More Brit Lit on film. Actually the novel by Kingsley Amis was filmed in 1970 with Haley Mills as the delectable Jenny Bunn, but this is a more satisfactory 150 minute mini series retelling of the story of how sweet schoolteacher Ms Bunn comes to middle England from the North, armed with nothing but her principles, including no sex before marriage, and handicapped by her extreme good looks. She is instantly targeted by the good-looking all round roue Patrick, a teacher in a public (ie exclusive private) school. She also has to fend off her landlord, a fellow boarder of lesbian leanings and sundry members of the country gentry.
Jenny, of course is not against sex, she just wants to wait for Mr Right. Patrick on the other hand is so used to mere lust that he doesn't recognise love when it comes along, especially in such a divine package as Miss Jenny. The story is played out at a leisurely pace against a background of green countryside, drives in open sports cars, country houses, cricket, incredibly smoky pubs and lots of grog, all permeated with the cool sound of jazz (not a rocker in sight).
As Jenny, Sienna Guillory is beautifully virginal and Rupert Greaves is charming (and very well preserved) as the dissolute Patrick. A host of minor characters make what would otherwise be a thin story into something more interesting. There's Julian (Hugh Bonneville), Patrick's landed gentry chum, with the jazz parties and the mistress in town, the awful Dick the landlord (Robert Daws) and his sneering wife (Emma Chambers), Patrick's high minded Scottish flatmate Graham (Ian Driver), whose efforts at seduction inevitably end in failure, Jenny's lesbian French room mate Anna who turns out not what she seems, the headmaster's daughter who at 18 is several laps ahead of Jenny in the sexual experiences stakes, a blackmailing parent (Jeff Rawle the wonderful George in `Drop the Dead Donkey') desperate to get his dumb son a scholarship to Oxford, and an old Lord (Leslie Phillips) who insists on telling Patrick about his groping problem.
Anyway, it's a handsomely done production with everybody looking and sounding right. Once again we recommend you read the book. Amis was a fine writer with an flair for comedy and an eye for telling detail. The story is a slight one but the ambience very authentic as Amis demonstrates the sexual mores of the swinging sixties were well on their way by 1959. Seeing it all up on screen I was struck by how far away it all seemed I might as well have been watching `Pride and Prejudice' but then the scriptwriter Andrew Davies has done lots of Jane Austen. Ah, tempis fugit, as Patrick the classics master would have said. The end of the story, told by Patrick in a brief voice-over, is a sadly familiar tale.
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