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Has some things to admire, but felt rather bland and doesn't hold a candle to the 1969 film
As a standalone, this mini-series of Women in Love(also mixed with The Rainbow) is a mixed bag with some things that are done very well. As an adaptation however, "purists" are most likely to find very little to like, in this respect the mini-series is poor. I always make a conscientious effort to judge adaptations on its own terms, but while Women in Love(2011) is not terrible on its own and is nowhere near as unwatchable as the Amazon reviewers made it out to be it just felt rather bland and one of those rare cases where it is very difficult not to compare.
Ken Russell's 1969 film is just brilliant and is not to be missed if you haven't already. As an adaptation it is one of the best ever where it is very clear that Russell really understood the book and the meaning of all the storytelling and characterisation(especially in the infamous nude wrestling scene). It is also easily his best film, as well as one of his most restrained and coherent, devoid of any of the excesses that he would resort to later on, and contains a towering performance from Glenda Jackson and a career-best from Oliver Reed.
Let's start with the good things about the mini-series. The production values are very well-done, the scenery is just gorgeous and it's superbly shot. The music is understated without being one-note, repetitive or syrupy. There is some thoughtful and witty script-writing that does often stick to D.H. Lawrence's style relatively closely, while the storytelling does maintain some of the bleak and unpleasant nature of that in the book in the first part. The cast mostly do a good job, granted they are nowhere near as good as the cast in the 1969 film but judged on their own while very different they don't do a bad job at all. Particularly good are Saskia Reeves and Ben Daniels as the parents- he authoritative and she incredibly moving, their characters are handled very strongly and memorably- and Rachel Stirling, Ursula is the heart of the story and Stirling is terrific and brings a lot of heart to the role. Rosamund Pike's interpretation of Gudrun is very different to Glenda Jackson's, softer, more cunning and more feminine, but those traits are interesting and handled well and suit Pike well.
Not all the performances work. Roy Kinnear for my tastes does play Birkin as too much of a wimp and could have brought out the character's charm and wit more. Joseph Mawle has his moments, Gerald is one of those dangerous-under-the-surface characters that Mawle does sometimes bring out but most of the time he is so boorish and dull that the emotional intensity doesn't come over as well as it could have done. Women in Love(2011) suffers other problems too, the dialogue can get over-explanatory and some is cringe-worthy especially in the nude wrestling/squabble scene on the beach, the film completely understood the meaning of this scene but the mini-series misses the point and handles it a little indifferently. The storytelling as said already has parts where it's done well in the first part, but there is not enough emotional intensity and the second half becomes muddled and leaden with a lack of tension. Scenes felt bland, the drowning scene was harrowing in the film and book but very downplayed here, Gerald's death and the aftermath was heart-breaking before but here indifferently handled and I do agree that the Skrebensky scenes from The Rainbow were pointless and just confused the drama rather than giving the story more dramatic purpose. The characters are written well sometimes especially the parents but a lot of the time they do fail to be interesting, their development is mostly very sketchy and the interaction between them is often devoid of emotion and intensity, especially that of Gerald and Gudrun, that Mawle isn't believable doesn't help matters.
Overall, has some things to admire, especially the production values and most of the cast, and not bad on its own but on the most part it was rather bland and pales in comparison to the film version. 5/10 Bethany Cox
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