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Career interests based around photography and general craftwork.
Flowers in the Attic (1987)
They had a go, but they should have made a miniseries instead
I only saw the last hour of Flowers in the Attic - having read the book as a teenager, I found the narrative entertaining at the time but slightly over-dramatic as I got older, although it is a decent novel for the teenager/young adult market. I have, however, also read less than flattering reviews of this film and now I can see why. It reduced the storyline a little too much - the drama is never really at any sort of peak. You feel as though they filmed a longer version but cut out the most dramatic turning points to fit the estimated running time. Strange choice too, to feature the wedding considering that - at the point in the novel where Chris revealed the fate of his grandfather - all they really wanted to do was get away. The last thing the siblings wanted in the book (and, I thought, in the film - up to this moment) was to be around their mother.
Chris is oddly cast - he talks like a teenager but he looks about 27, I presume they substituted him calling her "Momma" for "Mom" because the first name sounds too old-fashioned, given the date when the film was released but it doesn't give the film any sense of time. Cathy looks very "80s" in the second hour - she could almost look like the girl in the Take On Me video by a-Ha with her hair cut (at least in the earlier part of the film, her hair is a convincing 1950s type of style) but she has got that self-preservation ethos and manner of asking the very questions that a teenager would ask and which a mother like hers wouldn't want to have to answer, so the personality is captured quite well. She seems a bit whiny at times, but then, so was the Cathy in the book.
The grandmother's dresses are very like they are described in the book and they have got some continuity with Carrie's hair getting longer and longer.The twins aren't badly cast, but the mother seems moronic (I know she was in the book, but she is always talking in this breathy "excited whisper", although her tantrums when the kids get fed up with her show at least one other emotion and she is a very "spoilt brat" - very like in the book, in fact). The wardrobe department must have had a massive stock of white material that they had to use up, though. In the book Cathy is always describing her mother as wearing richly coloured clothes yet in the evening ball or dance (or whatever it was) scene, all the extras are in white - it seems odd.
The "dramatic" bits seemed too obvious - darkness, people hiding behind doors, thumping piano music that somebody obviously equated with "scary". The nearly-escape scene contains every cliché going - guard dogs barking, man with a gun on patrol (he was slow to react, given that the dogs had been barking for about five minutes), rope breaking. It's almost Sylvester and Tweety Pie.
The vocal, semi-Gregorian chanting gets annoying - I think it's supposed to be creepy. The shot of Cory's grave being filled in looked convincing enough to start with but the idea of a further three graves being dug out and waiting to be filled seems contrived and frankly stupid - if you're going to kill somebody (especially if you're trying to keep it a secret) I don't think most intelligent killers would have ready-made graves on standby to be filled in as the body count rose. We are then supposed to believe that Corrine's new husband had no idea that she had children with her first husband! (In the book this is true.) Had he gone for a walk around the estate shown in this film, he couldn't have failed to note three gaping holes in the earth! Overall, I suppose the film makers made an attempt at telling the story, but they didn't seem to have a clear vision of its purpose. Too dramatic and eerie in parts for little children yet the more adult themes from the novel (obviously, the incestuous relationship between Chris and Cathy, and the violent beatings and/or whippings inflicted on Corrine Foxworth and her children - which are, to my mind, memorable events from the original novel) are ignored so completely that it is becomes just another "dysfunctional family" film.
The real problem, though, is that you can't effectively dramatise Flowers In The Attic in the two-hour time frame of the average film. You need a miniseries for that - perhaps the film makers recognised this here and that was why they cut out so much of the content?
The Good Life (1975)
Perhaps in today's consumer culture, we could learn something?
It’s not easy to describe this series quickly - there are so many elements that make it work, from the constant ideas and setbacks surrounding Tom and Barbara’s self-sufficient life to the benefits and regrets it brings, to the excellent contrast between the simpler existence of the Goods and their social-climbing neighbours, the Leadbetters.
The relationships between the two couples (Tom and Barbara, Margo and Jerry) is interesting - although this was of course made in the 1970s when the second wave of the women’s movement was coming into swing, Tom often comes across as a little bit domineering and ready to overrule Barbara. The gut reaction of today’s viewer might be to dismiss him as a bit of a male chauvinist or someone who can’t understand how women think (one episode that springs to mind is when he cannot fathom why it is so disastrous to Barbara when her best dress is accidentally ruined - although she is happy to live the self-sufficient life alongside him, like most of us she is only human and wants to get “dressed up” just occasionally) but on the other hand, are Margo and Jerry any happier? In some ways, I suspect not. Yes, Jerry has a good job, a nice car, a house that the snobbish Margo keeps in immaculate order (to be more precise, as Jerry once mentions, the Pearsons keep it in order - Mrs. Pearson cleans the place, Mr. Pearson does the garden), many friends to entertain and they are seen in the right social circles (Margo makes much of being in the music society - perhaps because she hasn’t got a paid job and needs to fulfil herself somehow?) but the man is henpecked and harangued to within an inch of his life by his somewhat spoiled wife. (She overdramatises, in one instance, his “cruelty” in refusing to sign a cheque for an ornamental spinning wheel that she wants - it is possibly the only time he ever denies her anything!) So although Barbara and Tom don’t have the most glamorous existence, their struggles are arguably more elemental, more crucial. The harvesting of vegetables being threatened by stormy weather actually could be the difference between them getting through winter and going hungry. And their positive moments - the survival of the piglet, for instance - are all the more positive because of it.
The Supersizers Go... (2007)
Now here's something that makes the licence fee worth it!
This series finished only a couple of weeks ago and I still miss it. Originally there was a one-off about how the Edwardians ate, shown some time ago, and clearly some genius had the foresight to expand on the idea. In some ways this is even better than costume drama - as a child, I was always writing stories about historical times because I wanted characters who lived in a time when flouncy dresses, cravats and top hats were the latest in fashion, but where I always fell apart was not knowing enough about how my characters might have lived.
So for someone to come up with this idea was not just informative but educational and entertaining, too. I think Sue Perkins rather enjoyed herself making this - the episode that instantly springs to mind is the one including a Victorian dinner party where she, as the crinolined lady of the house got what can only be described as hammered on all the alcohol being served. But after the entertainment for the viewers at home came some education as the makers used Sue's hungover remorse to show how a well-off lady might salve her social conscience by helping out in a soup kitchen for the poor.
True, there were some revolting things on offer - a whole boiled sheep's head served up at the dinner table could have put even me off, and I'm a committed meat eater. The Regency cheese with complimentary maggots was another great example. But everything was shown in context - each week set out as a week in the life of a Regency or World War Two or Stuart or Elizabethan or Victorian or 1970s couple might have been - and Giles and Sue were brutally honest about the effects the diets had on their digestive system, energy levels, mental state and general wellbeing.
Which must mean that old line is true - the past would be nice to visit but you wouldn't want to live there. (Except perhaps the Victorian era - it was uncanny just how similar some meals and some groceries were to what you might find in your local supermarket today.)
Mansfield Park (1983)
Simple look but no lack of substance
On the surface, sitting down to watch this miniseries, I can understand why the modern viewer (accustomed to film instead of videotape, and filming budgets and schedules that go more for locations than sets) might think this Mansfield Park a little dated and less than exciting, but - on the other hand - it was made twenty-five years ago and arguably still has something about it.
Fanny Price, admittedly, is not the most wild or exciting of Austen's heroines. She isn't self-centred and a bit spoilt (as Emma Woodhouse is), she isn't the brave soul who doesn't think twice about walking three miles and turning up muddy at grand houses (as Elizabeth Bennet did at Netherfield) and she doesn't flout convention and leave herself open to gossip and potential ridicule when things go wrong (as Marianne Dashwood did).
Yet the key to Fanny - well played by Sylvestra Le Touzel, I think - is to see how others see her as a walkover. Everybody - even her own brother - seems to want her for their own devices. When the issue of marrying Mr. Crawford comes up, you want to scream for her - nobody believes she is serious about saying no. Lady Bertram (who sounds as if she is possibly slightly under the influence of some kind of drug all the time) manages to be casually manipulative. The other aunt, Mrs. Norris, is such a hypocrite - when things come to a head and Maria and Crawford cause scandal, she has the front to say it's Fanny's fault for refusing to marry Crawford. As Sir Thomas points out, it is Mrs. Norris' neglect. It is good to see that somebody respects Fanny's moral standards. Although wordy, the dialogue used by the aunts is very Austen-like - they start out intending to do one thing, then talk themselves out of it and feel good about the result. Perhaps this isn't the most dramatic adaptation of Austen's work, but the biting edge of her writing is still intact, however nicely dressed up.
Fanny's brother is no better - he says he is glad she is coming home, but all he wants is to utilise her "nice upbringing" to make their home better. Her family talk to her - seeing that she gets in out of the cold and making her tea - but it's all superficial. She has been away for years and nobody asks how she is, what interests her, whether she likes it at the park. She is very much an overlooked character and in this adaptation you cannot help but sense that.
One strong point is the costume department. There is a good distinction between Mary's ultra-fashionable look and Fanny's simple wardrobe and plainer hairstyle. And yet, looking closely, without changing her hair, Fanny looks comparatively more decorated and dressed up when put next to her sister Susan at home. The older ladies - while trimmed up appropriately if wealthy - keep to the 1780s clothing and hairstyles that they must have worn when young whereas the younger women have more up-to-the-minute empire line looks. You could say that the colours of clothing are quite drab and uninteresting, but this probably period-correct as the Regency made the pale colours of the classical period very fashionable and artificial dyes had not been invented. Similarly, the choice of furnishings are excellent - contrast the laden tables at Mansfield Park with the simple china and the tin plates of the Prices' home.
Overall, although not as exciting perhaps as the 1999 film version, this adaptation is much more faithful to the book and I think takes more time over the subtleties of the plot.
Pride & Prejudice (2005)
Still trying to make up my mind
I don't immediately think this is my favourite interpretation of Jane Austen's novel, but I do not hate it either.
The look is good - rustic England - but the Bennets' home seems a little "farmy". The assembly room (I assume that to be the setting for the first ball) does have a good atmosphere, though - noisy, rowdy, informal, fun English country dancing. (Not in the maypole and morris dancers sense - the type of dancing favoured at this time was actually known as "English Country Dance".) A tiny point I noticed is how "of the period" the windows at the Collins' parsonage look. The one jarring thing was that blue, white and orange ceiling at Pemberley - surrounded by the other decor it seemed tacky in such a grand house.
The wardrobe department doesn't give an impression of any kind of co-ordination. The dress Lizzy wears to the first ball isn't dressy enough (to say balls and such functions were a chance for the unmarried to meet potential partners) - she looks like she should be gardening in it! The Netherfield ball is odd - Caroline Bingley wearing an unusual sleeveless number and Lizzy without gloves, where every other lady (even the extras) is in both gloves and sleeved dresses. Saying that, the striking costume difference when they first arrive at the ball marks them out instantly as "high fashion" people compared to the locals, but their entrance is possibly too dramatic.
Jane looks pretty but Lizzy seems to have coiled her hair, stuck a few hairpins in and hoped for the best. Mary is plain enough to melt into the background - but the family looks mixed when Bingley returns to visit Longbourn - Jane is "dressed up", Kitty and Lizzy are middling and Mary looks like she should be scrubbing the steps.
The Lizzy I envisage doesn't listen at doors to her parents talking (Lydia and Kitty maybe, but not Lizzy) but she is kind - ie. trying to get Jane the carriage to visit Netherfield. Jane listening at the door with her sisters during Mr. Collins' proposal also seems out of character - quite an extroverted action for someone described by Charlotte Lucas as not affectionate enough with Bingley. I missed the absence of Lizzy giving a clear indication after Wickham and Lydia are married that she knows that the story he spun her had a few holes in it.
None of Austen's witty satire on Mr. and Mrs. Bennet's incompatibility is present. I also missed Mr. Bennet's dry wit - he sounds so laid-back, almost half-asleep in some scenes. Although she looks desperate pushing her daughters under Bingley and Darcy's noses as soon as they arrive, Mrs. Bennet obviously cares about their futures - although not shrieky as in the 1995 adaptation, you can see why Darcy finds her behaviour vulgar. When Mr. Collins discreetly asks to speak to Lizzy (as with Bingley and Jane), her haste to clear the room seems like overkill. (Incidentally, why go to the kitchen in the latter scene? Surely they had another "good" room to sit in?) Lydia and Kitty having their hair down adds to their youthful look. They both look about fourteen so it seems odd when Kitty states that she is older by two years. I'm not sure why Mary wears so much black and grey - is she in mourning? Her tears at Netherfield after her piano performance isn't very "Mary-like" - I always thought of her as vain enough to think herself brilliant. There is a nice montage of them all showing themselves up at Netherfield - in a film, time is of the essence and this is an effective way to show a lot in a very short moment.
My crucial issue with the script and dialogue is that, while it is well crafted from Austen's source material, it seems rushed. Darcy (who, incidentally, didn't strike me as handsome) speaks in a rude, clipped, unfriendly way even when surrounded by friends. The Bennets' maid sounds like she's reading her line (although I liked the contrast of this young girl laying out shoes and dresses for girls her own age to attend the Netherfield ball, an occasion she would never be grand enough to attend - it was sad and poignant somehow) and the Bingley footman's "Miss Bennet" introduction sounds silly - I'm sure "Mrs. Bennet and her daughters" would have sufficed.
At Rosings, Lizzy and Lady Catherine seem to be "reading" their lines. Lady Catherine's confrontation with Lizzy regarding Darcy's proposal is also rushed - it's like the film crew only had five minutes of time free in the schedule before lunch to film it. Lizzy's snappy response to her family afterwards is not in keeping with the character Keira Knighley has shown this far - more sulky teenager than witty female. When Darcy first proposes, I think they were hurrying through the script to get out of the rain. They did include many brilliant lines from the book - I especially liked Mr. Collins turning his enquiry about which cousin was responsible for the food into a kind of backhanded compliment by being pleased that the estate can generate enough to afford servants. The only downside is his voice - the "violence of his affection" for Lizzy described in a monotone was ironic.
One small thing I'm not certain of - why is the travelling in this film often done at night? Lady Catherine visits Longbourn at night, Lizzy and the Gardiners come home from Derbyshire at night - do the film makers realise that this was still an era when highwaymen were lurking around at night? I like what the film makers were trying to do - I just can't make up my mind as to whether they achieved it.
My Super Sweet 16 (2005)
There are struggling actors out there who deserve the media exposure more than these brats
What a frightening programme! This type of programme has got to signal the death throes of reality television (please, broadcasters, take the hint). One girl even gets her braces taken off her teeth for the occasion.
The phrase "more money than sense" leaps to mind - maybe it's more a case of "how the other half lives". Watching the TV over my sister's shoulder, I am seeing a teenage girl go into an "I'm going to look stupid in front of all my friends" mood just because the entertainment is cancelled. Because, in essence, this is what it's about - looking good in front of friends and outdoing them. I overhear one girl tell the camera "This is what Priscilla's party is going to be like. Mine will be better" - another is obsessed with making a good impression in front of her friends - why can't she just enjoy her birthday party? Gratitude to the parents for organisation and the funds for such overindulgence doesn't get a look in.
These silly kids, as someone else said, then throw tantrums at the slightest problem, so clearly they are not mature enough to handle such setbacks and probably haven't done enough in their lives to justify having such expense and attention being showered on them. This people truly must have more money than sense - when I was sixteen, my main occupation was keeping on top of my school work in preparation for my GCSEs, but these kids must be extremely lucky. School work doesn't even get a mention - obviously these people are wealthy enough that they don't have to care. (It wouldn't occur to them, for instance, that somewhere in the world, there are people living in the worst poverty imaginable, who would give anything for a fraction of the wealth spent on them. It wouldn't occur to them that there are 16 year olds waiting on tables or stacking supermarket shelves to make themselves a bit of spending money because their families are on the breadline. It wouldn't occur to them that there are people like me, trying to establish their own businesses, who go to local craft fairs selling home-made lavender bags and greetings cards who can come home with as little as £7.50 in earnings on a bad day. They live in another world entirely.) I don't know whether the parents of these girls are being walked all over in their children's quest to hire rappers and MCs and goodness knows what else as entertainment for what is basically a birthday party, whether they are knowingly overindulging their spoilt offspring or whether it is just that they are so rich that the expense of this kind of event is a drop in the ocean. Either way, it is scary beyond belief.
Sense & Sensibility (2008)
A bit rushed in places but otherwise perfect, a great-looking serial
I very much enjoyed this adaptation of Jane Austen's novel. I believe the trick to reviewing adaptations is to compare them with the book and not to any earlier filmed offerings. While I love the 1995 version, there are some parts of this adaptation that are as good as (sometimes better than) that film.
A strong point is the casting of Elinor. While she acts with great maturity, Hattie Morahan looks as young as Elinor should. Her portrayal of the character is excellent - her facial expressions so subtle yet so clear. Just as Col. Brandon looks as if he's been shot on hearing of Marianne's presumed engagement, her Elinor manages the same thing hearing of Lucy's history with Edward. I also approve of her having her painting as an occupation - Marianne had her interests, so Elinor should have hers. Poor Elinor, though, is always picking up the pieces of Marianne's mistakes - after warning Marianne to behave more discreetly, she is left to fend off Mrs. Jennings' insinuations just before her sister gets the letter from Willoughby.
Marianne is just as good - Charity Wakefield looks the innocent seventeen Marianne should be. A touch I love is the way her hairstyle is curly where the sensible Elinor's is straighter, yet after her illness the style becomes more subdued. She captures the naive character perfectly - genuinely can't see anything wrong with her open approval of Willoughby. And she and Mrs. Dashwood not only act in similar ways but look as though they could be mother and daughter. She does act like a teenager would - I don't know if I would call it selfish - but when Willoughby causes her such heartbreak, she asks "Can we go tomorrow?" in the way a teenager believes the world revolves around her.
I'm not keen on Willoughby. I always thought the point of Willoughby was that he was supposed to bowl Marianne over and charm everybody else. He isn't handsome, rather he seems to be at that awkward phase some teenagers go through before they mature into stunning adults, and he just hasn't got there yet. At times, he comes across as smarmy and even arrogant. When he is rude to Mrs. Jennings' enquiries over where he and Marianne slipped away to unchaperoned, he isn't justified - considering how improper such an outing was. When - in another scene - Marianne leaves the room in tears, he doesn't seem remorseful but almost looks pleased. While I felt for Marianne at the ball, I was glad he was made to feel uncomfortable. The 1995 film gave rise to comments from some viewers about how they wished Marianne had ended up with Willoughby - seeing this version, I wouldn't wish him on anyone.
I am glad that the duel was put in - it is skimmed over in one line in the book so it's easy to miss - because it shows that, deep down, Brandon does have the passion and deep feelings that Marianne wants in a partner.
The minor characters are wonderfully cast - the footman has such pride in being able to give Marianne some post after all her pestering, Mr. Palmer conveys bored displeasure in one look. Lucy Steele does the innocence so well yet I hated her within a couple of scenes - so many of her words have double meanings which hurt Elinor. At the dinner party in episode three there was much tension - realising Mrs. Ferrars, Robert, Fanny, John, the Steeles and the Dashwoods were about to dine together, I knew it would be a hellish evening before the food was even served. Fanny is terrifying in some scenes - her interrogation of Anne Steele (whose accent came right off the page) was like a shark circling a boat. Her tightly styled hair is period perfect and so right for her character - no mercy. I think a mention should be made of Mrs. Jenning's scathing line about her daughter's intelligent - on pointing out Charlotte's embroidery she remarks, "Seven years at a great school and that's all we have to show of it". The good lady seems to walk out of the book when she offers food and drink as cures for a broken heart.
The look of the film is excellent, too. The shells in the opening sequence and the crashing waves give a suitably spartan feel, while the clothes and soft furnishings look correct for the Regency period (particularly the soft colours) - Miss Grey has just the Grecian look of a Regency fashion-plate. The party scene looks like it's lit by candlelight - often evening scenes in period films are unrealistically bright. There are also some beautiful landscape and scenery shots.
The only downside is that certain parts feel a little rushed - Brandon's mysterious departure from Delaford is filmed so abruptly it looks hurried, not mysterious - and the ending is over a little too quickly. I'm sure they could have stolen a minute or two of screen time from Willoughby and Marianne's unchaperoned trip to add it to the end, but other than that I found the adaptation very satisfying.
A tragedy caused by their own time
How to summarise Jude? They say that in the late Victorian era there was a school of thought that almost glorified the state of childhood, believing it to be a perfect time in a person's life when innocence reigned, but I don't believe Thomas Hardy followed this line of thinking. No matter how young, both Jude the father and Jude the son seem weighed down by doom and misery in this film.
I think this film fell under the category of "independent film", which is just as well. Following the Thomas Hardy convention whereby nothing can end happily, Jude ultimately ends with a miserable mood, but in a sense this is perfect. Although it's not the sort of film anyone would want to watch on a "down" day, I'm sure that - had this film been given the Hollywood treatment, the storyline would have been mercilessly rearranged to have a loving happy ending. The problem is, if that happened, it wouldn't be Hardy.
There is something stark about the opening of the film - the scratchy music, the loneliness of the solitary young Jude, the clattering noise of the bird-scarer and yet, combined with the black-and-white filming, it evokes the appropriate mood for the film so easily and so early on. In amongst the winter scenes and the aerial shots that show only a tiny bit of movement in an otherwise still landscape, Jude and Arabella's wedding is possibly the busiest, most colourful scene in the whole film.
Of course, there are also many interesting social and sometimes political issues raised, partly because of the time in which the film is set. Had the story been moved forward a hundred years, there would be nothing remarkable about Sue attending lectures, smoking cigarettes, drinking beer in the pub, visiting Jude without a chaperone. There would be nothing surprising about being educated when you had a job - like Jude's - that didn't require it. But Jude and Sue are tragic in a way - both impulsive people in a world and a time when a commitment like marriage was not to be taken lightly.
There are many bad omens in the film - Aunt Drusilla remarking that "The Fawleys were not meant for marrying" - and the particular tragedy of Jude's character is the way he rushes into things only to regret them later. Though Jude is tragic, his cousin and partner Sue is equally blighted - to watch her change during the film from an irreverent, sparky, impertinent, independent single woman into a tortured, guilty (in her own eyes) shadow of her former self is heartbreaking. Although in some ways women's lives and opportunities were limited in various ways in the nineteenth century, as a female with a job, no husband and no parents or other family, she did have quite a lot of freedom.
Oddly, Jude's wife Arabella is not so different from Sue - she is as forward and daring physically as Sue is intellectually. During their marriage, she and Jude almost reverse roles - she goes out to kill a pig single-handedly when he is too sensitive to do so. There is an interesting contrast between Jude's sex scenes with Arabella and the one he has with Sue. The wedding night with Arabella is warmly lit and cosy, whereas the scene with Sue is stark, almost grey, with a cold feeling and yet in some ways Sue and Jude are more necessary to each other than Arabella and Jude ever were.
On the costume side I note that - as with the more recent Kate Winslet film Finding Neverland - the costumes don't look like fashion plates, they look like real clothes (occasionally none too clean but when you take into account how time-consuming and labour-intensive it must have been to wash them, it's hardly surprising). It seems strange now that Kate must only have been twenty or twenty-one when this film was made - in her first scene she looks mature whereas in others she seems very, very young.
This isn't the easiest film to watch - there are a few sections I almost always fast-forward - but that is not to say it's not good. Every time I watch it, a bit of me wants things to end happily, but - as I said before - that just wouldn't be Hardy.
Finding Neverland (2004)
Sometimes we need some magic
Being as I am something of a historical costume fanatic, I loved the look of this film. Quite often I see period films where the period costumes either look perfect but unflattering or have been re-interpreted, for want of a better word, (the recent series The Tudors leaps to mind) to give them some kind of sex appeal for today's audience. But Finding Neverland bowled me over with its wardrobe department - it has achieved that rare status where it combines the image of the typical Edwardian outfits with a kind of wearability and yet the clothes still manage to flatter ever character. Even the four small Llewellyn Davies boys look comfortable and natural in their little suits.
The cinematography looks similarly "antique", and I mean that in the complimentary sense. There is a softness to the look of the film, the colours look like you would expect Edwardian colours to look, nobody has quickly dipped a dress into some bizarrely vivid dye then put it on an extra and hoped it wouldn't be noticed. There is great attention to detail - when Barrie and another character walk down a street, even the extras are immaculately dressed.
Returning to the small boys, whoever cast these children made an incredible decision. They don't even seem to be acting, they behave - whether playing, arguing or just interacting - as though they really are brothers. It's as though they couldn't care less whether the camera is there or not. The set-up of their room - whether by accident or design (I suspect the latter) - is eerily reminiscent of the animated film Peter Pan. The moment when Barrie is summoned into another room by Sylvia's mother and one of the children pipes up, "Is he in trouble? Because I've been alone with Grandmother and I know what it's like," is perfect - just the sort of thing a child might say.
Barrie's discussion with Arthur regarding the appropriateness or otherwise of the time he spends with the boys is something I half-expected. Perhaps then, as now, society's awareness of paedophilia has reached such an extreme point that we look for it where it doesn't exist. (I recall a similar quote from the commentary of another Kate Winslet film, Sense and Sensibility, where the writer and producer are keenly aware that the innocent friendship of a young man and a little girl of twelve would most likely cause panic and questioning of the young man's character if it occurred today. From what I have read of J.M. Barrie, the comments made by the real Llewelyn Davies family and from viewing this film, I don't leave with any impression that there was an inappropriate relationship between Barrie and the young boys but I think it sad that such conclusions are often leapt to just because some outsiders see a situation as potentially sinister.
What I felt Depp's Barrie gained from his association with the children was the ability to explore and indulge his "inner child" in a way that the Edwardian society he lived in would not accept and that his very prim and proper wife did not approve of. It was interesting and rather sad that Mary Barrie seemed partly to want to belong to her husband's world but knew she just couldn't access it as he could. It is almost like Barrie can see into the children's world. There is a whimsical quality to Johnny Depp's performance that reminds me of his character Sam in the 1993 film Benny and Joon - it has exactly the same light touch.
People often think writers, composers and other followers of artistic pursuits are prone to be a little eccentric. As an artist and writer, I love the way Depp's Barrie is so disrespectful of his own work and I can relate to the way the film shows his imagination taking over - I have had countless conversations with my own literary creations.
There were some genuinely touching moments in this film - I don't cry easily watching films and few have moved me to tears. I really believe you can only have this reaction to a film if the characters have been fleshed out sufficiently that you can empathise with them and in Sylvia's final scene (a role in which Kate Winslet looked realistically Edwardian and yet still accessible and aesthetically right to modern eyes) I was in tears. I also liked the way Mrs. Du Maurier softens at the end, realising she should have shown her daughter more respect - she could easily have just been a caricature, a stereotypical "Victorian" grandmother bossing her daughter and grandsons around and ignoring everyone's needs, but she wasn't. A lighter, but still touching, moment came when Barrie revealed what he wanted his twenty-five reserved seats for - the reactions of those audience members who were inconvenienced so that the occupants could sit down were priceless.
On a final note, in this world of ours where we're bombarded with technical wizardry and ever more complex expensive special effects, it should be impossible for me - a person born in the mid-1980s - to imagine how magical the sight of "flying" children would have appeared to Peter Pan's theatre audience in 1903, but somehow I not only understand why the audience find it so, but feel it myself.
I wouldn't have watched this film otherwise - I never saw it at the cinema - but I'm glad I didn't miss it.
For me, this works
Although it hasn't had very positive reviews so far on this site, this series is one that I am quite partial to. I actually find that the clips from the live shows being interwoven with Billy's musings on the places he goes to quite a good approach - indeed, it's a very interesting way to take in as many "snapshot" views of England, Ireland and Wales as possible.
The only thing I find remotely frustrating is when I play my video of the series (for it came out so long ago that we were still buying things on video back then) is trying to find certain bits at random - some of my favourite segments include Billy discussing Jeffrey Dahmer the serial killer and his fears over what his daughters finding his collection of Bob Dylan records might lead them to do. (On the other hand, that is not a fault of the series at all - rather, it is the effects of changing technology.) But returning to the positive side, what I most love is being able to pick out places that I myself have visited, be they Portmeirion in Wales or (closer to home) the visit Billy makes to the church where the family of Alice Nutter, one of the "Pendle Witches" from the early 1600s, is buried. You certainly get the feeling - as you do when Billy goes to the Irish prisons where political prisoners were held and then executed - that Billy is the kind of person who learns things from the past, the sort of person whose attitude to life has developed from discovering these historical events and injustices. More importantly, I think Billy shows a keen interest in many of the quirky and original features of the places he goes to - I have never watched this series with the impression that the filming was a chore for him.
So, overall, the format chosen for this series is one that appeals to me and personally I find the combination of stand-up and travelogue works.