numbers and emotions, but each book features characters or items from the novels. I first read Jane Austen when I turned 16 and it has now become a tradition for me to gift one of her novels when someone I know turns 16. I am also always trying to encourage my nieces to read or watch Jane Austen, and there are a lot of adaptions out there that make great gifts. With so many fans of Jane Austen you have a lot to choose from, both from modern adaptions and her works.
The picture book was released in March, but I decided to wait to purchase it until my niece’s birthday in July. The age range recommended for this book is 5-9, but as my niece was turning 10 and still enjoyed reading picture books from time to time, I thought she might enjoy this too.
When the book arrived, I of course had to read it first and I really liked it. First of all it had beautiful illustrations, I really enjoyed Vesper Stamper’s style.:
I also liked that this book had a lot of information on the Jane Austen and her family, yet it wasn’t overpowering or too much for children to understand, and it did have additional information in the back of the book for anyone wanting to know a bit more. I felt it was a beautiful and great beginning biography to brainwash share with the children in your life.
One thing I have noticed in recent Jane Austen children’s biographies is that many authors go overboard trying to make Jane “ahead of her time” or that she was so “progressive” she “rebelled” against society disliking needlepoint or other feminine things, etc. I definitely didn’t feel that with this picture book was trying to paint her in any particular way, it felt like an honest portrayal of Jane Austen, written by someone who is a fan of her works.
My niece doesn’t typically read nonfiction books, but when she opened her gift she was immediately drawn to the illustrations, and read through it quickly, reading it again later, much slower.
I definitely recommend this book for the child in your life. I think it would be a perfect addition for any child’s bookshelf.
I don’t know if she will like it, but she enjoyed Sense and Sensibility, so I’m confident she won’t hate it.
I will give a quick synopsis for those who have never sent the film or read the book. Northanger Abbey was the first of Jane Austen’s books to be written and is kind of a parody of gothic novels and a saltire on society. In the story Catherine Morland is a minister’s daughter who loves to read and has an overactive imagination. She is asked to accompany family friends to Bath and while there her life becomes a bit like a novel as she meets the mysterious Tilney family, of which one son she finds delightful and handsome, Mr. Tilney. She also has another man vying for her affections, a more crude and brutish man, Mr. Thorpe. She is later given an opportunity to stay with the Tilneys in their home Northanger Abbey and wonders if there is a dark secret there. Catherine begins investigating but is there really a mystery or has her overactive imagination just struck again?
So the film starts off with the great quote from the beginning of the novel:
“No one who had ever seen Catherine Morland in her infancy would have supposed her born to be an heroine.”
I love that quote. I feel it right away connects you to Catherine as most of us are just average people.
G: What’s a heroine?
Me: A female hero.
The film then progresses to talking about Cathrine more how she was plain and more interested in boy’s things than girls, but around 15 she started to care more about her appearance and other things. Her parents were known to say:
“Catherine grows quite a good-looking girl—she is almost pretty today…”
G: Don’tlie to her.
My niece can be really mean sometimes. I think Felicity Jones is so cute and very pretty.
I also love that quote to “be almost pretty”:
G: Her little sister is so annoying.
Me: Yeah the little sister is very sassy.
So as the film progresses, the Allen’s ask Catherine to come along with them. We both agreed that we wished we had a family friend who wouldn’t ask us on a vacation like that. I mean at least my niece has me, but I wish I had had someone do that for me when I was young.
So in between the action with Catherine every time she reads she imagines herself in the book and we have a dream or imagination while reading sequence. I really like this, but my niece was not a fan.
G: This is weird.
So Catherine and Co. arrive in Bath and when they go out the next day they run into Mr. Tilney.
G: Is that the guy she’s gonna end up with?
Wow, she was sharp. At least she’s not opposed to him like she was to Colonel Brandon last year. But then again who could ever resist JJ Feild?
G: I really like their [Mrs. Allen and Catherine] dresses.
I totally agree, as even though Catherine isn’t the wealthiest Austen heroine, nor the poorest, I like her dresses the most.
I love how Mr. Tilney is able to clear the room for the ladies with a glare. He’s like get out of the way, this table is for the ladies!
So as Catherine dances with Mr. Tilney, she notices another man watching her and questions Mr. Tilney about him.
“Catherine: [Puzzled] Why does he look at us?
Mr. Tilney: I imagine he likes what he sees.
Catherine: [Incredulous] You don’t mean me?”
G: No duh!
Yeah, Catherine is pretty naive. Although in her defense she’s never really been called pretty before so it is easy not to see it in yourself.
Mr. Tilney decides to sassy and sarcastic (as usual):
“Mr. Tilney: So, tell me, what will you write in your journal tonight? ‘Friday, went to the Lower Rooms, wore my sprigged muslin dress with blue trimmings, and looked very pretty, though I say so myself. Danced with one man, was stared at by another much more handsome.”
Me: Who do you think is more handsome, Mr. Tilney orhim? [points to Mr. Thorpe]
G: Not him [points to Thorpe], he looks weird. I like that other guy, what’s his name? Christopher?
Me: Mr. Tilney, Henry Tilney.
We have another dream sequence and at first G wasn’t into it, but then we started talking about how we act when we read.
G: I like to imagine myself as a character or create my own.
Me: Me too.
Look at that, we both be Catherine Morlands.
The next day Mrs. Allen and Catherine are out and they run into Mrs. Thorpe and Isabella Thorpe.
G: She [Isabella] looks mean.
Me: Well, she’s not a nice. And look at her dress, during the day ladies wore a fichu or lace to cover themselves and only at night would wear something so low cut, but Isabella is not following the rules.
The next day the girls are out checking to see if Mr. Tilney is still visiting the Upper Rooms. They don’t see his signature and leave, being followed by two men. The men go a different way and instead of steering away, Isabella wants to cross paths with them again.
G:She wants torun into those men, that’s why she has her boobs out.
Isabella is definitely on the prowl!
They run into James Morland (Catherine Morland’s brother) and John Thorpe (Isabella’s brother). James is super into Isabella and John tries to get with Catherine.
G: John Thorpelooks so crazy! He’s so creepy.
Me: It is because he has such a heavy brow.
G: Yeah but it is the way he stares at her, with his eyes-it is so crazy [mimics John Thorpe].
Me: Yeah, he makes me think of those tiktok videos when they say do you want to look creepy?Thenlower your head and look up with your eyes.
G: He does!
That night they go to a dance and Mr. Tilney arrived with a woman in tow.
G: [Screams]…oh it’s his sister.
The two spend the time talking and make plans to go walking the next day. The only problem is, John Thorpe has other plans. John starts with “I think I saw them leaving”, with Isabella backing him up, then he insists that in this brief passage in the street from far away that he heard them saying they will be gone.
Me: Do you hear that, first he asks Catherine does Mr. Tilney have a certain type of horses and then he’s all I heard them say they will be gone all day. Such a liar!
Catherine insists they wouldn’t act that way, but then her brother interjects and makes her doubt herself.
“James Morland: My dear scatter-brained sister, haven’t you just heard him say they’re halfway to Wick Rocks?”
G: Shut up James! You’re supposed to be on my side!
Me: I know, right! James is so awful, lookhow he talks to her.
John Thorpe goes off in his phaeton with Catherine and who should they see as they go down the way.
“Catherine Morland: [Sees Mr. Tilney and Miss Tilney] Oh, Miss Tilney! [To Mr. Thorpe] Stop! Stop now! It’s Miss Tilney and her brother!
John Thorpe: There’ll be hell to pay if I tried to stop him now!
Catherine Morland: Please stop, Mr Thorpe! I’ll get down! I will!
John Thorpe: It’s not possible!
Catherine Morland: Oh!
John Thorpe: Whoa, there!
Catherine Morland: How could you deceive me so?
John Thorpe: Well, what if I did?
G: Boom! I would smack him!
Me: He definitely needs a punch in the face.
G: Get Out and Run, Catherine!
Me: She should! But she won’t as he manipulates her into feeling bad that if she leaves her brother and Isabella, they can’t ride together.
They get rained on, served them right. And the next day they go to the opera where John Thorpe tries to be romantic and fails.
“John Thorpe: Damn fine-looking woman. [To Catherine] But she’s nothing to you, you know.
G: I don’t care!
Ugh, John Thorpe!
Catherine goes to talk to the Tilneys after the opera performance and apologizes. Mr. Tilney tries to act cool, but you know he was probably driving Eleanor up the wall with his heartbroken.
G: You’re [John Thorpe] nothing to him [Mr. Tilney]
A couple days later Catherine learns of James and Isabella’s engagement. John Thorpe tries to ask Catherine, sort of.
“John Thorpe: Miss Morland, I, too, must take my leave for the present, just for the present. I’m going to accompany James to Fullerton, and then onto town to help him choose a ring.
G: I’m not going to miss you.
Me: I know, right.
“John Thorpe: Perhaps I might look for one for myself while I’m there. Do you think I should?”
So the men leave and the next time they go to a ball, Isabella states she will not dance with anyone. However, Mr. Tilney’s older brother, the rogue, enters the scene.
“Mr. Tilney: Miss Morland, allow me to introduce my brother, Captain Tilney.
Captain Tilney: [Dismissive] Charmed. [Moves away from them]
Mr. Tilney: Don’t let my brother’s ill manners offend you. That’s how he is, I’m afraid. He was ill-mannered as a baby.
Even though Isabella wasn’t supposed to be dancing as her “love” is away, she dances with Captain Tilney.
Catherine ends up being asked to go visit Northanger Abbey. We both wished we could go to a castle.
On Catherine’s last day in Bath she and Isabella go to the Upper Rooms. There Isabella hangs out with Captain Tilney.
G: Are they [Isabella and Captain Tilney] dating now?
Me: Just watch.
Catherine then travels to Northanger Abbey which is awesome and mysterious and I really, really, really want to go there one day.
G: I wish I could go to a castle. I want everyone to know the princess that I am.
So at Northanger Abbey Catherine spends a lot of fun time with the Tilneys, especially once General Tilney leaves on business. One thing Catherine had wanted to see was the portrait of Mrs. Tilney, but General Tilney kept them from the room. When Mr. Tilney goes away, Catherine takes the time to search in the room.
G: Why are we snooping around?
I alsways feel embarrassed when Catherine does this but I totally would want to do the same. Unfortunately, Mr. Tilney catches her and as you can imagine it doesn’t go well.
Catherine become even more upset when she gets a letter from her brother James who has ended his engagement as Isabella was trying to get with Captain Tilney, he has left Bath believing the two to be engaged although Eleanor does not believe her brother will, he’s not into commitment.
G: It’s because of all those low cut dresses she wore.
Then Catherine gets a letter from Isabella. Isabella tried to trade up but nothing came of it as Captain Tilney is not into commitment.
”Catherine Morland: I wish I had never known her.
Eleanor Tilney: It will soon be as if you never had.
Catherine Morland: There is one thing I can’t understand. What has Captain Tilney been about all this time? Why should he pay her such attentions and then fly off himselr?
Eleanor Tilney: He has his vanity, as well as Miss Thorpe. And he is accustomed to…having his way. Though I am surprised he should have stooped to such an easy conquest.
Catherine Morland: Really? Then I am sorry for Isabella.
Eleanor: I am sure she will be over it soon enough. “
Oh, Eleanor is just throwing shade.
So the film ends with Catherine being sent home with no escort. She doesn’t cause a scene as she thinks that Mr. Tilney told his father what she thought about him murdering his wife. After she returns home, Mr. Tilney comes after her and declares his love in the most romantic way! It is such a great scene!
So after the movie ended I asked her thoughts:
Me: Did you like it? What did you think?
G: It was good.
Me: Did you like it better than Sense and Sensibility?
G: Hmm…I don’t know.
Me: Which guy do you like the best. One of the guys from Sense and Sensibility or Mr. Tilney.
G: I don’t remember what they looked like.
Me: This one is Mr. Ferrars, Elinor’s love interest [Shows picture of Hugh Grant]. And then the other guy was the actor who played Snape.
Me: Yes, Snape.
G: I liked this guy better. I think he was cuter.
Yay! She likes Mr. Tilney and she liked the movie. My work here is done…at least for now.
If interested in a full review, click on this link. Otherwise thank you for 9 wonderful years! Happy Blogiversary!
So last week I posted my review of this film with my niece, but didn’t go into all the other parts that make up the film-costumes, set, actors/actresses, etc., like I usually do for a film review. So I decided to instead do a second post on it.
If you are interested in the background to the film, check out my review of Sense and Sensibility Screenplay and Diaries. I’m just going to start this post off by saying, I love this adaption. The writing was just amazing, the actors were fantastic, I just love it so much! So…this post is going to be about how much I care for it. And what are we waiting for…let’s get started!
So I love the set of this. The houses and hills are gorgeous. I understand the desire to walk about, as how could you not with this:
One thing I enjoy about this production is there is a lot of light. I know a lot of people like it when they are more “historical”, filming indoors with candlelight, but I personally prefer to be able to see what I am supposed to be looking at. Looking at you Emma 1996 AKA the Kate Beckinsale Version.
I had no real complaints as the homes are gorgeous, although I think the cottage is a little too lavish, I mean I wish I lived in that cottage. I always pictured in the book something much smaller.
But otherwise absolutely beautiful and watching it made me want to travel to England.
I really like the costumes in this. I think the production paid close attention to making the Dashwoods look lovely but also show that they had fallen on hard times-making those that are wealthy have nicer things, such as Charlotte Palmer. Lucy’s clothes are even plainer in comparison
I like how the awful John Dashwood wears a ridiculous cravat.
The only negative thing I have to say is that at times Kate Winslet’s curls look a little too harsh on her. It’s not bad, but I think that they should have relaxed her hair in a few scenes.
But otherwise I love the dresses, the bonnets, the coats, Colonel Brandon’s uniform-how everyone looks!
On to the acting!
Mr. Palmer played by Hugh Laurie
Let’s start off with a small but amazing character-Hugh Laurie’s Mr. Palmer. This is a magnificent gem in a wonderful story. He only has a few scenes, but every second is memorable as his delivery and juxtaposition of his brief sarcasm paired with his non stop chatty wife is just perfect!
Sir John Middleton (Robert Hardy) & Mrs. Jennings (Elizabeth Spriggs)
Sir John and Mrs. Jennings are awesome characters! And I love how Spriggs and Hardy just nailed it in how the balance-kind, compassionate and comforting with meddling, manipulation, and outright nosey-ness.
These two love the Dashwoods and just want to help them-although spending quite a bit of the time inserting themselves into their business, against the girls’ wishes. But I just adore them. I espechially love how Mrs. Jennings goes full mama bear at Willoughby when he breaks Marianne’s heart.
Imogen Stubs as Lucy Steele was beyond perfect in this. She is so manipulative and just horribly awful. The directing and her timing. I mean one of the best parts is this:
Look at her eyes-body language, full on power movie. She is so perfectly awful, there are literally no words to describe her wonderful performance.
Mr. Willoughby played by Greg Wise
Greg Wise is perfect in this roll. He plays a charming gentleman, the type of guy who was born with money, always had money, never thinks about anything other than what pleases him-you know the type. This type of guy has always rubbed me the wrong way as they never think about others but just take what they want. But I can see how girls can fall for him.
I think what Wise does is that he plays the role extremely well-charming, sweet,-but there are slight signs to him not being fully earnest-how he doesn’t care about Marianne’s reputation, stealing flowers from the field to bring her some instead of buying them, making fun of Colonel Brandon who has never treated him wrong, etc. Small things, but then after he breaks Marianne’s heart it makes you realize that this guy doesn’t care for others as much as he does himself. It is very subtle-but very real. Who hasn’t t one point in their life fallen for such a guy or girl and looking back sees the small cracks in the charming veneer through the whole relationship.
Fanny Dashwood is one of the most vilest characters in Jane Austen and Winner of my “Who’s the Worst” contest and Harriet Walter did a stupendous job.
She treats the Dashwoods like trash, she talks smack about them constantly, she manipulates her husband into ignoring his sisters, is cruel and not just mean but diabolical in her manner. She so horrible it is almost an art form to the subtle ways she just systematically goes after people.
Harriet Walter was phenomenal in this role, I will never be able to view anyone as Fanny Dashwood but her. The lines and acting were just perfect!
Colonel Brandon played by Alan Rickman
So first of, like my niece kept pointing out, Alan Rickman was too old for this part. He was 49 at the time, but I don’t care-I love Alan Rickman’s portrayal. He was just the perfect blend of kind, compassionate, romantic, heroic, etc. One of the best things about Colonel Brandon is that he falls for Marianne hard, but he doesn’t annoy her or crazily pursue her. He continues to be himself-brings her flowers and a book when she is ill, plans an outing (that accidentally gets canceled), visits when he is in London-the same things he would have done whether he liked her or not.
I think Alan Rickman captured that perfectly. He was never overt but displayed his care and love in the looks he gave and his body language. He can be so expressive in such little movements and moments. As said before my absolute favorite is when at the end when Marianne admits that she loves him-you can just see his relief, his love, everything in his face.
He is just perfect. And I love the way he talks about Willoughby and treats him. This man treated him horribly and not to mention what he did to his adopted daughter! But Colonel Brandon isn’t rude, cruel, or treats Willoughby like poop on his shoe like I would have done-instead Colonel Brandon is way more classy.
So there is a lot of argument about Hugh Grant’s portrayal in Sense and Sensibility. Many feel like he is just doing the same thing he did in Notting Hill and Four Weddings and a Funeral. I don’t disagree-but I actually think it works for the character.
Edward isn’t my favorite of the Austen heroes. When I think of him I think of a man who has been dominated by others-his mother, Fanny, Lucy, etc. He’s never had a strong spirit but is bent and molded by others, never willing to stand up for himself. His mother is trying to force him into one life when he wants to be a clergyman, Lucy convinces him he loves her and that he wants to marry her when he really doesn’t know what he feels, and Fanny does all kinds of maneuvering in his life. I liked Grant’s portrayal better than Dan Stevens as I felt Stevens was too strong-willed. I mean the only time we ever see Edward really stand up for himself is when his mother threatens to disinherit him if he marries Lucy and he does it anyway.
I also like how Hugh Grant played this character and the way he says these snarky things with such dry wit.
Marianne Dashwood and Fanny Price are who I believe the hardest Jane Austen characters to portray correctly in media (and other adaptions). With Marianne she is young, passionate, she believes what she thinks is 100% correct and others are wrong or old-fashioned like most teenagers do. Basically, Marianne is just a teenager (Regency style but still acts like a teenager). But often when writing the character for film (or other adaption) a lot of writers and actresses have trouble with her. Often they make her empty-headed, only cares about her looks, and altogether dumb/foolish.
Kate Winslet, however, does a fantastic job. She acts like any normal 16-year old would (she was 20 at the time, like most teen character actresses are). At times Winslet’s Marianne can be rude and a bit of a jerk to Colonel Brandon, at times she just flat-out ignores him, but what teenager/young adult doesn’t act like that? Winslet is one of the few to really “get” this character. Her Marianne is sweet, passionate, romantic, emotional, and quick to judgement/react.
Not only is she able to accurately show the character of Marianne in her youthful heedlessness-but also accurately shows the despair of a broken heart and her tempered spirit in the end. I love the scene when she is listening to Colonel Brandon and she asks that he won’t be gone long-it’s only a few words, but her tone and expression evoke so much emotion. It is a fantastic portrayal.
So let’s get it out of the way, yes she is too old to be Elinor. Elinor is 19 in the book and in 1995 Thompson was 36 years old. Yet, I don’t care.
Thompson wrote this amazing script and was able to portray Jane Austen in a fantastic way. She was able to blend comedy with drama-and I believe Jane Austen would have been proud.
By writing the script I think it helped her get into the head of Elinor and portray her perfectly. It can be difficult to portray a character that is logical and sensible and not have her come off annoying, cold, remote, etc. Thompson was able to show her the sensible logical person, but also give her heart–things that were done by a look, glance, etc.
The only thing is, I wasn’t sure how it was going to go down or even if she would like it. It can sometimes be hard to get her to watch any of my choices as she doesn’t like “old” films. But we made a deal-every summer when she comes to visit she has to watch at least one of my picks-Back to the Future, The NeverEnding Story, Bill & Ted’s Excellent Adventure, Indiana Jones, etc.
Not to mention she’s 12 going on thirteen and you know how that can be. Sometimes it is so difficult to get them to like anything. So I was hoping, finger’s crossed, things would go well.
Please, oh please!
Usually when I do a film review-I discuss the actors, costumes, setting, etc-but for this I am just going to put down our thoughts while watching it and then add the rest later. For this I refer to her as “G“.
Okay so here we go…
So the film starts off with Mr. Dashwood dying and having his son John promise that he will help his stepmother and three sisters. The estate is entailed and Mr. Dashwood didn’t plan as carefully as he should have, so the Dashwood ladies will have very little. John does.
We then meet John’s wife-Fanny Dashwood.
Fanny Dashwood is beyond horrible. I think she is the worst of all the Jane Austen characters to be honest. She’s rotten to the core, mean, cruel, doesn’t care about anyone’s feelings, and calls the Dashwoods “not really” family because they are half siblings. She’s one of the characters I wish I could reach into the book and slap silly.
I come from a blended household’s family. So my niece and I both agreed-We hate her!
“G: Aw look at the puppy. It’s so cute.”
Fanny and John move into the house and Fanny brings a dark cloud with her as she disrupts the household, is rude, mean, and we don’t like her.
Marianne is playing the piano, such sad music as she is grieving…you know the part
Elinor Dashwood: Marianne, can you play something else? Mamma has been weeping since breakfast. [Elinor exits; Marianne switches to a dirge. Elinor from the other room] I meant something LESS mournful.
My niece said-
G: “Let them weep-she is probably weeping at my greatness in playing piano.”
Fanny invites her brother Edward to visit at Norland Park, upsetting the household and rooms as Fanny wants him to have the best. They want to hate him, but he’s too likeble and the Dashwood ladies quickly grow to like him.
Edward even endears himself to the youngest Dashwood sister, Margaret. Aw, he even sword fights with her.
You know I never noticed before, but the library is pretty awesome! I definitely need to add it to my “Best Libraries List“.
So Elinor and Edward grow closer and closer together. Walking, talking, being cute, etc. One particular scene I liked between them was this one.
Elinor Dashwood: You talk of feeling idle and useless. Imagine how that is compounded when one has no hope and no choice of any occupation whatsoever.
Edward Ferrars: Our circumstances are therefore precisely the same.
Elinor Dashwood: Except that you will inherit your fortune. We cannot even earn ours.
Edward Ferrars: Perhaps Margaret is right.
Elinor Dashwood: Right?
Edward Ferrars: Piracy is our only option.
It’s like really dude-we are not the same. My dad died and we have to move and we have no money-and you feel “idle and useless”. That sucks, but don’t compare them.
However, Fanny notices this and does all she can to separate them as she doesn’t want her brother with someone as low as the Dashwoods.
John Dashwood sucks. He makes a promise…a DEATHBED promise, and his dad dies and does he fill the promise? NO!
Now I don’t claim to be a wordsmith-but I am proud of this little ditty I wrote while watching this:
“As soon as dad was dead,
and the will had been read,
You girls get no more bread”
Not Shakespeare, but I’m still proud.
The girls are rescued when Mrs. Dashwood’s cousin, Sir John Middleton, offers them his cottage for a reduced rate. Sir John is awesome. Like he is the sweetest guy ever.
He didn’t have to do anything, they aren’t even closely related-just the sweetest man ever. They see the cottage and it isn’t anything like what I think of as a cottage.
“G: That’s a cottage?
I wish I had a little cottage.
This would be hard to go from having wealth, home, and people to assist you, to than be paired down to this.
“G: They probably have to be servants now, because nothing in life is free.”
[Dashwood sister is brushing Margaret’s hair]
“G: This is how I am when my mom does my hair [G then proceeds to do a tiktok dance]”
So the Dashwoods are asked over to Sir John’s for dinner and they meet his mother-in-law, Mrs. Jennings.
“G: Mom should get a job” [Pause in movie as a explain how that was unlikely.]
Sir John is so sweet that he takes care of his mother-in-law, he could have sent her home. He also invites the Dashwoods over, not just this time-but other times as he knows they don’t have a lot of money and cares for them-wanting them to eat well.
I love Mrs. Jennings, too. She’s nosy, but she is so nice.
Mrs. Jeninngs and Sir John pick up that Elinor likes someone and they try to figure out who Elinor’s beau is. Margaret gives it away that it starts with an F…
And I love the face Marianne gives to Margaret to try and get her to stop talking. Such a sister thing to do.
They meet Colonel Brandon at the dinner and it is Alan Rickman and he is so romantic.
Too bad Mrs. Jennings butts in there with her matchmaking. If she hadn’t said anythong or embarrassed her, maybe Marianne would have been more fond of Colonel Brandon. I mean he has a romantic past, loves music and piano, etc.
Marianne is so furious she can hardly get her bonnet off.
Marianne is definitely not interested as Colonel Brandon is “so old”.
Mrs. Dashwood: If Colonel Brandon is infirm then I am at death’s door.
Elinor Dashwood: It is a miracle your life has extended this far.
G: Col. Brandon…that’s the guy you like? He’s OLD!
My niece is like Marianne…well maybe, by the time the movie is over, she will like him?
So Edward had promised to visit the Dashwoods after they settled in, all excited for it-but especially Margaret as he will also bring her favorite atlas. However, he doesn’t come but just sends the atlas and a note. All are disappointed-espechially Margaret.
Poor Margaret, I never thought about it until I watched the film this time-but poor, poor Margaret she has just been disapointed by man after man. Her father died, her brother John sucks, now Edward was supposed to come visit and he disappointed her too.
So one afternoon Marianne and Margaret go for a walk…
Marianne: I’m taking you for a walk.
Margaret: No, I’ve been a walk.
Marianne: You need another.
Margaret: It’s going to rain.
Marianne: It is NOT going to rain.
Margaret: You ALWAYS say that and then it ALWAYS does.
Margaret wasn’t kidding, it rained and it rains hard.
Marianne is running and hurts her ankle. They are soaked and Margaret is freaking out when Willoughby comes riding up on a white horse and carries her home.
“G: I thought you said Willoughby is bad.”
“Me: You’ll just have to watch the movie.”
Willoughby looks so dashing in his coat and on his horse. Margaret and Marianne are in awe.
I love how Elinor instantly becomes Marianne’s wingwoman and finds out the name of the “mysterious” stranger.
[after Marianne has first met Willoughby]
Elinor Dashwood: Marianne, you must change. You will catch a cold.
Marianne: What care I for colds when there is such a man.
Elinor Dashwood: You will care very much when your nose swells up.
Marianne: You are right. Help me, Elinor.
I love that part so much!
So with Marianne recuperating, Sir John comes to visit. I love how the ladies try to pump him for information but all he knows about is Willoughby’s hunting score and the dogs he owns. Such a man!
Such a man!
Colonel Brandon comes to visit Marianne and she is such a jerk. She doesn’t care at all for the beautiful bouquet he brings. I mean Colonel Brandon has his own conservatory, he probably gave her his most prized and rare flowers and she wants Willoughby’s wildflowers he probably stole as he rode to the cottage.
“G: But Colonel Brandon is so old.”
I don’t know if my niece will ever care for Colonel Brandon. I think she’s just too young to appreciate him.
Marianne just completely ignores him and like doesn’t even look at him during the whole scene.
But Colonel Brandon is just as sweet as ever.
I mean don’t even like flowers as a gift, but I would honor the amazing ones Colonel Brandon had versus Mr. Willoughbys.
Marianne and Willoughby are alone
In fact they spend a lot of time together-
The day comes and Marianne is expecting Willoughby to propose. Willoughby and Marianne skip church to be together
But Marianne does not get proposed to. Poor Marianne, she is so naive.
After Mr. Willoughby leaves the Dashwood house is all in hysterics, I feel so bad for Margaret. Poor girl, she is disappointed by another man.
I love that Elinor drinks tea while everyone is upset and crying.
Mrs. Jennings invites her daughter, Charlotte, and son-in-law, Mr. Palmer to visit.
“G: I feel like I’ve seen him before
Me: He’s Dr. House.
G: OH, yes! I love that show.”
Whenever I watch this I wonder why Mr. Palmer married Charlotte.
Mr. Palmer is so perfect. He is so dry and drool while his wife is like a hen clacking on and on. It makes me think of the song from the Music Man.
There is also a Lucy Steele. Lucy Steele zones in on Elinor-she’s like a shark.
I want you!
Lucy reveals that she and Edward are secretly engaged.
What are you talking about??
The girl the guy you like likes is trying to confide in you –awkward
“G: I would have told everybody Lucy’s secret.”
Ouch, this is painful.
Lucy continues to go on and on about her life and story and secret engagement.
“G: I’d be like, I don’t care. Please stop talking to me.”
“Me: Elinor knows everyone’s secrets. They just all feel the need to unload on her.
“G: She’s like Gretchen Weiners”
“Me: That’s why her bonnet’s so big, it’s full of secrets. “
Poor Elinor, to find out the person you are in love with has been engaged for 5 years.
Mrs. Jennings is the best. She’s so nice deciding to take Lucy, Elinor, and Marianne to a full London season.
“G: London! She can go see Willoughby in London.”
Poor G, she was like Marianne and fell for Willoughby.
In London, Marianne writes to Willoughby a lot, but they don’t hear anything back.
Elinor talks about how they have to see John and Fanny as they are also in London-I’d hate to see their faces ever again.
Colonel Brandon comes to see them, but Marianne is so rude and ignores him.
They go to a ball and hear of Mr. Ferrars being there, but it turns out to be Edward’s brother Robert. Ugh, Robert is so annoying.
Lucy enters the frame-ugh. We don’t like her.
G: I would have pushed her in poop.
Me: Like in Back to the Future?”
G: I’d be all ‘Oops I dropped my hairpin’, and knock her over…Or change out her lotion to foot cream.
Me: Yes, Lucy is so Regina George.”
We so do not like Lucy.
Marianne goes to see Willoughby and he disses her in front of everyone. Mr. Willoughby received and threw away every one of Marianne’s letters, ouch.
Lucy is so mean gossiping about the Dashwoods, she is so Regina George.
They leave early and back at the house, I love this scene, Elinor comforts Marianne-it reminds me of comforting my sister when she dated a jerk.
Mrs. Jennings finds out about Mr. Willoughby. It turns out that he is engaged to the wealthy Miss Grey. Ooh, this makes Mrs. Jennings so mad!
Mrs. Jennings goes full mama bear-you hurt my friends I break your face.
Colonel Brandon comes to visit and ask after Marianne, and speak to Elinor.
“G: I hope Elinor doesn’t get with Colonel Brandon”
Colonel Brandon reveals that he has a ward, a ward who has been missing for 8 months. He finally found her and it turns out she is pregnant. She was with Willoughby and he abandoned her. His aunt Lady Allen has refused to leave him anything to punish him (go Lady Allen), and a young man who gambles, has no money, and appreciates the finer things in life-he needed a wealthy wife.
Clearly a Won’tougby
And again, Elinor has collected another secret.
“G: That’s why he is evil! He has a baby and doesn’t care!!! Walks around having kids with people only cares about himself.”
I know. And poor Colonel Brandon, the agony he must have felt worrying about his ward.
Later Lucy also comes to visit.
“Mrs. Jennings: Here’s Lucy to cheer you up.”
“Me: She wouldn’t cheer me up.
G: Ugh, you again.”
Edward comes when she is talking to Lucy, I love this scene so much it is so hilarious.
I love Edward’s face in this scene. Such tension-his face is like I want to vomit I wish I could walk back out of this room.
Of course, Edward and Lucy leave together.
G: We don’t like Lucy. We would push her in horse poop if we could
Me: That’s the truth.
G: We would push him [Willoughby] in horse poop if we could.
Me: We totally should.
Fanny can’t stand her sisters-in-law, but agrees to take Lucy with them as she is in need and so much more refined. The two grow close and Lucy decided to reveal her secret engagement. This is my favorite scene.
Lucy: It is a very great secret. I’ve told nobody in the world for fear of discovery.
Fanny: [greedily] I am the soul of discretion.
Lucy: If I dared tell…
Fanny: I can assure you, I’m as silent as the grave. [Lucy whispers in Fanny’s ear; Fanny’s kindly disposition changes abruptly turning against Lucy, enraged and horrified] Viper in my bosom!
Lucy is sooo lucky Fanny didn’t kill her.
G: Mrs. Jennings ran all the way to spill the tea.
Mrs. Jennings was up early and she finds out what happened and how Edward refused to break up the engagement and lost his inheritance.
Col B is so romantic! He comes to Elinor and gifts Edward his church and “a living” so he and Lucy can get married. So sweet.
“G: Colonel Brandon is so old….You know, I would never name my future daughter Lucy now.
Yes she has ruined it.
Colonel Brandon is the only man who doesn’t disappoint in this film, him and Sir John.
The girls are on their way home when they stop at the Palmers, not too far from Willoughby’s house. Marianne decides to take a walk, even though Elinor attempts to dissuade her.
“Marianne: It shall not rain.”
“G: Don’t you remember last time?”
But it does rain, and Marianne gets stuck out there-this time saved by Colonel Brandon.
Aw, Colonel Brandon carries her all the way from the field to the Palmer’s house. I think it was even farther than Willoughby and therefore he is stronger and better than Willoughby.
“Elinor: [To Mr. Palmer] Marianne needs a doctor”
“G: Good thing he is one. [Laughs]
Me: Let me grab my cane and pull out the whiteboard.”
Colonel Brandon: What can I do?
Elinor Dashwood: Colonel, you have done so much already…
Colonel Brandon: Give me an occupation, Miss Dashwood, or I shall run mad.
He’s so romantic!
They are bloodletting her, she’s so sick.
“G: Gasp, OMG!”
Watching this scene again makes me realize how serious it was when Jane got sick. It makes you realize Mrs. Bennet could have killed her.
Colonel Brandon had left to fetch Mrs. Dashwood, and we he returns the worst is over. Aww, Marianne even thanks him
Back at Barton Cottage, Margaret has a new treehouse. I wonder who built it for her? It had to be Sir John or Colonel Brandon
Marianne and Colonel Brandon visit together, he reading aloud to her. They are so cute!
This is fate we’re talking about, and if fate works at all, it works because people think that THIS TIME, it isn’t going to happen!
Some of you might be wondering where the Jane Austen is in Horrorfest? Isn’t the name of the blog, JaneAustenRunsMyLife? Well, we have had a few Jane Austen-esque things this year. First we had Death by Persuasion and Non-Austen Films for Austen Fans TV show High Seas/Alta Mar. But I thought I would throw in another film with a Jane Austen connection. Because, you know:
A while back I reviewed the book Sense and Sensibility Screenplay and Diaries, and in the beginning Lindsay Doran wrote about how she was thinking about turning Sense and Sensibility into a film, but needed to find the “right” writer. While filming Dead Again, producer Lindsay Doran discovered that Emma Thompson loved Jane Austen. They spent a lot of time talking about Austen and her books:
“I got to know Emma very well over the course of the twelve-week shoot, and it wasn’t long before we discovered our mutual passion for Jane Austen. It was clear that she knew the books by heart, and that her appreciation of them was not of the dry, academic sort she enjoyed them, and she loved their wit as much as she admired their intelligence.” Lindsay Doran, from The Sense and Sensibility Screenplay and Diaries: Bringing Jane Austen’s Novel to Film
Doran then watched Emma’s show Thompson, and after seeing the writing and acting there-asked her to write Sense and Sensibility (1995). Yes, without Dead Again, Sense and Sensibility (1995) never would have been born-or a less wonderful version would probably have been created.
So let’s review Dead Again
This film struck my interest when a patron checked it out at the library. So, of course, when it came back I had to check it out and watch it. It is a film-noir, murder mystery romance.
So the film starts off in black and white in the 1940s-with and amazing into that involves newspaper stories and headlines about the Musical Murder of Margaret Strauss by her Conductor Killer, Roman Strauss. Margaret (Emma Thompson) was stabbed to death by scissors, by her conductor husband Roman, (Kenneth Branagh). He was found guilty and put on death row for the murder. As he approached the electric chair, journalist, Gray Baker (Andy Garcia), goes to hear the killer’s last words-Roman saying that this is far from over.
Now we fast forward to present time, 50 years later-a woman (Emma Thompson) with no memory and can’t talk is in an orphanage.
The nuns and priest have been taking care of her-but it appears the help she needs is much more than what they can offer. They hire Michael Church, (Kenneth Branagh) a private detective (who had been raised at the same orphanage), to take her to the asylum and discover who she is.
Michael Church (Kenneth Branagh) is known for being able to find “anything” and “anybody”. He has just found Dr. Cozy Carlisle (Robin Williams), psychologist turned store owner who’s been extremely hard to track down. He gets the call and heads to the orphanage.
Ready for any case
Michael inspects all that they know about the unknown woman and discovers she has a Claddagh ring-an Irish ring which represents love, loyalty, and friendship-but only one band, the other is missing. He takes her to his friend at the newspaper who shoots her picture and they plan on it being printed in tomorrow’s edition. Church then goes to take the woman to the asylum, but after seeing how horrible it is-takes her to his home. Sure “just because it looks bad”-like it has nothing to do with the fact she is a pretty woman?
The woman experiences nightmares, a fear of scissors, and screams out Dysher. The next day, Church gets all kinds of calls about the woman-but all are just cranks. But then, Franklyn Madson (Derek Jacobi), comes calling. He is an antique dealer and hypnotist who wants to help. He regresses the woman and we shift to black and white-to the Strausses.
Los Angelas Late 1940s
Margaret was beautiful, English, and beloved by all. She performed in an orchestra and saw conductor Roman Strauss and was struck by him. Roman was a recent arrival in California, having left Europe when he escaped the Nazis during WWII, his wife dying in the escape.
Roman is just as struck a with Margaret and the two date, fall in love, and marry. Roman gifts her the Claddagh ring, with a matching one, and a very expensive anklet.
“Roman Strauss: The man I bought it from explained to me that, when a husband gives it to his wife, they become two halves of the same person. Nothing can separate them… not even death.”
They marry and at the wedding, a Mr. Gray Baker (Andy Garcia), writer, comes as the date of someone. He is enamored of Margaret and actually tries to flirt and charm her at HER wedding-ugh this dude.
Understandably, Roman is very upset and does not like him. Margaret, however, “doesn’t” understand his feelings as she loves Roman.
The two are in love and happy-except for one thing. Margaret hates Roman’s servants -Inga and her son Franky. She thinks they don’t like her and they keep usurping her authority. She wants to be rid of them, but as they saved Roman’s life he refuses to let them go. He never would have made it out of Germany without them.
After the regression, the woman can speak. They look over the Strauss story in Life magazine, located in the antique shop. They see a resemblance between the Strausses and them and that the orphanage where they both spent time in, was once the Strauss mansion.
Church gives the woman the name Grace, and then goes to see Dr. Carlisle to talk about what happened. Dr. Carlisle tells him some cases where he worked with patients and regression helped solve the issues. He thinks they should continue to see the hypnotist and see what comes of the Margaret and Roman story.
Meanwhile, Grace and Church spend a lot of time together and fall in love.
They day after they sleep together a man shows up claiming that Grace, real name Katherine Sharpe, is his fiance. He has all the answers to Church’s questions, until Chruch catches him in a lie about gloves. The man takes off and Church tries to catch him-but the man gets away.
Why would they want Grace? WHO would want her?
Church and Grace go back to the hypnotist where Grace regresses more…
Los Angeles Late 1940s
The Strausses are having more cracks in their relationship. As Roman is not involved in Hollywood, he is seen as a “nobody” and is trying to write an opera but suffering from writer’s block. They are at a party and no one wants to talk to “nobody Roman”.
Margaret gets approached by Gray and the two go outside to talk. Gray is so in love with Margaret it is super obvious-and Margaret should not be feeding into it. Gray asks to “look” at her anklet, and she obliges-he holding her leg up to take a “closer look”. Really…really now?
Margaret, can’t you see how this is something you as a married woman should bot be doing with a man who is not your husband? Hmmm….?
Roman sees them and becomes understandably furious, punching Gray in the face (not understandable) which knocks him in the pool. They try to make it sound as if Roman is a jealous brute, making a big deal out of nothing-but I have to disagree. This guy started trying to get with Margaret at her wedding-and he’s still trying. Even though Roman shouldn’t have punched him-he totally deserved it.
Margaret and Roman get into a huge fight over it, it ending as Roman confesses his insecurities.
Later Margaret catches Frankie in her jewelry and tries to get Roman to fire them, but again he refuses. Gray calls Margaret, which Roman accidentally overhears. He questions her abut the call but she lies to him.
Later, Margaret was lying in bed when she is stabbed-by Michael Church!
Grace wakes up from her trance angry, confused, and scared. Michael takes her home but she flips out convinced that he will kill her.
In order to calm her, Church decides to regress as well. What he discovers changes everything. Will they figure out this mystery and solve it before another murder? Or will history repeat itself?
I liked how the movie was in color for the present and then reverted to black and white with the past. I thought it was pretty intriguing with a few twists and turns that I didn’t see coming were thrown in very well. And now that I have seen the film, that poster is so perfect and obvious. It is well worth a view for fans of Spellbound and film-noir
The end is a little cheesy, but Im not sure how else they could have had an ending that satisfied the viewer. I didn’t want to give away the end, so if you’d like to watch it, click here.