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This adaptation of Northanger Abbey has gone a long way to redeeming ITV's Jane Austen Season after a severely poor start with Mansfield Park starring Billie Piper. Where as Mansfield Park was dull and lifeless, Northanger Abbey was lively and highly amusing. It was actually funny, and kept well to the spirit of the book. Newcomer Felicity Jones was brilliant as Catherine Morland, so too was JJ Field as Henry Tilney and Catherine Walker as Eleanor Tilney. In fact the whole cast did a great job of entertaining throughout. The script was brilliant, and you felt that Andrew Davies was really enjoying himself when adapting Austen's novel. When I see Davies' name attached to a period drama I feel safe that it will be done competently and in good taste, and Northanger Abbey was. My only criticism, which isn't so much a criticism more of my wanting it to continue, is that the ending was cut a little short. Of course this was due to time restraints. This is ITV's best period drama for a very long time. Not since Emma have they done one so good. This is certainly one I would recommend to both Austen enthusiasts and newcomers alike, it truly is accessible to all, and can be enjoyed by many!
Northanger Abbey is not just one of my favourite Jane Austen books, but
also one of my favourite books full stop. So, when hearing of an ITV
adaption, I was in equal parts excited and nervous.
Well, after seeing it I can only praise it. The cast performed extremely well - especially JJ Field as the charming and likable Henry Tilney, and Felicity Jones as the naive and excitable Catherine Morland - the direction was top class, and the narrative - though not always faithful to the book - was pretty much faultless.
Some people may be disappointed in the less-faithful parts of the feature, but I felt that they fit in very well with Ms. Austen's novel. They were charming and felt very up-to-date in a way that would appeal to both Jane Austen lover's, and people who just wanted to watch a good film on Sunday night.
If you haven't seen this, then I highly recommend it, and I know that I certainly will be buying the DVD.
Huzzah! - another adaptation: for Austen fans there can never be
I gulped a little when I heard that ITV were doing a Jane
Austen season. ITV tend to drastically abridge their period dramas, and
they can end up slightly cheap-looking, losing integrity when
contrasted with the more solid and sober (and timeless?) productions of
Northanger Abbey was Austen's first proper novel, but her last to be published; very much a turn of the (19th) century novel, showing some of the roughness of that time, before ladies became entirely encased in the strict rules society saw fit to impose. It's fitting that a cheeky, confident and funny writer (Andrew Davies) gets to have a bit of fun with this one some 200 years later. In it, Catherine Morland, a young, naïve girl from a quiet village, gets her first taste of many things on a trip to Bath, and learns both life lessons and something about love through her contact with two very different families she meets there; the grasping, manipulative Thorpes and the thoughtful and sophisticated Tilneys.
The two leads, Felicity Jones as Catherine Morland, and J J Field as Henry Tilney, are beautifully cast. Felicity Jones' youth, pretty looks and inexperience served her character very well. Her 'modern' tone has been criticised, but whilst an older actress might have delivered the lines with greater accuracy, we'd have lost Jones' juvenile wonder and humour. She delivered (almost all) her lines nicely, and although at moments she looked almost simple, staring up blankly with her mouth open, in a way this was appropriate. Nothing in Catherine Morland's previous limited experience prepared her for the life of Bath or for a family like the Tilneys she may well gape. I loved the dream sequences where her constant absorption in Gothic horrors spills over into her imagination: her reading was teaching her to look for horror everywhere.
J J Field was wonderful in the BBC's recent adaptation of Philip Pullman's excellent "The Ruby in the Smoke", and shows again that he can play the leading man with great charm and naturalistic ease - a long career in the making I think. Re-reading the book I'm struck by the affectionate details with which Austen made Henry Tilney lovable, such as his messy rooms and his keen sense of humour. I think Field goes a long way towards putting this on screen, despite shockingly ill-fitting clothes and a script very constrained for time, missing dialogue which would have drawn out his growing attachment to Catherine. Austen has Henry tell Catherine that she "is superior in good nature to all the world". In this version her youth and looks alone seem to be the reason for her appeal.
The minor characters were mostly well-played and well drawn; especially Eleanor Tilney, who brought great dignity to her role. Some concessions have certainly been made to an audience deemed incapable of reading subtlety or of tolerating lengthy or literary dialogue. But certain additions were really funny and delightful: Catherine rolling her eyes and curling her lip at Captain Tilney's rudeness; her little sister announcing, hand on hips and with a nice swing of her little head; "CATHY. Mama says will you bring Mr Tilney to the DRAWING room." Her withering glare at Henry when they are all seated, in awkward silence, is genius: go girl.
Adaptations don't need to be slavish. The BBC's rather lurid 1986 version took just as many liberties, and more than warranted a revisit. Overall I found this a delightful adaptation, delivered with verve and spirit, so well done ITV, please, more of this, less of the abridged and dumbed-down rubbish!
After almost despairing at the recent Mansfield Park with Billie Piper,
it was a huge relief to see this version of Northanger Abbey. Andrew
Davies is pretty reliable, I think, and the two leading characters were
winningly portrayed by Felicity Jones and J J Feild.
The locations, costumes and hairstyles were all good too. It was a thoroughly entertaining piece.
Of course, reducing the book to not much more than 90 minutes means that a lot has to be sacrificed. In the case of Jane Austen this is done at a higher price than with many other authors, since a key feature of her works is their gentle pace and unhurried witty dialogue - but it was good nonetheless and can be thoroughly recommended.
Having suffered through Persuasion and Mansfield Park I was expecting very little from this production, particularly as the tongue-in-cheek humour in the novel is missed by so many readers. However, Andrew Davies pulled it off (again) mainly by introducing some over-the-top Gothic scenes into the narrative, which helped to set the tone, and padding out some of the minor characters - particularly Thorpe, who was truly repulsive. JJ Field was an amazingly attractive Tilney with his gentle mocking of Catherine and his twinkly eyes. Felicity Jones carried Catherine's wide-eyed innocence and trusting naivety off a treat and I really felt her distress at upsetting Tilney - a nice twist by Andrew Davies which would have made JA proud.
I've really enjoyed that adaptation. It's witty, charming and the
necessary changes brought to the book narrative are clever and do not
jar too much with the original. It made me reread the book, which I
think should always be the effect of a good adaptation.
The actor playing Henry Tilney was charming (maybe more than the book Henry Tilney in fact) and all the others seemed to fit their roles. Carey Mulligan makes a very effective Isabella Thorpe and plays her part with subtlety while Felicity Jones looks just naive enough for the role of Catherine. I was only bothered by the choice of William Beck of Robin Hood to play John Thorpe. His physical appearance simply did not seem to fit the character. He is a very good actor but hardly attractive enough to make a valid love-interest for romantic Catherine.
The only reason I do not give it "10" is because of the absurd over-sexualisation of Catherine's dreams or the lending to her of "The Monk" by Thorpe.
This is taking incredible liberties with the historical period in order to "make it relevant" to 21st century viewers which TV film-makers must assume to be incapable of viewing anything with interest if it does not contain overtly sexual contents, though the contrary has been proved again and again.
I was lucky enough to be in the UK the evening this aired on ITV. My British friend and I both sat up to watch and we were both satisfied. Between the two of us, I'm the "Janeite" but she truly enjoyed this adaptation as well. It's important to remember that Jane Austen's books will always outshine the movie adaptations. It's impossible to do full justice to her writing. Northanger Abbey has always been a secret favorite - I realize it's not as "serious" as the other 5 books, but I must admit I've got a real fondness for Henry Tilney. JJ Field fills the role perfectly and stands out as the star in my opinion. Felicity Jones is also very good as Catherine. The supporting actors are exceptional - and I agree with others that it's a shame we don't see more of William Beck as John Thorpe, absolutely brilliant casting! I'm looking forward to all three adaptations coming to the states - and I'd encourage anyone to try this version of Northanger Abbey out!
*** This review may contain spoilers ***
I was kinda disappointed with 'Mansfield Park', so I was definitely
hoping for an improvement when I tuned into 'Northanger Abbey'.
I was instantly hooked. As a lover of romantic stories, I loved the cute relationship between Henry and Catherine. (The kiss at the end is v.sweet!).
Felicity Jones was great as Catherine Morland, and so was JJ Field as Henry Tilney. I think they had great chemistry, (and I love the bit where he strokes the mud off her face.) I would like to see more of them in the near future.
I found the fantasy sequences v. intriguing- it was like seeing right into Catherine's warped imagination.
This is a really lovely TV/film version of this book, and of course...
the script is by master adapter Andrew Davies. He is just magnificent.
Carey Mulligen (Bleak House, The Amazing Mrs. Prichard) is a young
actress who really understands period drama, and can bring her full
self to it without seeming modern. She is excellently cast as the "bad"
friend of the lead.
Catherine Walker gives us an excellent interpretation of the "good" friend, and JJ Field gives us the most charming Henry Tilney. He is handsome and smart and fun and good. (The stuff of a girl's dreams, as he is supposed to be.)
Despite the short running time length, everything is here that needs to be here, and the costumes in this are gloriously beautiful, and tell us a lot about the character. We have only to look at the neckline of Isabella & Eleanor's dresses to know all we need to know about them.
Felicity Jones as our lead Catherine is just perfect... all the right notes. I did enjoy the version done in the 1980s?... even though the fantasy sections were very modern pop-punk with music by "art of noise." It worked... but this current one will be much more enjoyed by the purists. ENJOY this masterful adaptation!
*** This review may contain spoilers ***
Altogether a decent adaptation of Northanger Abbey, but not the best. A
few quibbling details took away some of my enjoyment but on the whole,
it was good hour-and-a-half of literary fun and looks to be better than
next week's Mansfield Park.
Pros: 1. It was well-cast.
JJ Feild was, appearance-wise, pitch-perfect as my beloved Henry Tilney. He looks just as Jane Austen described him: dark haired, tall, though he stooped a bit much for one whose "address was good." Also, he was pleasing to the eye without being jaw-droppingly handsome. I liked his voice very much -- it was similar in pitch actually to Mark Dymond's, which seemed to indicate kinship, to me, anyway. On his interpretation, it may have been a bit too morose at times for my conception of Henry -- he always struck me as buoyantly confident -- but while I generally see Henry as a bit zanier, I rather liked Feild's more deadpan spin.
Felicity Jones also was a good bit of casting. She looked like Catherine Morland as I imagined her -- freshly pretty without being overwhelmingly so -- and I liked very much her Catherine. She was innocent without being irritatingly saccharine, and I found her transition as believable as it possibly could be in the compressed amount of time.
Mark Dymond was very dashing as Frederick Tilney, Carey Mulligan and Catherine Walker as Isabella and Eleanor played their contrasting parts astonishingly well, Sylvestra La Touzel was amusingly shallow, and William Beck was appropriately boorish and stupid. Good.
2. The good parts of the dream sequences. I liked the illumination of Catherine's fantasies, although I really would have liked to hear more of the witty dialogue between Catherine and Henry and a scene at Woodston more along the lines of the book. We fall in love with Pemberley and Darcy, with Donwell Abbey and Knightley; I really wanted to see Henry in his native environment.
3. Dancing and women's costumes. Very nicely done. Catherine's dresses were appropriately simple for her character, Eleanor's were rich yet modest, and Isabella's were characteristically flamboyant. As for the dancing, heck, it adds some movement to the Bath scenes.
4. The fact they mostly managed to stick to the tone of the book. Mostly.
Cons: 1. The unneeded sexual references. While not particularly gratuitous -- except for that rather un-Austen-like scene with Isabella and Frederick at the end -- I found them more distracting than anything.
2. The cut of the dialogue. The best parts were the dialogue; the best part of ANY Jane Austen book is often the dialogue. Why cut a good thing? I was totally looking forward to some Henryesque sarcastic monologues.
3. Northanger Abbey. It was SUPPOSED to be modern and pleasant in contrast to Catherine's suppositions. So when I saw dark, creepy interiors, it fell flat for me.
4. The characterization of General Tilney. While he is an unpleasant, greedy man, he was not evil; he accepted Henry and Catherine in the end for goodness' sake. Instead, they made him a one-dimensional, metaphorical "vampire" and more a villain along the lines of what Catherine imagined instead of the "realistic" antagonist he was.
5. The compression of the ending. It moved too swiftly, and I found Henry's proposal a little odd and halting -- since Henry is older than Catherine, I would expect him to be more, I don't know exactly, suave? or maybe I'm being unrealistic. The kiss was awkward, but it sort of worked in its awkwardness.
In essence, certain flaws -- the after-sex scene with Isabella and Frederick, the characterization of General Tilney, the occasional unevenness of Henry's portrayal, the references to Byron, etc. -- occasionally teeter the movie slightly into the direction of the melodrama it ISN'T supposed to be, but mostly it succeeds. And heck, I enjoyed myself somewhat, though I suspect Jane probably rolled in her grave a couple of times.
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