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Reviews & Ratings for
"Aristocrats" More at IMDbPro »

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16 out of 16 people found the following review useful:


Author: ( from United States
31 January 2005

*** This review may contain spoilers ***

"I remained convinced that our prestigious family with its significant connections could still hold sway over history." Thus spake Emily, Duchess of Leinster, in 1798, shortly before her son, the notorious and dashing Irish revolutionary, Edward Fitzgerald, was executed for the murder of a British soldier. The world they knew was rapidly changing, and, indeed, there was little, if *anything*, the Duchess or her aristocratic family held sway over anymore, except each other. But a few short years before, she and her sisters were among the most admired and privileged women on earth. The five sisters, Caroline, Emily, Louisa, Sarah and Cecilia, were the great-granddaughters of Charles II with his mistress, Louise de Keroualle, the Duchess of Portsmouth. Their grandfather, the king's illegitimate son, was Charles Lennox, 1st Duke of Richmond. His son, also Charles, became the 2nd Duke of Richmond. The 2nd Duke married an Irish woman, of whose background, both were deeply ashamed of and desperately tried to conceal. When their eldest daughter Caroline, an intelligent woman with a thirst for sophisticated pleasures, eloped with Henry Fox, 1st Baron Holland, the Duke and Duchess were mortified at her insubordination – marrying a politician against the wishes of her father brought swift judgement upon Caroline, and she was banished from her family. Caroline missed her family greatly and grieved over their estrangement, but from her home, Holland House (the same one on the Holland House liquor labels), she kept discreet correspondence with her sisters. When second eldest daughter, Emily, begged her parents to allow her to marry James Fitzgerald, 20th Earl of Kildare, an Irish statesman, the parents were aghast at the possibility of Irish blood (re-)entering their bloodline, but fearing another estrangement, they agreed to the marriage, partially because it was evident that the Earl deeply loved Emily, and partially because the Earl was extraordinarily wealthy. She had a son, Edward Fitzgerald, a celebrated United Irishman, whose dedication to Irish freedom would have been incomprehensible to his grandparents. Louisa, the third sister, married Thomas Conolly, a kind and loving man, had a brood of children and lived happily ever after. Fourth sister, Sarah, married badly, had an affair, a baby, a divorce, and complete social ostracism all in short order. Fifth sister, Cecilia, died in her teens. There was also a brother who became 3rd Duke of Richmond.

Meticulously adapted from Stella Tillyard's masterpiece by the same name, *Aristocrats* is a story of magnificent scope and grandeur, but told without the usual gassy adoration of the British upper class. Its basis is not embellished reports and embroidered tales, but the massive archives of correspondence and household and historical records left behind by these women. It is as much a story of the sisters' love for each other and their families, as it is a historical drama, but the viewer never forgets that it is through the eyes of these women that we see the epic unfold. As with many epics, it makes short work of some of history's more momentous occasions, but that serves to keep the story focused on the sisters. The production values are top notch. With an excellent screenplay by Harriet O'Carroll, superb direction, and outstanding craftsmanship throughout, *Aristocrats* is as splendid a production as it is a story.

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18 out of 20 people found the following review useful:

Absorbing tale of love & intrigue

Author: ingemann2000
26 January 2004

It's some time ago I saw this mini-series, adapted by Tillyard herself and based on her marvellous biography about the Lennox sisters. The biography is one of the best I've ever read, so my expectations were pretty high. Fortunately I was not disappointed. Like in most English literary adaptations all the details, settings and costumes were perfect, and the story about the Lennox sisters have everything you could wish for: love, court intrigue, tragedies etc. It's so absorbing that you almost forget that it isn't fiction, but real people with real and dramatic lives! All the actors were great, especially Jodhi May as the unfortunate Sarah Lennox. If you didn't get enough of the series, then read the biography!

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10 out of 10 people found the following review useful:

Mostly wonderful set-up with no wrap-up

Author: irish23 from United States
14 September 2007

No mini-series has made me want to read the book more. The source material seems absolutely fascinating, and so many allusions and sometimes confusing references were made in the series that one realizes only a book can flesh out the intricacies of the complete story.

This was a compelling series up to the end disc, when previously minor flaws became too great to ignore. The writer can't seem to decide if the story is about 4 sisters and their relationship to each other; their interactions with social norms & how they abided by, flaunted, or bent them; the plight of the aristocracy itself during a time of social turmoil; or how great a stand one should take on great political/moral issues and what consequences that may have.

This is obviously far too much for any 6-part series to take on, even by so venerable an institution as the BBC. Casting, acting, direction, sets, and costumes are outstanding, as always. But the story...the story raises little questions here and there that don't get resolved. One's willing to overlook that because everything else is so compelling. But the final disc (2 episodes), where the timeline has progressed into the sisters' later years, really starts to fall apart. Characters we barely know suddenly take up the bulk of screen time and the 4- pronged story arc starts to fray.

It was such a disappointing end to an otherwise wonderful period piece. I can't wait to read the book.

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6 out of 7 people found the following review useful:

What happened to the fifth sister?

Author: Christopher Hall ( from London, England
12 June 2001

*** This review may contain spoilers ***

What happened to the fifth sister is obvious to those who saw the five part version transmitted by BBC Television. She died of tuberculosis.

In the US Aristocrats was seen as a three parter on WGBH with a considerably shorter running length. Somethings had to go and since the story was primarily about four sisters the story of the fifth was told as shorthand.

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5 out of 6 people found the following review useful:

Thoughts from a Jane Austen fan...

Author: StarDragyn from USA
16 March 2013

The first episode of this is somewhat similar to a Jane Austen style story, though it is set in the mid-late 1700s rather than early 1800s. After the first episode or two, it becomes generally more serious and more broad. The costumes are very different from Austen films (being set in the preceding era), but they are very beautiful and very accurate to the time period. The dresses are much more glamorous, even though the men look rather sillier in my opinion.

I'm not sure how close this telling matches to the actual history of this family--I'm assuming there are at least some discrepancies--but even thinking it is at least based on real people and real stories makes it much more interesting to watch. To think that this wasn't simply invented by an author (no offense to Austen!) makes me much more tolerant of any lags or disagreeableness in "plot", since it's not supposed to be a contrived one. There are many, many characters, which may be hard for some people to keep track of who's who, and many decades are covered, so time sometimes passes in large chunks.

The film is a drama and deals with some very serious issues, to a greater extent than Austen ever delved into. Much of it is somber, but not really depressing. The movie is less of a source of "entertainment" than Austen films, but it is a great look at another era and the story is intriguing enough to keep you wondering what will happen next. It does not leave you so much with the blissful smile of contentment and happily ever after that an Austen story provides, but I felt like I had gotten to know and feel for the main characters, and learned some things about history in the process. It's a great choice if you're interested in venturing into another time period, rather than the Regency (Austen) or the far more common Victorian (Dickens, etc) eras.

This movie would be especially good for passing a lazy, rainy afternoon, when you'll feel more content with this milder sort of entertainment than what your expectations might be for a Friday night. Just get a cup of tea or cocoa and let yourself drift back to another time and world for a while.

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12 out of 20 people found the following review useful:

Mr Fox looks like a toad!

Author: ( from Lincoln, England
21 January 2001

Sarah describes her sisters.

Caroline is clever, Emily is like a mother to me, Louisa is an angel and Cecilia is a child. I am a disappointment.

This is based on a true story and is actually very good viewing. It has six parts, showing the sisters as children and finally as old ladies.

Apart from Cecilia, all the sisters stories are based around their loves and family.

Emily is the narrator of the story as it proceeds.

The costumes and wigs are wonderful and the music is good too. All the sisters give great performances.

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5 out of 8 people found the following review useful:

What about Cecilia? And what about Sarah's daughter?

Author: BB_GiRl from Lisbon, Portugal
22 August 2001

*** This review may contain spoilers ***

I've read some comments on this mini-series and I agree with each and every word I read. This is a great mini-series, the actors are fantastic, the story is delightful but there are some plot holes... Cecilia dies of (I think) tuberculosis and we get to see her lying on her death bed with Caroline by her side. But more than that, what the hell happened with Sarah's daughter? The one she had with Lord William... We understand that she had two boys with Cap. Napier but what happened to her daughter? We never see her again... But, even with a a few plot holes, this mini-series is, nevertheless one of the best I've seen!

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3 out of 5 people found the following review useful:

I loved this mini-series.

Author: lauri9 from Los Angeles, California
26 November 1999

*** This review may contain spoilers ***

I really loved this movie. It has everything I am looking for, romance, intrigue and beautiful scenery.

The only thing I didn't understand was what Cecilia died of. I am planning to read the book to find out.

All the actors and actresses including Jodhi May should congratulate themselves on a job well done!

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Last episode cast change?

Author: Marie Morgan
22 December 2016

*** This review may contain spoilers ***

I was thoroughly enjoying this series (on DVD from the library until - Huh? Who are these people? Completely different cast to portray the older versions in Part 6. I couldn't even watch it because I had no idea, even with closed captioning, who they were! Perhaps it was the BBC insistence on realism that they wouldn't put "old" makeup on young actors but it was quite a let-down.

Otherwise, as usual, BBC does a first-rate job with period detail. It's refreshing to see TV be about the story, rather than the celebrities who can't act and are too vain to ever look like a character other than themselves.

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History continues

Author: parsifalssister from United States
30 November 2010

*** This review may contain spoilers ***

Rather true to the Lennox family history; many have described it as excellent in many ways, and it was. However, changing gears in the last of the six-part series with totally different performers as well as story lines, took the vote down one or two pegs for me.

I was fascinated by the relationships between and among the different family factions and how they resolved each over the course of the series. Some of the characters were more sympathetic than others, and I especially took a fancy to Edward, Emily's son and Capt. Napier, Sarah's second husband.

I will go after the book as it appears that even now we have aristocrats in the Lennox line these many years later and I'd like to know more about a family that created renegades, generals, politicians and romance.

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