Oh dear. When it comes to remakes, or "re-imaginings" or whatever the current vogue is for churning out an old favourite with a new cast, Sir Michael Caine said it best: only remake the flops. It makes perfect sense: if you fail then everyone thinks one can't make a silk purse from a sow's ear, but if you succeed then it's bouquets all round.
But that remaking a classic like James Ivory's film of E. M. Forsters's novel of Edwardian manners is folly of the highest order was borne out last night with this limp and unengaging ITV drama.
Wrapping the action in a clumsy flashback device robbed the story of any freshness or spontaneity, and it quickly became a lot like watching a school play version of one of your favourite films.
There were some interesting touches - Mark WIlliams' closeted Mr Beebe picking up Florentine rentboys would have brought a blush to Forster's cheeks. Also amusing were Mr Beebe's blushes as George Emerson and Freddie Honeychurch shed their clothes for the famous bathing scene. But in order the find the gold there was a good deal of dross.
Comparing any actress to Dame Maggie Smith is unfair, but Sophie Thompson really came off badly - her Miss Bartlett nothing more than the same irritating ticks and tricks she always uses. There was no real person there. Laurence Fox's far-too-handsome Cecil Vyse seemed to be reading his lines from a cue card and far more interested in his clothes than in Lucy.
All in all it makes one deeply fearful for adapter Andrew Davies' upcoming version of Brideshead Revisited.
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