Monday, June 11, 2012

Persuasion Comparison: Part 1

Jane Austen's last completed novel was the story of a mature woman who gets a second chance at love with the gentleman he was at first persuaded to refuse. This work, left untitled, was published in 1818, the year after her death, and given the title of 'Persuasion'. The story has been adapted for film a few times, the most recognizable of these film are the 1995 and 2007 adaptations. In this series of posts guest posters Miss Amy Dashwood of Yet Another Period Drama Blog, Miss Laurie of Old-Fashioned Charm, Miss Melody of Regency Delight and Miss Elizabeth Bennet of Elegance of Fashion, will will voice their opinions on the different aspects of each adaptation and then pick which one they prefer at the end!
For this first part they will compare actors who portray major character in the 1995 and 2007 adaptations of Jane Austen's Persuasion.

Anne Elliot
Amanda Root (1995) & Sally Hawkins (2007)

Miss Amy Dashwood: Amanda Root (1995), though IMHO a bit too old to play a convincing 27-year-old, portrayed Anne with a quiet grace that was very endearing. She made the character so likable! Sally Hawkins (2007) brought out more of Anne’s emotional side—the audience was given an opportunity to glimpse extra bits of her personality through her journal entries. Overall, though, I preferred Amanda Root’s interpretation, which I thought was more true to Jane Austen’s description of the character.
Miss Laurie: Amanda Root's Anne Elliot is kind, gentle, elegant and with a lot of natural sweetness. I love how the the 1995 Anne seems to get progressively prettier throughout the film as her health and looks improve. Sally Hawkins's Anne is a bit more outspoken, awkward and a bit over dramatic with her gasps and breathy way of talking. Overall I prefer the 1995 Anne because to me she really captures the beauty of Anne's spirit and is exactly as I pictured her when reading the book.
Miss Melody: I like Amanda Root’s portrayal of Anne quite well; she seemed to really have a feel for the character and her emotions throughout the story. For me, Sally Hawkin’s main fault was her hair—so slicked-back and unbecoming! I think her Anne went well with the general impression of the movie, but she wasn’t at all remarkable. Overall I prefer Amanda Root’s portrayal, though it wasn’t exactly perfection either.
Miss Elizabeth Bennet: I liked both Amanda Root and Sally Hawkins as Anne. I thought that Amanda Root's Anne was a little too outspoken for the role (though she wasn't very outspoken); if outspoken isn't the right word, I thought that she was louder than Anne Elliot should have been (though she wasn't very loud either). I thought that Sally Hawkins portrayed Anne a bit better: she was quiet and even sounded a bit unsure at times (which shows that she would be easily susceptible to persuasion).



Captain Wentworth
Ciaran Hinds (1995) & Rupert Penry-Jones (2007)
Miss Amy Dashwood: Rupert Penry-Jones (2007) looked more like my mental image of the Captain, but his version of the character wasn’t really very likable. I found myself getting annoyed at him for being so cold to Anne. Ciaran Hinds (1995) did a much better job of making Captain Wentworth a “good guy”, and I really enjoyed his portrayal—except for the fact that he just didn’t look right for the part. So for me, it would be a toss-up between the two. There were good elements in both.
Miss Laurie: Ciaran Hinds as Captain Wentworth does have slightly greasy hair and bad teeth but those only add to his weathered look as a man of the sea. He presents the character as witty, kind, gentlemanly and passionate about the ones he loves. As Captain Wentworth Rupert Penry-Jones screams the handsome storybook hero but to me lacks wit and gallantry and even goes so far as to make the character slightly mean and resentful toward Anne at first. Overall I prefer the 1995 Captain Wentworth because he more accurately captures the friendly, passionate and constant hero of the book.
Miss Melody: Ciaran Hinds, frankly, does not at all suit my idea of Captain Wentworth. He seemed too harsh, too old, not likable; not at all the dashing, romantic sort of person I would picture. Rupert Penry-Jones was good enough, despite my thinking a man’s hair color should be darker than the lady’s (don’t mind me, I’m just a nonsensical girl), though the movie didn’t develop the characters enough to make him interesting…or something. But I still prefer 2007’s Captain Wentworth.
Miss Elizabeth Bennet: Based on looks, Ciaran Hinds looked more the part of Captain Wentworth than Rupert Penry-Jones. I never pictured Captain Wentworth as a blond -- it just doesn't fit. Acting wise, both did a great job. If I had to pick one, though, I think I would have to go with Rupert Penry-Jones's Captain Wentworth: he seems closer to Captain Wentworth's age than Ciaran Hinds.

Sir Walter Elliot
Corin Redgrave (1995) & Anthony Head (2007)

Miss Amy Dashwood: Sir Walter is, in general, an annoying character, so it’s hard not to be annoyed by any actor who portrays him. Anthony Head (2007) brought out more of the selfish side in Sir Walter’s personality—Corin Redgrave (1995) seemed more pompous, stuck-up and true to the novel. I preferred Mr. Redgrave.
Miss Laurie: Corin Redgrave adds lovely touches to his portrayal of Sir Walter such as fixing his hair in the reflection of his dinner knife, adding a pompous lisp to his words and wearing extravagant outfits that really captures Sir Walter's pride, aloofness and vanity to a tee. Anthony Head's Sir Walter is certainly vain but also quite changeable in his moods which makes him a bit on the villainous side and he actually yells quite angrily at Anne during one scene. Overall I prefer Corin Redgrave's rather ginger haired Sir Walter because to me he truly captures the tone of the vain baronet.
Miss Melody: Corin Redgrave as Sir Walter bugged me a little for some reason, but I can’t really put a finger on it. Anthony Head wasn’t too memorable, but I think I preferred him to the other; he seemed to be more of the high-class sort of obnoxious.
Miss Elizabeth Bennet: Okay, here I definitely have a preference: Corin Redgrave. He was the perfect Sir Walter! He was pompous and conceited and overly concerned about his looks! I loved how he was checking his reflection in his knife as he ate! Anthony Head, on the other hand, was too creepy as Sir Walter! Sir Walter isn't supposed to be creepy, just conceited.



Elizabeth Elliot
Phoebe Nicholls (1995) & Julia Davis (2007)

Miss Amy Dashwood: Phoebe Nicholls (1995) appeared to be younger than Amanda Root, which was my biggest problem with her portrayal. She seemed very neurotic and whiny, which isn’t quite how I’d pictured Elizabeth—when reading the book, I got the impression that Elizabeth was the snob and Mary was the whiny one. Julia Davis (2007) appeared older than Sally Hawkins and was, basically, a female carbon copy of her father. Which is what she is in the book. So I preferred Julia Davis.
Miss Laurie: Phoebe Nicholls captures Elizabeth's haughty and entitled attitude and adds a disdain for everything that is beneath a baronet's station; she is perhaps not as handsome as Jane Austen described but makes up for it with an elegant appearance. In the 2007 adaptation Julia David has the beauty but the affected way in which she preens makes it almost seem like Elizabeth is seeking approval. Her jealous outbreaks when Anne is receiving attentions from Mr. Elliot are quite vicious and out of character for the regal Miss Elliot. Overall I prefer Phoebe Nicholls's haughty Elizabeth.
Miss Melody: I didn’t care much for Phoebe Nicholls — Elizabeth should be more elegant, and not act quite as much like a spoiled brat, even if she is one. Julia Davis was too old for the part; Elizabeth is supposed to be 29 and at her handsomest stage of her life, and the actress was around 40. Other than that, though, I liked her portrayal the best.
Miss Elizabeth Bennet: I really didn't like Phoebe Nicholls as Elizabeth Elliot. Many of her mannerisms were not the mannerisms of a lady and the daughter of a baronet. Her mannerisms and body language came off as rude and unsophisticated. The impression I got of Elizabeth Elliot as I read Persuasion was that she was the kind of person that would put on airs and act snobbish, which is something that Julia Davis did well. So my preference is for Julia Davis's Elizabeth Elliot: she was much more like the Elizabeth Elliot in the book than Phoebe Nicholls.

Mr. William Elliot
Samuel West (1995) & Tobias Menzies (2007)

Miss Amy Dashwood: As soon as he appeared onscreen, my sister dubbed Samuel West (1995) “the earthworm”. Slimy and not exactly the handsomest guy in the movie, Mr. West made William Elliot even more repulsive than he’s supposed to be. Tobias Menzies (2007), however, fit the role much better. He was quiet and unassuming, yet still rather unlikable—and he didn’t look like something you might turn up in your flowerbed.
Miss Laurie: From his first appearance on the seashore at Lyme Samuel West's Mr. Elliot exudes interest, charm and thoughtfulness so it makes his attention to Anne something she considered seriously, though briefly, as in the book. Tobias Menzie's Mr Elliot, while perhaps a bit more good looking and charming, also is more forceful in his attentions so that he immediately appears more villainous. I like both Mr. Elliots almost equally so it's difficult to choose a favorite but Samuel West's version is perhaps a tad closer to the book's description.
Miss Melody: Samuel West seemed to suit Mr. Elliot tolerably well. Tobias Menzies was bordering on a bit too slimy or creepy or something, but he seemed more villain-ish and more memorable than Samuel West, so I’ll go with Mr. 2007 (though either one is good).
Miss Elizabeth Bennet: In the 1995 movie, I felt like I didn't get to see enough of Mr. Elliot. I also noticed that they didn't mention that he eloped with Mrs. Clay like he did in the book. In the 2007 version, we did get more of a chance to see Mr. Elliot, who appeared to be agreeable (though we know that he is not). There was more of a mention of something between Mr. Elliot and Mrs. Clay, but it was made out to be more scandalous than in the book. If I had to pick one (though I didn't particularly like either), I might have to go with the 2007 Mr. Elliot since there was more of a chance to get to know him, though the extra would-be scandal didn't need to be added in there.



Lady Russell
Susan Fleetwood (1995) & Alice Krige (2007)

Miss Amy Dashwood: Alice Krige (2007) severely annoyed me. Perhaps it was her rather greasy-looking
hair, maybe it was her nagging personality, but at any rate I just couldn’t like her. (Are you supposed to like Lady Russell? A question for the ages.) I much preferred Susan Fleetwood (1995), who appeared as more of a mother figure to Anne, with good intentions gone wrong. Her hairstyle, however, was… er… interesting. We’ll leave it at that.
Miss Laurie: Susan Fleetwood presents an elegant figure as Anne's godmother Lady Russell, maintains an air of useful good sense, advises Anne on matters of the heart and is a good friend she can chat with openly about her family problems. Alice Krige is perhaps a bit more motherly in some ways but she frequently gets over emotional and worked up while talking to Anne. The 1995 Lady Russell fits better with my idea of the sensible and elegant character in the book.
Miss Melody: I’m afraid sometimes I dislike character portrayals on account of odd hairstyles and hats, and this was the case with Susan Fleetwood. Alice Krige, however, I liked quite well; she seemed elegant and stately and suitable for Lady Russell.
Miss Elizabeth Bennet: Both I thought did a good job. I thought both acted similarly in their roles. If I had to choose one, I think I would chose Alice Krige's Lady Russell since she looked more like she belonged in the period than Susan Fleetwood.



Henrietta & Louisa Musgrove
Victoria Hamilton & Emma Roberts (1995) 
Rosamund Stephan & Jennifer Higham (2007)

Miss Amy Dashwood: I had a terrible time telling Henrietta and Lousia apart in both versions, but maybe that’s just me. Rosamund Stephan and Jennifer Higham (2007) were easier to distinguish (since one was blonde and one brunette) but I think I preferred Victoria Hamilton and Emma Roberts (1995) because I felt that their characters were better developed.
Miss Laurie: Victoria Hamilton plays a pretty and sweet Henrietta who is easily enamored with gallant Captain Wentworth but still loves her slightly jealous fiance Mr. Hayter. Emma Roberts plays her bolder sister Louisa who has high spirits and is very determined in what she wants. Rosamund Stephan's Henrietta is a bit contrived in her sweetness and Jennifer Highman's Louisa is a bit too artful and overall I found them too giddy and they didn't really look like sisters to me. The 1995 Henrietta & Louisa are my favorites because they are prettier, sweeter, sensible and a more natural fit to the book's description.
Miss Melody: I liked Victoria Hamilton’s Henrietta, but I didn’t care for Emma Roberts’ Louisa—and was it just me or did her hairstyles look several decades out of place, more like Jane Eyre? I haven’t any objection to Rosamund Stephan, and I liked Jennifer Higham’s Louisa (“Catch me!”—so Louisa-ish and quotable), though the girls did run around more than was proper.  My favorites were probably Victoria Hamilton’s Henrietta and Jennifer Higham’s Louisa.
Miss Elizabeth Bennet: Both were pretty much the same to me, though I did begin to notice parallels to Kitty and Lydia Bennet in Pride and Prejudice. I'm just going to go on my gut feeling and say that my preference is to Victoria Hamilton and Emma Roberts's Henrietta and Louisa.

Navigate to the Different Parts of the Persuasion Comparison!

6 comments:

RosieP said...

I have to be honest. I enjoyed both versions, despite their respective flaws.

Michaela said...

I found this blog post. . .and am having a comparison conversation on facebook. . .only about Mr. Darcy and Wentworth (rather than the two movie versions of Wentworth.) Some folks think the two characters are similar. Here are my thoughts. (Note that I'm saying all this in a half-laughing sort of way, though my feelings about Mr. Darcy are truly mine. ;) Please don't be offended. I'm also referring to the Penry-Jones portrayal of the Captain.)Soooo anywho--this is my fb argument:

Ok, so I feel that (in my widely-know, hugely opinionated vendetta against Mr. Darcy, :P ) I must come to our beloved Captains defense. They are nothing alike. Bitter men? Yes. But in two totally different ways. Darcy is a snobbish, boring, cold, personality-less man who hates everyone and everything beneath him. (Yeah, thinking Collin Firth here.) He has no feeling--not even around his best friend, Mr. Bingley. I mean, you'd think behind scenes we'd at least see a smile or two! Even toward the end of the story, Darcy is staunch--though I think he grins a bit at one point. ;) He's just not at all likable, and his prejudices are self inflicted (Wickam not included.)

Nowwww, Captain Wentworth on the other hand, is a brokenhearted lover. He appears cold in Anne's presence *only*--can't blame the poor guy, he thinks she hates him! She insulted him for his lower station, taking the advice of her godmother and breaking their engagement (8 years earlier.) Thus his prejudice is justified.

When around his friends we see a smiling, laughing, gentle, sweet-tempered Fredrick Wentworth. Cold? Difficult to understand? Maybe a little. . .but that is the emotion of the man--the hidden, hurting soul, desperately in love but unable (and unwilling) to express himself.

Anyway--two totally different characters--in personality AND circumstance.

Melody said...

Michaela,

First of all, I think Wentworth and Mr. Darcy are very, very different... just like all of Miss Austen's main characters. I definitely agree on that score. But that doesn't mean you have to imagine all sorts of horrid things about Mr. Darcy. :D (Um, sorry. Paraphrased Emma quote there.)

Have you ever actually read P&P? Because you can't know the first thing (okay, maybe the second thing) about Mr. Darcy unless you do. Even if you watch the correct version of P&P. ;) I don't think Mr. Darcy actually is bitter... so I consider him to be unlike Wentworth in that respect, too. Your opinion of Mr. Darcy sounds exactly like Elizabeth's... it's just that you never learnt about the true Mr. Darcy like she did. Do you never allow yourself to be blinded by prejudice? Or is there perhaps pride somewhere in your infamous opinion of Mr. Darcy?

Hahahaha sorry. I'm being terribly impudent today.

Snobbish? Well... he was a little snobbish at the beginning, but I think he was rather in a bad mood. Those melancholics, you know. :P Later on he freely admits to have been conceited, but he doesn't think that's a good thing and he's changed by the end of the story.
Boring and personality-less, though?? I think not. Okay, so he's not a lively Mr. Tilney, I'll concede. However, he certainly knows how to hold his ground with Elizabeth's liveliness and they have some very interesting and amusing discussions. I could give you examples, but I won't bother because I'm sure you've decided long ago you didn't like Mr. Darcy, and there is no changing that sort of mind, I daresay. :P You either get it or you don't. But I cannot see someone criticizing him without defending him. It is not to be borne. Anyways, he knows how to tease, too. He just has the dry sort of humor that isn't as out in the open as some people's, and you have to get to know him to see it.
Cold? Again, that's the first impression. He doesn't feel comfortable around people he doesn't know very well, so he seems cold. I have to try not to be that way myself.
And he does not hate everybody and everything beneath him. The Bennets he thought were beneath his notice mainly because of the behavior of certain mothers and sisters. Mr. Darcy's housekeeper made it all clear that he has a lot of feeling for those beneath him, and treats everyone with kindness and consideration. Again, the movie doesn't cut it.

And you DO see MORE than smile or two behind the scenes in the book. It explicitly mentions him smiling about things. Things people said, things he said... that's my main problem with Colin Firth, you know. He doesn't smile enough. Mr. Darcy DOES smile. And, the way he was at the end was too staunch, you are right. IN THE MOVIE. I love that movie and stand by it always... but nothing, nothing can be compared to the book, because the book is when you get a look into Jane Austen's imagination. Not Andrew Davies', not Colin Firth's, not Jennifer Ehle's.... Jane Austen's.

Not to drag this into the conversation, but I actually find him much more likable than Captain Wentworth. Some of the time it seems like he's purposefully punishing Anne and I feel sorry for her more than for him. :P However, I think it's a wonderful story, and all Jane Austen's heroes have their own qualities and different things to admire. :)

Anyways. I had to answer that comment, you know, because... well, you asked for it. That's all. ;D Don't know why I had to pave the way, though. Ladies who helped write this post? I know at least some of you would defend Mr. Darcy, too.

Miss Dashwood said...

Michaela,

I'm tempted just to say "what Melody said" and leave it at that, haha, but I do have to put my oar in just a wee bit. :D

Captain Wentworth's prejudice IS partially justified... but then, so is Mr. Darcy's if you look at it that way. He's been brought up to be above the "lower classes" (remember, Regency England wasn't exactly politically correct by our modern standards!). So his pride is a really hard thing to conquer... yet conquer it he does. Or at least, by the end of the book he's well on the way to conquering it. Sure, he's not perfect--having not learned yet to laugh at himself, and since his wife dearly loves a laugh... but I digress.

You said that Wentworth is smiling, laughing, gentle and sweet-tempered around his friends. I agree. But to say that Mr. Darcy is unfeeling toward his loved ones is inaccurate. He pretty much adores his younger sister Georgiana (and makes this obvious in a couple of scenes, particularly the one where he boots Wickham out of the house). He might not be all goofy around Bingley, but he's not the kind of guy to wear his emotions on his sleeve. Elinor Dashwood isn't bubbly and giggly either, but no one could accuse her of being cold-hearted (well, except ignorant Marianne...).

Anyways. I wrote a post defending Mr. Darcy a while ago and I'm pretty much just repeating a lot of what I said there. :P And Melody pretty much said everything I wanted to say. Colin Firth does the best portrayal of Mr. Darcy... but he ISN'T Mr. Darcy. The real Mr. Darcy is in the book, and you really can't know him without reading it.

Wow. That sounded snobby. Didn't mean it to. Sorry.

Anyways, fun debate! Please don't be offended-- your comment didn't offend me and I hope I didn't hurt your feelings in return. :D (Oh, and you should definitely write a blog post on this topic.)

Miss Woodhouse said...

Wow! Love that title pic!! Random, I know - good post :-)

jessica prescott said...

This is an awfully interesting debate--Darcy v. Wentworth. I couldn't tell you which one I like better. I think they're both good men, upon the whole, with flaws (and don't we all have flaws?).
The way I interpret Mr. Darcy is thus: He's shy and unsociable by nature, and that's what makes him so proud, cold, and haughty. You could call it a defense mechanism. He's afraid of other people--afraid of their comments and criticism and gossip--and so he convinces himself that they're all beneath him so that he won't be so scared. That's why he can be so much kinder and pleasanter and more at ease when he's home with his family and servants than when he's out in Society--he's not afraid of what they'll say or think about him! If he were TRULY proud and unfeeling all the way through, there's no way he would be so nice to his servants and tenants. "Some people call him proud, but I have never seen anything of it. . . . I have never had a cross word from him in my life, and I have known him since he was four years old." Really, the guy whose housekeeper freely states that about him can't be ALL bad.