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Comparison with the book and the 2008 version, 30 July 2015

Shortly after reading this book for the first time, I ordered this movie and loved it. I had had rather mixed feelings towards the book while reading it (kind of a love-hate relationship), and this film actually made me like the entire story much better. I liked it so much that only a couple weeks later I ordered the 2008 version, and just finished watching it last night. Wow, what a difference! Although the 2008 one has the advantage of some higher quality filming and an extra hour of screen time (more is usually better in my mind when it comes to my literature-based time period films), I found the newer to be considerably inferior to this one! This version has a MUCH better cast all around. I don't think you can beat this actress's rendition of Tess; I knew she was good in it, but couldn't fully appreciate HOW good until I saw the other version. 1998 Tess is way more convincing than 2008 Tess. My heart goes out to her, whereas 2008 Tess actually got on my nerves. 1998 Angel is much much better as well. The difference in both roles is astounding. I even thought the smaller parts, like Tess's parents and the other milkmaids, were better done in this one. The only exception I make, is that I did think the 2008 Alec D'Urberville more like how I pictured him when I read the book; 1998 Alec does a fine job, is more subtle in his portrayal, but simply does not match so much what I thought he would look and sound like.

Although there is an hour less in this film than the other, I still felt like this one is more generally accurate. I am much more tolerant of deletions from book to film (of course they can't fit everything in) than I am about alterations. There was more material in the 2008 version, but they took more liberties, which simply annoys me. This version, while it couldn't have every detail, what was there was very accurate for the most part. And it captures the story in its entirety quite well for its time constraints.

If you're a Jane Austen fan (as I am), understand that this is NOT a Jane Austen story, which tend to be like fairy tales with happy endings; there are "bad guys" in her books, but they are not a real hindrance to the real heroines. This is a grittier story, not set in the posh genteel society of the gentry and nobility; lots of low people, lots of hard labor, lots of reality. And there are the "bad guys", and then those characters which tread the line between "good" and "bad". It's definitely more complex, definitely more drama, but very worthwhile if you're up to it and know what you're getting into. If it is your first experience with this story, don't expect your viewing to be a relaxing ride. There is plenty to make you furious, happy, sad...lots of strong emotions.

When I first read this book, it was something of an emotional roller coaster (I'd absolutely adore one character, only to hate them intensely a few chapters later, and so on), but now that I'm more familiar with the story, I can appreciate it better. It sinks under your skin and makes you keep thinking about it. This movie leaves you like that, too. It's an excellent rendition of an excellent book.

1 out of 2 people found the following review useful:
Comparison with the book and the 1998 version, 30 July 2015

I read the book and then watched this version and the 1998 version, all within the span of a couple months, so it is all quite fresh in my mind. My immediate response is that I did not like this version of the movie nearly as well as the 1998 version. The filming quality is rather better, because 10 years newer, and there are subtitles on the DVD, which are advantages. Also this version is an hour longer, so there are a few additional scenes that the other one didn't have. But even for all that, I feel that it's an inferior production.

I think hands down the cast in the 1998 version was better, EXCEPT for Alec D'Urberville, who seems closer to what I pictured him as in the book. The 2008 Tess's voice and mannerisms actually got on my nerves. Her look, voice, movements, and acting style all reminded me extremely of Jennifer Garner; she could easily pass for her little sister. Now, I think Jennifer Garner is great in a romantic comedy, but I would never cast her in a time-period drama. That style just does not work in a piece like this. I thought at first that maybe they were having the actress act very immature and use a babyish voice on purpose early in the film, so that it could alter as she grew up, but even after everything Tess goes through and all the growing up she does, the actress comes off extremely juvenile. I just had trouble taking her seriously. The 1998 Tess is way more convincing in the role. The 2008 Angel, I had read previously several complaints about his acting being rather flat, and I pretty much have to agree (though I had hoped to find him otherwise). He also has the problem of coming across simply too young. The actor was in fact the same age as Angel is said to be (26), but he looks very young for his age and again it is difficult to take him seriously. Granted that people got married young, but these two actors look too much like highschoolers with a crush on each other, rather than a convincing romance.

Even though there was more material, and therefore a few more scenes, there were more inaccuracies (altering the material rather than simply cutting it) in what it had than in the 1998 version. In general I'd say it followed the book quite closely, considering, but not as closely as the other one. There were several times I just cringed with "But that's not how it happened..." A few things they did treat more accurately, like the last few minutes of the movie.

I'm a big fan of soundtracks on time period films, so I think this is important to a good movie. This soundtrack was very prettily recorded, and I think on its own might make good music, but I frequently felt like the music did not really match up with the scene very well, which can be more distracting than cheaply budgeted music. The 1998 music is less impressive in quality, in my opinion, but worked better for the most part. The costumes and the scenery are beautiful, however.

Also, as a warning, there are 2 rather vivid sex scenes in this film. This and some of the subject matter may make this movie inappropriate for young children.

I came away from the 1998 version liking the book/story better than I had; and I came away from the 2008 version liking it less. This version simply did not carry as much power with it, and I never felt myself feeling for the characters as much as I did in the other one. Still, if you're into this genre or like comparing different versions (as I do), I wouldn't say not to watch it. But I don't recommend this being your only exposure to this intriguing and intense story. It's one that I had mixed feelings about as I read it, but has rather grown on me as it has sunk in more. And perhaps this version will grow on me as well, as I get more used to it.

Nowhere near the book, but even better!, 29 June 2015

99% of the time I'm a staunch purist. A classic book should be portrayed on film as close to the original as possible, leaving room for the necessary conversions of text to screen. That being said, there are exceptions to every rule, and this movie is one of them.

I had not read the book prior to watching this movie, but had read IMDb reviews that it was far from accurate, so I was skeptical going into it. The movie, in fact, was outstanding! I was riveted, drawn into the story, and anxious to find out what happened next. It was fascinating and intriguing. I think the best comparison I can make with it is a Dickens story set about 150 years earlier than his books. It's dark and gritty, highlighting the lowlifes of society and the shortcomings of the society that contributes to make these lowlifes. Yet there is considerable irony and a bit of humor to counteract the darkness. Love, life, death, joy, grief, sickness, deprivation, aspiration.... It is in short a microcosm of life as it is today, but through the window of days past. One feels the emotions that the characters are experiencing, because they are feelings we've already experienced ourselves. However, although this movie is frequently tragic, it is not a tragedy. I could not recommend it so highly if it was, because I don't like to walk away from a movie feeling depressed.

I liked the movie so much that I began reading the book that very night, and I finished it 8 days later. Where did the book differ from the movie? It would be easier to state where they resembled each other! I would have been hard-pressed to see any similarity between the two had they been published under different titles. For one thing, the book covers the title character's entire life up past the age of 60, whereas the movie only takes her up to maybe 30, and what goes on in that time frame is widely different from what goes on in the book.

In the movie makers' defense, they do have in the opening credits the following caveat: "Based on a character in a novel by Daniel Defoe". Okay, so it's based on the CHARACTER of Moll Flanders, not on the story itself. That's a legitimate, though tiny-print, concept. However, even the CHARACTER of Moll Flanders in the movie is quite different from the book. One big digression (out of many) is that movie-Moll has strong paternal, motherly characteristics, whereas book-Moll has essentially none. Secondly, Moll's name isn't even really Moll in the book; it never tells us her real name, and "Moll Flanders" is merely one of her many aliases, and one that she doesn't pick up until her 50s.

I can't possibly go into all the digressions. It would be boring and overextend the 1000 words limit. Suffice it to say, there is scarcely a shadow of similarity between the one and the other. If you have read the book, disregard the title and watch this as its own entity. If you haven't read the book, no need to worry about seeing any spoilers that might ruin a future reading. There is almost no overlap.

However, in spite of this "sin" of gross inaccuracy, I LOVED the movie, and I thought the book was only mediocre. The movie had a great plot development; the book has almost no plot. It was first published in 1722 and, like much early fiction, is mostly just a chain of events. We are told the many escapades of Moll Flanders, but there is no real story arc. (I'm not saying don't read it, just know what you're getting into; it's interesting, but not terribly fulfilling as a novel, in the modern sense of the genre.)

I was impressed with Robin Wright's performance (as Moll). I had thought little of her acting in "Princess Bride", and almost didn't watch the film because she had the title role; but she did a much better job in this film, and showed a much fuller range of acting ability and emotion. The other actors also filled their roles superbly. And the settings and costumes were magnificently done.

One thing that may affect your opinion of this movie is the content. By all standards I've ever watched, this ought to be R-rated. It's not extremely explicit (hence it is not in fact R), but it is considerably so for a PG-13, and I would be cautious showing this to young viewers. Not just for sexuality, but also for some rather graphic scenes (including blood) and overall mature themes.

However, for a mature viewer I think this was a fantastic movie with a great storyline. It's very thought-provoking, and the impression of it still lingers with me a couple weeks later. The writers used Defoe's book as a springboard to better ideas and a more cohesive and rewarding story. It would have been more accurate to have said that it was "inspired by" Defoe's book, rather than "based on", but it is one of those rare cases where the movie is in fact better than the book.

"Based on the novel by Jane Austen AND journals and letters", 29 June 2015

*** This review may contain spoilers ***

If one reads the opening credits, shortly after the young Fanny climbs into the carriage at the beginning of film, you will find the words "Based on the novel by Jane Austen, Mansfield Park, early journals and letters". Therefore the movie makers do indicate that this movie is NOT purely a book adaptation, albeit in small print. In truth, this movie is half "Mansfield Park", half "Becoming Jane".

I would have been very upset with the film if I had not read the above-mentioned caveat (even having been fore-warned by IMDb users that this movie was highly inaccurate), but knowing this made the world of difference in understanding WHY they made the changes that they did.

Fanny doubles up in character as Jane Austen herself, which is the biggest flaw in the plan, seeing as most interpretations of Jane portray a very independent woman--quite the polar opposite of Fanny Price. The problem is, the director or writer didn't quite make up their mind which way to portray Fanny/Jane, so sometimes she is outgoing and feisty, and sometimes shy and submissive, so the character in the movie is very inconsistent.

Edmund, Fanny's cousin, doubles up as Jane's beloved brother, Henry. Edmund falls for Mary Crawford; Henry Austen fell for his older widowed cousin Eliza de Feuillide, against the wishes of his sister Jane and the rest of the family. This coincides with Fanny disliking Edmund's affection for Mary, and also gives an excuse for picking an actress of whom my first impression was, "She's too old to play Mary." And Fanny's unladylike playfulness with Edmund makes more sense in the light of how Jane likely behaved with Henry.

Henry Crawford doubles up as Tom Lefroy, the source of some speculated flirtation in Jane's life, as well as Harris Bigg-Wither, the man from whom Jane accepts a proposal one day and retracts it the following morning. This is the reason why they make Fanny in the movie accept Henry Crawford and then decline him, even though in the book Fanny declines him consistently and emphatically. It was tempting in both cases to marry someone with financial competency. And I think the Tom Lefroy side of it is why they have Fanny engage in some verbal jousting and teasing with Henry Crawford and have her enjoying his company on occasion.

Fanny's correspondent and best sibling-friend in the book is her brother William. Her sister Susan is substituted in this role in the movie to play the fill-in Cassandra, Jane's only sister and her confidante, frequently by extensive correspondence whenever they were separated.

Other tie-ins to Jane Austen's life is that they have Fanny being an aspiring writer. Fanny writes a "History of England", as Jane did in earlier years, and it appears that the lines Fanny says in the movie about some of the kings of England may be snippets from that writing. When Edmund refers to Fanny having a new modern way of writing, it is because she was parodying older history books. The other stories she concocts and relates to her sister appear to come from other pieces in Jane's "Juvenilia".

Understanding that the movie makers were combining fiction with biography made the digression from the novel's plot more understandable, but I think they should have taken more effort to make this apparent to viewers. No one in their right mind should put the title of a Jane Austen book on a movie that does not closely follow the story for fear of raising the hackles of the many purists out there (myself among them). It was an interesting idea they had, but not well-advertised enough of a concept to excuse themselves. If they had even tweaked the title a little, such as "Jane's Mansfield Park", it might have better alerted the audience that the movie is not just the book verbatim and has more to do with Jane herself.

Now, I like the idea, once presented as such, but was it well-executed? Moderately so. The big problem was, as I suggested, having one actor filling two roles simultaneously, rolled up together. Fanny came out a bit wishy-washy. Edmund did all right generally, but it was hard to see that he ever really loved Mary with the infatuated devotion he has for her in the book, which makes Fanny's fear of losing him less grounded. Fanny's unwavering love for Edmund (in the book) is diminished, as well, because of her flirtations and temporary acceptance of Henry (in the movie). And of course the entire plot is rather rushed through to try to fit in 2 hours--a problem for any Austen novel--so many details and character development are lost.

However, in spite of the negatives, and in spite of wishing this had been a purist adaptation, we still are left with an enjoyable Regency-era movie, full of great sets and pretty costumes (a few looked a bit "off" to me as far as accuracy goes, but we'll set that aside and try to appreciate the aesthetics as they are). It's a basic time-period rom-com, if not a true work of Austen, and as such I intend to like it for its own merits, in its own right, and not for its namesake.

And considering that many readers dislike Fanny as an Austen heroine, changing her character likely made this more appealing to a broader audience; if you are one such reader, you may find this movie even better than the book. (I think Fanny is grossly underrated as a heroine, but that is another argument.)

If you are on the fence about whether to watch this (as I have been for years, before finally deciding to give it a chance), make up your mind to pretend this is a different story altogether, not "Mansfield Park", and perhaps you will find room to like it.

1 out of 1 people found the following review useful:
Comparison with the book and the 1998 version, 10 June 2015

I read this book for the first time about 2 months ago and loved it! I read a lot of classic literature, and many books I esteem better than enjoy, but this one I enjoyed far above average.

So how accurate was this movie to the book? Well, any classic novel cut down to 2 hours is naturally going to be missing pieces. I'd say that of the main events and important conversations, about 2/3 is present. (I was most astonished and dismayed at the total disappearance of an important scene between Boldwood and Troy outside of Bathsheba's house, and I think that they could have cut some of what they put in to keep this scene.) Of what is in the movie, I'd say that only about 2/3 of it actually happened the way it happened in the book.

Between these two numbers I've given you, I mean that the movie people cut stuff out from the book and added stuff in that wasn't in the book or changed it from the original intent. This is standard fare for Hollywood versions of great literature, and it wasn't a total botch. It was still enjoyable, still captured the essence of the original book and plot, and I hope to add it to my movie collection eventually.

That being said, I recently bought the 1998 PBS version (and saw it about 2 weeks before seeing this one at the theater), and it is by far the more accurate and more thorough of the two (being twice as long). The new one has better filming and a better soundtrack--it is definitely more aesthetically pleasing--but if you're a purist, or want to see some of the holes left in the story without having to read the book, try the PBS one. It's less of eye candy, but other than that, very well done.

One of my other big complaints about this version is that their actress for Bathsheba (though I like her in general) is simply getting too old to pull off this role convincingly. Bathsheba is about 18 years old in the book, and her immaturity is a big explanation for some of the foolish and flighty things she does. What is forgivable in an 18-year old is irritating or simply doesn't make sense in an actress who just turned 30. Carey Mulligan is still beautiful (I think she'd be more beautiful if she weren't so thin), but simply was a mismatch for this part.

I really think that the character of Boldwood was underdeveloped as a whole in this movie. A lot of his scenes were cut, so it's harder to understand him (without previous knowledge of the book or a longer movie), which is a shame because I think this actor was a way better choice than the one used for that role in the 1998 version.

Then the ending--I won't go into detail because I like to keep my reviews spoiler-free--but the big finale of the story completely falls flat because they altered so many little pieces of it (the main events happen, but not in the way or in the setting that they did in the book). Again, I think they should have stolen some extra minutes from somewhere else in the movie and put a little more effort into this. It's not enough of a problem to ruin the movie or make you walk out of it feeling bent out of shape (the very last 5 min or so are pleasing enough to leave you on a good note), but hopefully it will confuse or bother you just enough to make you want to read the book to see how it really panned out.

Overall, I did like the movie. It made for a relaxing evening in Victorian England, which I always love. It was beautiful to the eyes and ears. If you haven't read the book and like the movie, it's a good reason to go and read it! And if you didn't like the movie, it's a good reason to go read it, also, so you can find out why the book is better! :)

4 out of 4 people found the following review useful:
Comparison with the book and with the 2015 version, 9 June 2015

I just finished writing my review for the 2015 version. I saw both versions within 2 weeks of each other for the first time and only 2 months after reading the book for the first time (absolutely loved it!!!).

Of the two movie versions I've seen, this is by far and away the more accurate of the two. Not surprising that Masterpiece Theater would trump Hollywood in that field, especially considering the runtime is twice as long. Granted that the 2015 version is much prettier to look at, I just think a digitally remastered Blu-ray release is what this version really needs. And new cover art! Rarely have I found such awful-looking cover art concealing such a good movie.

The actress for Bathsheba in this movie is way more age-appropriate (she's supposed to be about 18) for this part than Carey Mulligan (who just turned 30) in the new one. Her playfulness and flightiness make more sense at her young age. Paloma Baeza seems less confident as an actress than she is in "The Way We Live Now" (love her in that movie), but since the character Bathsheba is often conflicted about what she should do, it works for the role.

Oak and Troy were well-cast, I thought. The actor for Oak surprised me as a choice at first (I knew him best from the 1998 "Vanity Fair"), but then he seemed to fit quite well. And this Troy did a much better job than the one in the 2015 version, in my opinion.

I really did not like the actor for Boldwood at all at first (sorry, but he seems a bit creepy and his mouth always looks upside-down to me), but I'm watching this through a second time and he's bothering me much less than he did the first time, as I'm getting more used to him. He's still a bit too old for the part. Hardy describes him (I thought at the time I read it that it was a very clever description) thus: "Apparently he had some time ago reached that entrance to middle age at which a man's aspect naturally ceases to alter for the term of a dozen years or so.... Thirty-five and fifty were his limits of variation--he might have been either, or anywhere between the two." Nigel Terry was 53 at the time he made this, but easily looks 60 or older.

Just as a warning, there are a few brief scenes that are not appropriate for children. I tend to make the mistake sometimes in thinking that all PBS movies will be at PG standards (I wish they would), but that is not always the case. It is not extremely explicit (perhaps I will add a parental advisory note for this), but definitely gets to PG-13 content a few times.

Overall this is a very good and mostly faithful rendition of a great book. I'd venture to say that about 90% of this version is portrayed close (maybe shortened or adjusted for the screen, but generally true to the original characters' actions/intents) to what was in the book. And with almost 4 hours of viewing time, they are able to cover most of the story quite thoroughly, including spending some time showing the many minor characters as distinct individuals (which is something that the 2015 version has no time to do, to its loss, as much of the book is spent in the conversations of the farm hands).

I plan to watch this frequently, and if they do make a Blu-ray release, I plan to upgrade as soon as possible!

6 out of 12 people found the following review useful:
Owen and Vince = great combo, BUT...., 14 June 2013

What could be better than a comedy with Owen Wilson and Vince Vaughn? Well, maybe another one.

I do like both of these actors a lot, and I was very excited about seeing another movie with the two of them starring together. But unfortunately it fell rather flat and often dragged on. After all, there aren't many 2 hour comedies out there, I think for a good reason.

A lot of the focus ended up shifting to the "misfit" college-age interns that Owen and Vince were teamed with, and long sidetracks in plot spent...going kinda nowhere. There were several times where I was really wondering "Why in the world do they have this scene? Or at least why did they spend 15-20 minutes on it instead of 4-5?"

Then of course there is the "love angle", but this felt very forced and contrived. I never felt that Owen and his lady love really had anything going on--other than the fact that script-writers/director/etc WANTED them to have something going on, and kinda shoved it into the crevices of the movie here and there, presumably hoping to please the female audience with some of that "awww" factor.

Most of the movie is spent in more or less humorous situations, where our underdog heroes seem destined to flop but must band together and rally the team effort. The other main part of the movie is the Owince duo trying to "educate" the misfits on "real life". With a touch of (also contrived) character-defining drama to show that there has been some sort of development/progression. Otherwise it's mostly a series of loosely-banded comedy skits.

But even the comedy was not at its height, and neither Owen nor Vince really shone like I've seen them do in other movies. Casually enjoyable, but I was far from rolling in the aisles (I think I chuckled a couple times). Worth a watch, if you're already fans and keep your expectations low, but nothing that can't wait for a DVD rental.

5 out of 6 people found the following review useful:
Thoughts from a Jane Austen fan..., 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.

5 out of 10 people found the following review useful:
A perfect mix of Cute and Serious, 29 July 2011

A surprising movie on many levels. Sassy humor mixed with grounding reality. The story seems to sprawl a little, in the way it goes all over the place at times, and yet it manages to create a fun gem of an evening. I haven't laughed so hard in a theater in a long time--and it wasn't over the crude humor that so often gets the crowds going (which I don't care for). Yes, there is crude humor--it seems to come with the territory in Steve Carell movies--but that is not the basis for what makes this movie great. Nor is it "great" in the sense that I expect it to land a bunch of award nominations. But if you're looking for a movie that mimics life, but presents it in an entertaining way, you'll probably enjoy this one. The actors portray their characters well, the plot twists keep it interesting, and it is really a deeper story than the surface value suggests.

Date Night (2010)
3 out of 8 people found the following review useful:
Funny, but weak plot, 10 April 2010

Basically the age old plot of a middle aged couple whose lives have become mundane and boring, but somehow the boring gets shaken up. The relationship between the two main actors was very well portrayed, and, I thought, the funniest part of the movie for much of its realism.

Many of the lines were very funny. But also sometimes very crude. Perhaps to be expected, given the actors, but it seemed that often for lack of any real humor, they found it convenient simply to throw in an anatomical reference.

They also have a number of well-filmed action sequences, including a very original car chase, filled with both laughter and suspense.

The biggest downfall of the movie is the plot. It starts out clear cut enough--mistaken identities, blackmail, bad guy, good guy... But then when it comes to tying it all together, the job gets a little sloppy, and while you may come out of the theater laughing, you may drive home wondering, "Wait a exactly did that work out?" I did finally figure some of these loose ends out, but only after deep reflection into earlier parts of the movie. It just wasn't very clear.

But, if you would enjoy watching the equivalent of some humorous and well-played comedy skits, tied in with some decent (though not stupendous) action sequences, you'll probably be very happy with the film.

In short, I did enjoy the movie (especially the acting by Steve Carell and Tina Fey), but I wish they would have taken the time to secure a better wrap up and cut back on some of the crude. Not one I'll buy, but it did make for an entertaining outing with plenty of laughs.

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