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Before I Go To Sleep [DVD]
Before I Go To Sleep [DVD]
Dvd ~ Nicole Kidman
Price: £4.40

16 of 24 people found the following review helpful
1.0 out of 5 stars Move along, nothing to see here., 19 Nov. 2014
This review is from: Before I Go To Sleep [DVD] (DVD)
This was a bland, depressing, unmoving little film. I read the book recently and, while I didn't love it, the central mystery was compelling enough to keep my interest to the end. The book had some inconsistencies and plotholes - the movie added a few more, with some poor performances and an unsatisfying ending to boot. There are some spoilers in the last paragraph of this review, but I've been deliberately cagey, so it shouldn't be too obvious what I'm talking about unless you've seen the movie already.

Christine is a middle-aged woman with anterograde amnesia, one of the most overused tropes in film, played by a woman with one of the most recognisable faces in film. Unfortunately, Nicole Kidman is pretty expressionless here. Her face is slack, her eyes perpetually bloodshot and watery, and her lips no longer move the way they should. She deploys the same unidentifiable cosmopolitan accent she uses in everything now. She can't, and doesn't, emote. The film relies on Christine's video diaries to tell us how she's feeling about any given development in the story. Otherwise there isn't a glimmer of life.

Colin Firth plays Christine's husband Ben. I'm not sure what could have persuaded him to take on the role, unless he's still trying to shrug off the Darcy thing. I love Firth, but his character here is unappealing. In fact both Firth and Kidman look tired, bored, dishevelled and miserable. Mark Strong plays Dr Nash, a neuropsychologist inexplicably interested in Christine's case. He's a good actor, but he's phoning it in here. The role itself is pretty superfluous.

Although Nash claims to be researching anterograde amnesia, it's not clear why he's willing to cross so many ethical boundaries to do it. He meets Christine in secret, "almost every day," usually in the intimate confines of his car. He encourages her to hide their relationship from her husband, and to hide the video camera he gives her in the bottom of her wardrobe. How he knows where the good hiding places are in her house, I don't know.

In the book, Dr Nash is young enough to be Christine's son, and she falls for him because in her mind she's still 25 or something. He flatly refuses her. In the film, Nash appears to be seducing Christine, stroking her arm and her hair, inviting her to lean in for a hug, and telling her "you're vulnerable," "I want you to feel good," and "it's okay." It's really not okay. If your doctor ticks any of these boxes, you need to blow on your rape whistle, stat. Nash even chases her to the end of a pier with a syringeful of "mild sedative," which is not actually a great way to calm someone down. Nor is it something neuropsychologists ever do in real life, especially with patients who don't even have a mental illness. She wakes up on her sofa (with ripped stockings), so he must have carried the unconscious body of the patient he's developed weird feelings for into her own home. It's not clear why Christine, who doesn't remember him from one day to the next, would climb into the car - or the arms - of the creepy neuropsychologist who is treating her every day, secretly, and for free. And for him to make a move on a married mother, assault victim, and very sick patient - who doesn't even recognise him - probably qualifies as abuse.

In fact, the whole movie relies on its male characters to explain everything to the fragile Christine. Firth's character, of course, has to hand Christine her life story and her identity on a platter, every morning. He can reveal or conceal anything, or anyone, he likes. Dr Nash explains her condition to her, also "nearly every day." When the thought crosses her mind that he may have had something to do with the trauma that triggered her injury, he explains, "You were confused. We call it confabulation, your imagination filling in the gaps in your memory turning me into the man who did this to you, do you understand?" She assents, obviously. But there's no reason she shouldn't already know this stuff. She has amnesia, not a subnormal IQ. Later, he tells her, "You're vulnerable. Vulnerable patients often develop feelings for their psychiatrists. It's common. What's less common nowadays is when those feelings are reciprocated. We call it counter-transference. It's unprofessional." YA THINK?!?

The constant mansplaining is tiresome and archaic. The story is effectively bookended by male violence. We're left with the uncomfortable impression that it was all Christine's fault anyway; a punishment for sexual indiscretion. Her memories were stolen during a violent attack from an unidentified man in a hotel room, and they're pretty much returned to her the same way (with the help, fittingly, of an iron - a women's object). Dr Nash probes her mind and scans her brain, deliberately triggering traumatic and futile flashbacks. Ben wants her to stay home all day, and Nash seems to want her to stay in his car, or the MRI machine.

Two new male characters are introduced at the end to resolve the narrative. Dr Nash exits, and another tall dark figure enters to loom over Christine's once-again-prone body, recuperating in a hospital bed, to give the blank-faced woman one final explanation of what exactly is going on here. Christine, as usual, accepts whatever she's told as though she's listening to a recitation of the periodic table. Ironically, the only times in the movie when Christine really learns anything truly illuminating is when she ignores all these didactic, overbearing males to visit her one female friend, Claire. But at the end of the film, we're back to the mansplaining and the confines of a safe, authoritative place - a hospital room - where Nash reminds her, "you'll need someone to keep an eye on you." As you might expect, Christine is ultimately saved by motherhood. Motherhood and an iron. And the icing on the cake is that she never really suffered a traumatic brain injury at all. It was emotional trauma. (Women, amirite?).

There's other issues with the story. How did Christine alienate all of her friends and family, to the point where no one but Firth's character knows where she is and what she's doing, for years at a time? I know that happens in cases of mental illness, but surely someone would be keeping tabs on a woman with amnesia? Come to think of it, why does Firth's character have no family or friends? And what are his motivations? His machinations require a whole lot of effort for very little payoff. Why does Christine sleep with him some days, though he is a complete stranger to her? Why are there no news or police reports about the original incident? How does Dr Nash not know what Ben looks like, and why did he never make any attempt to contact Christine's husband or son? If he is suspicious of Ben, why didn't he do some research or speak to the authorities? How does Christine understand how to use mobile phones and digital cameras?

Anne-Marie Duff is a welcome ray of sunshine in this otherwise dreary film. Her accent is real, and her face moves in a face-like way. But after a brief appearance, she disappears. It might have been nice to see her again in the final scenes - she does reappear in the book, and it's comforting. The whole resolution of the film is unsatisfying. It hinges on the introduction of a whole new character, and when he is introduced to Christine, in a scene which should have been cathartic, she is predictably expressionless. In the book, she says, "I look at my sleeping husband, silhouetted in the dim room. I remember us meeting...I remember him asking me to marry him...and the rush of excitement I'd felt as I said yes. And our wedding too, our marriage, our life. I remember it all. I smile. `I love you,' I whisper, and I close my eyes, and I sleep." None of this happens in the movie. No Claire, no "I love you," and certainly no smiling. One main character simply slinks out of the room, and we don't even see what happens to the villain. When so much of the plot relies on explication by untrustworthy male characters, how do we know that any of them are telling the truth, even about the conclusion?

All in all this was a sluggish, monochromatic and emotionless affair with a frustrating plot and unlikeable characters. If you loved the book, you might want to watch this out of curiosity, but be prepared for major changes. If you're just in it for a decent thriller along the lines of `Vertigo,' or more recently `The Fugitive,' take my advice and just rewatch `Vertigo' or `The Fugitive.'

Hustle - The Complete Series [DVD] [2012]
Hustle - The Complete Series [DVD] [2012]
Dvd ~ Adrian Lester
Price: £29.99

13 of 14 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars MORE THAN THE SUM OF ITS PARTS., 5 Nov. 2014
I'm so pleased this show has a near five star rating on Amazon, because there is really nothing not to like about it.* Unabashedly capitalising on the success of movies like the 2001 remake of Ocean's Eleven, 'Hustle' is a smart, slick production with genuine warmth and a cast of universally likeable characters and appealing actors. Each self-contained hour-long episode feels like a movie. The plots, while formulaic, are original and surprisingly plausible. (Well, maybe not plausible - but I find it easy to suspend my disbelief. I would make a great mark). Every episode features a complex long con which always appears to go catastrophically awry. Finally, in the last few minutes, we realise that Mickey and his crew knew what they were doing all along. While I can predict a positive outcome, it's often harder to predict the actual twist.

There's something really comforting about this no-fail brand of TV viewing. The bad guys are always very bad, and we can rest assured knowing they deserve whatever they get. The crew's 'honour amongst thieves' policy, and their tendency to rush to the aid of the little guy, means there are no serious ethical considerations to contend with. Everything is always squared off neatly at the end of each hour, so there are no loose threads. The stories are ingenious and compelling. There's a minimum of sex, violence and profanity, but enough authentic emotion to be satisfying.

The characters are magnetic, and they draw us in by repeatedly breaking the fourth wall. The trick of turning to the camera and giving us a knowing wink or a twitch of an eyebrow at the right moment never gets old, and I love it when they freeze the action to explicate the con. They treat their audience like a smart audience - it's their best and longest con.

The relationships - not the cons - form the core of the show. The bond between the characters is tangible; they really are like a family. It's refreshing to see such a random blend of characters of varying class, nationality, age, gender and race gelling so naturally. Robert Vaughan's ageing Albert Stroller is both fragile and paternal - a team player, but wiser than all of them; vulnerable but invincible. Jaime Murray's character is sophisticated but accessible and affectionate, and Marc Warren is the fast-talking, streetwise, Artful Dodger of the crew. The immensely likeable Robert Glenister plays Ash with such warmth and humanity that he quickly became one of my favourites. His working-class accent is so convincing that I'm always taken aback when he effortlessly slips into a plummy Queen's English. He sounds right posh!

Adrian Lester, however, is my number one. Lester brings his Shakespearean acting skills to bear on Hustle's "Mickey Bricks," and the payoff is really something. More than any of the others, he knows how to broach the distance between stage and audience - one smile or twinkle of the eye from that sympathetic puppy-dog face and I would happily turn over my life savings. Or, you know, just elope with him or something.

The show stumbled briefly when Lester left for the entire fourth season. Ashley Walters never really filled the breach, and while I did warm to season four eventually, it didn't feel quite the same. Danny Blue was a great sidekick, but he didn't have the genius to fill Mickey's shoes as team captain, and the stories suffered as a result. The exception would be episode five, "Conning the Artists," which is one of my favourites. The deadly Japanese blowfish plot device was a winner, and Will Yun Lee made a worthy opponent - I wish he had become a regular cast member. Or, you know, just eloped with me or something.

I was worried, too, when Stacey and Danny left at the end of season four. I wasn't sure how I felt about Kelly Adams and Matt Di Angelo at first. But with Mickey back at the helm, things were soon back on track, and I did grow attached to the ensemble cast of seasons 5 to 8. The brother/sister dynamic worked well within the existing crew.

The production values are pretty stellar, and there are some great guest performances (notwithstanding a few unbelievably shoddy accents here and there - like Raquel Cassidy's forced American twang in "Eat Yourself Slender"). The creators make the most of their London base, with an abundance of glossy panoramic shots of the capital - the Thames, the Houses of Parliament, Big Ben, Tower Bridge, the Gherkin, and more red phoneboxes and double deckers than you could poke a stick at - along with plenty of outdoor shots of city streets, rooftops and public squares. The sets are excellent, and if there were any budget constraints, it's not obvious. The costumes are sleek and appropriately stylish, the soundtrack is upbeat, and the attention to detail generally is commendable.

I can't wrap this up without giving Eddie an honourable mention. He was just so gosh-darn loveable, and he stuck his neck out more than once for the crew. When everyone hung out at Eddie's Bar, you couldn't help but feel you were hanging out there with them. They didn't always treat Eddie as he deserved, and the show hit a rare sour note when they vacationed on a luxury yacht without him after letting him believe they were going to Bournemouth. That seemed uncharacteristically unkind, considering all he'd done for them. But I was glad they helped him get his bar back and avenged his swindled niece, not to mention hooking him up with curvacious con-artist Carol. I like to think they're happily running a tiki bar in the Bahamas or something.

When Adrian Lester departed (temporarily) at the end of season three, he said he was concerned the show was becoming "too light." In fact I think that explains the show's enduring appeal. In an era when TV (and perhaps life) is getting progressively darker and grittier, you can watch Hustle knowing nobody is going to die or have their face permanently rearranged, no vulnerable little old ladies will lose their nest eggs, the bankers, traders, and Bernie Madoffs of the world will get their comeuppance, and the underdog will have his day. Hustle is heartwarming but not mawkish, fantastic but not unbelievable, sophisticated but not alienating. Shows like this don't come along very often. The stars aligned; the chemistry was right. And when Eddie closed the door on his cozy little bar one last time, I just...

...excuse me, I think I have something in my eye.


Most of the negative reviews and comments here pertain to the qualities of the actual physical boxset, for some reason. One of the earliest good reviews of this item has attracted, so far, twenty-eight comments, in a thread which has devolved into the online equivalent of a football riot.

I'm happy to report that the packaging of this DVD boxset is made from heavy duty "paper," the end product of a process which flattens cellulose pulp derived from timber into flexible sheets which can then be cut, folded and glued to form three-dimensional "boxes." My understanding is that this is standard practice for DVD packaging, or indeed any packaging. While not likely to survive being strapped to train tracks, hurled from an aeroplane without a parachute or fed to a bear, paper is a material routinely utilised in the production of an assortment of useful items including books, art and legal documents.

The disks themselves are circular, which is ideal, because my DVD player is set up for circular disks. Any other shape would pose a problem for me. They are also very shiny. But the really marvellous thing about these disks is that if you place them in your DVD player, connect your DVD player to a viable power source, and then play your DVD's with your DVD player, the television program emanating from your television screen is so sufficiently engrossing as to almost totally transcend the limitations of the objects themselves. If the show is a good show, like this one, everybody then shuts up and just enjoys the damn show.
Comment Comments (5) | Permalink | Most recent comment: Mar 10, 2015 9:44 PM GMT

To End All Wars
To End All Wars
Dvd ~ Mark Strong
Offered by skyvo-direct
Price: £9.72

2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Unexpectedly beautiful., 9 Sept. 2013
This review is from: To End All Wars (DVD)
What a dark horse this film was. I hadn't heard of it until recently, but as a huge fan of Australian TV's 'Changi,' I thought this might be worth watching. It was.

Based on the autobiography of Ernest Gordon (played with great warmth and spirit here by Ciarán McMenamin), the film deals with the experience of English, Scottish and Australian prisoners of war in a Japanese labour camp as they worked on the Burma Railway. It also examines Japanese military culture sensitively. At the heart of the film is its sense of spirituality; whether you're religious or not, these themes will resonate with you. Any film that is able to do all these things in synthesis without alienating its audience is worth the emotional investment.

The performances are universally astounding. All the actors are thin and sunburnt, and throw themselves into their roles with an authenticity that suggests a sense of real affection for their characters. I'd be interested to know what the process of filming was like for the actors, as there appears to be a tangible bond between them. It's impossible not to admire and pity these powerfully sympathetic characters. Robert Carlyle is a persuasive and emotional Major Ian Campbell, Kiefer Sutherland's Lieutenant Jim Reardon is alternately despicable and pitiable, and James Cosmo's performance is brief but predictably impressive. I can't not give an honourable mention to Australian Brendan Cowell, and watching Pip Torrens stoically cite Shakespeare while half-dressed and near-crippled with pain and starvation is terrifically inspiring.

Yugo Saso is instantly likeable as Japanese translator Takashi Nagase; a testament to his acting skills. Those of us who don't speak Japanese never understand a word Sakae Kimura says as Sargeant Ito, and yet his performance is unaccountably eloquent and readable for the audience. His feelings are so often written plainly across his face, and his internal struggles are palpable.

Mark Strong's Dusty Miller steals all his scenes, partly because his real-life counterpart was so admirable. It's rare and inspiring to find characters in film who are both interesting and morally good, but Dusty Miller is both. Mark Strong, without saying much, is simultaneously intense and serene. The scene in which he recounts the circumstances of his conversion is compelling stuff. In the interests of full disclosure, I'm a Christian, so his crucifixion is as moving as movies get. However, I suspect this scene will leave no one unmoved, religious or secular humanist.

Full marks go to Ciarán McMenamin who clearly lost a lot of weight for the role and looks somehow childlike and radiant, even on the brink of death. He looks exactly like someone in a place he isn't meant to be, initially baffled and traumatised by his experiences and later transformed by them. He is perfectly cast to play a character who experiences an epiphany at his lowest point, and finds direction for his life to come. More than anyone else, he is the character we're rooting for, and the ending is eminently fulfilling, as the real life Ernest Gordon makes an appearance.

This is a true ensemble cast, and I was glad it wasn't (as I had feared) simply a vehicle for Kiefer Sutherland. Even the minor actors excel in their roles, simmering with emotion. Some of the contemporaneous reviews I read online suggested that this film was too violent and naturalistic to be enjoyed, and others suggested it was mawkish, blaming a syrupy musical score, a preponderance of religious themes and a focus on what Australians call "mateship." Obviously it can't be both too realistic and too sentimental - I think it strikes a pretty good balance. Maybe I'm desensitised, or maybe the lovelier elements of this story simply surmounted the uglier, but I didn't find the violence and misery gratuitous or offensive; affecting, but not offensive.

In fact this film is surprisingly beautiful. The landscape is amazing, and shots of the little outdoor church built by Dusty Miller, the soldiers huddled around their "university" at night or playing "Jesu Joy of Man's Desiring" in a makeshift orchestra are visually and emotionally enchanting. The score, with music by Máire Ní Bhraonáin (of 'Clannad' fame) is syrupy and emotional, but not inappropriately so. It doesn't intrude on the story. The ending is redemptive and memorable.

Ultimately this is a story about a random ensemble of mostly very young men suffering rather pointlessly in the wilderness during a conflict that, sadly, did not turn out to be the war to end all wars. "The triumph of the human spirit" might be an overused cinematic trope, but on the other hand it never gets old.

Watch this. Bring tissues.

JANE EYRE - (Samantha Morton, Ciarán Hinds) - DVD Region 2 (UK FORMAT - IMPORT)
JANE EYRE - (Samantha Morton, Ciarán Hinds) - DVD Region 2 (UK FORMAT - IMPORT)
Dvd ~ Samantha Morton

8 of 10 people found the following review helpful
1.0 out of 5 stars IF YOU LIKE BIG FLUFFY DOGS, THIS HAS ONE., 7 July 2013
Oy vey, this was bad. It should have better. Ciaran Hinds is a great actor, and Jane Eyre is a great story, but the script for this adaptation was unforgivably weak, and the acting was consequently terrible.

Despite doing his best to be blustery and curmudgeonly, Hinds comes across as more grumpy and lecherous than brooding and Byronic. Seriously, how hard is it to get that right? Very hard, apparently, when the writers butcher the original text and remove all the stuff that makes Rochester Rochester. He never carries on a really engaging conversation with Jane, and they don't develop a plausible friendship.

Jane, who is far too timid, seems to develop a schoolgirl crush on Rochester almost instantly (as he emerges dramatically from the fog), and we're not treated to any of the banter that establishes them as intellectual equals. He's brusque and she's occasionally sassy, but she comes across as rude rather than bold, and Rochester is brutish and not very deep.

The tone is all wrong, and the language is awkward and anachronistic. Rochester asks Adele if she's "been a complete brat," and summons Jane with the words "come `ere." Jane uses the phrase beloved of late 20th century teenagers "for your information." In trying to sex-up the original text, the writers give both leads some dreadful lines. Rochester asks Jane "will you make me the happiest man on this earth?" and Jane insists that she loves "his face, his eyes, his voice." He refers to her merrily as "Mrs Rochester" and she says "your love is all I need!" He says "I belong to you, and you belong to me!" and she says "you are everything that matters in the world to me!" It's like a bad Lionel Richie song.

In trying to impose some sensuality on the story, the writers have actually eradicated the extraordinary subtext that was already there. The word "passion" is used a lot, and Rochester explains Adele's parentage quite frankly to Jane, as though fathering illegitimate children with foreign dancers was a water cooler topic in 19th century Britain. He tells Jane that he was intoxicated by the "perfume" of Adele's mother, and later insists that he loves Jane for her beauty, her lovely expression and her smile. Even Bertha Mason gets a libidinous makeover. When Rochester finally introduces Jane to his wife, Bertha gives him an overtly lascivious look, and he says "no, bertha. No." (Poor Bertha.) The writers really want us to believe that the women around him desperately want to get their hands on the misanthropic Mr. Rochester: Adele's mother, Blanche Ingram and her sisters, Bertha Mason, and Jane herself. To emphasize the not-very-delicate point, Mrs Fairfax even says "Mr Rochester's very popular with the ladies!" Uh huh.

Frankly it's hard to tell what Rochester sees in Jane. So little time is given to developing her character. The first thing most people do when they adapt Bronte's book for the screen is excise everything but the love story itself. This version is no exception. Jane's childhood is condensed into a few brief minutes. You no sooner meet Helen Burns than she is dead, and her entire philosophy is summed up in one woefully inadequate line that sounds like a line from a really miserable greeting card: "life is sometimes cruel, and we have to accept that, or be forever in torment." Jane's return to Gateshead is omitted, and while she does melodramatically flee Thornfield and seek shelter in the house of St John Rivers, it's all very rushed, and she never finds out that he's her cousin.

Jane is supposed to be sympathetic and compelling. The book is about the development of her moral character, and her search for family, identity and a place in the world. We're supposed to get a sense of why she is so powerfully attractive to Rochester. She's otherworldly, "bewitching," artistic, intuitive, clever, forthright and resolute in her personal convictions, with a knowledge of God that transcends Brocklehurst's inferior religion. She's also witty, perceptive and sardonic. Because most of her best lines are altered or removed, we miss out on that.

One of her best lines in the book "Do you think, because I am poor, obscure, plain, and little, I am soulless and heartless? I have as much soul as you -- and full as much heart!" is changed in this version to "I'm a plain-living person." It's tragic. She's not a plain-living person, anyway. She's a vibrant person, with a vast and colourful imagination. In the book, Rochester perceives this, and says she has "an inward treasure born with [her], which can keep [her] alive if all extraneous delights should be withheld, or offered only at a price [she] cannot afford to give... The passions may rage furiously, like true heathens, as they are; and the desires may imagine all sorts of vain things: but judgment shall still have the last word in every argument."

This adaptation reduces Jane to a shy Puritan, a slave to "convention" who whimpers and whines and pleads with Rochester to stop seducing her. After the truth comes out, Rochester grabs Jane a little too roughly and begs her - very unpoetically - to be his mistress. Gosh it's nauseating. She looks literally faint and repeatedly begs Rochester in a hysterical whisper "please, help me!" Good grief woman, get a grip. You're letting the side down. Just when you think it can't get any worse, she says "how can I lie with you knowing that I am not your wife?" Charlotte Bronte is blushing in her grave. We're dragged up to this point in the story with such haste and so little attention to detail, that it's clear this is what the what the writers have been thinking about all along. An opportunity to present Rochester in a less palatable, more rapacious light and to insert the utterly cringeworthy lines: "Kiss me! I need you Jane. You want me. I feel your passions are aroused. Say you want me! Say it!" Ugh. It's like a Barbara Cartland novel.

The sojourn with St John Rivers (played by a young Rupert Penry) is brief and pointless, and he doesn't stop smiling the whole time he's on screen. He's good-looking and cheerful, and frankly when he asks Jane to go with him to India and do "God's work," it doesn't make a whole lot of sense that she doesn't say yes. I would have, frankly. In the book, St. John is quite repulsive in his own unyielding, ascetic way - like a young Mr. Brocklehurst - and we're supposed to be as appalled by the offer as Jane is.

I'm really not sure why this adaptation was made at all. It adds nothing and is not innovative. The script is bad, the acting is clumsy and the story is altered beyond recognition. Jane Eyre was beyond the young Samantha Morton's scope. She even struggles with her voice, delivering lines in a fragile whisper, mispronouncing words (meagre = "MEE-gruh") and taking a stab at the King's English that sounds forced and precious. She plays Jane the same way she played Harriet Smith in `Emma,' although in that case her childlike, hesitant manner and forced accent were appropriate. Though Morton was 20 at the time of the film's release, and Jane was about the same when she married Rochester, few modern actresses have the maturity to play Jane at such a young age. Morton would probably do it differently now.

Ciaran Hinds doesn't do much better here, although he's a fine actor generally, and theoretically an ideal candidate for Mr. Rochester. He took a stab at it, but the script was so bad and the story so mercilessly abridged that there really wasn't much to work with.

Though it was already terrifically dated by the time I was forced to watch it in high school, the 1983 version with Timothy Dalton and Zelah Clarke is the best and most faithful adaptation I've seen. The producers understood the importance of all elements of the story, and took time to develop the relationship between Rochester and Jane, which had all the fun and sexual tension of Shakespeare's Beatrice and Benedick, with the intensity and Sturm und Drang of Romeo and Juliet.

Until someone gives Jane Eyre the cinematic treatment it deserves, I'd give this adaptation a wide berth. It really is comically bad.

The dog is cute, though.
Comment Comments (4) | Permalink | Most recent comment: Mar 8, 2015 6:45 PM GMT

Emma [DVD]
Emma [DVD]
Dvd ~ Kate Beckinsale
Offered by DVD Overstocks
Price: £3.99

1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars A really sweet adaptation., 12 Jun. 2013
Verified Purchase(What is this?)
This review is from: Emma [DVD] (DVD)
I watched this as a teenager when it first came out in 1996 (the same year as the totally different Gwyneth Paltrow version) and didn't like it. I've since read and studied the book a few times over, and decided to purchase this version on a whim. On rewatching, I found it utterly charming.

Kate Beckinsale isn't terrifically beautiful here, as she wears little makeup and they've put her in ugly hats, but she has a sweet face with a hint of mischief, and she's pretty young, so she carries the role of Emma well. Mark Strong is a stellar Mr Knightley, the perfect combination of misanthropy and gentility, and it's refreshing to see a slightly dark Knightley, with the flashes of genuine anger that characterise him in the book. There's real chemistry between the two leads.

Prunella Scales is endearing as Miss Bates, Olivia Williams is a lovely Jane Fairfax, and Raymond Coulthard's Frank Churchill is dashing but smarmy and unappealing, as he should be. In fact, this adaptation is different enough to the film version to render it worthwhile. The relationship between Jane and Frank is hinted at much earlier, as is Knightley's interest in Emma.

In the book, Emma claims to be worried that if Knightley marries, her nephew Henry will be cheated out of his inheritance. Of course, she has other reasons for not wanting Knightley to marry, but it's a while before she's able to admit that. This adaptation picks up on the "poor Henry" factor, which is nice. It also begins and ends with chicken thieves, which seems odd until Emma uses it as an excuse to reconcile her father to her engagement. In this adaptation, you get a true sense of the rural location of Highbury, and the agricultural responsibilities of Donwell Abbey's landlord.

This is a quiet, understated little production, with an emphasis on realism over the slick and overly-designed costumes and interiors of the Hollywood version. Not all the performances are great, but the important ones are very satisfying, and the romance is genuine and heart-warming. The music is pretty, and the home and gardens used for Hartfield are really beautiful. I unexpectedly found myself smiling from beginning to end, except during the dystopian nightmare that is the Box Hill picnic. (My name is Emma, so when Mr Knightley says "badly done, Emma," in the book or in any adaptation, I always feel physically ill. I'm sure at least one person has said that to me in my lifetime.) In this version, Mark Strong's voice breaks while he's admonishing Emma, and you get a true sense that he's as grieved as he is angry. It's heartbreaking.

The misery is short-lived. When Mr Knightley came nervously charging down the steps at the end to find Emma in the garden, my heart skipped a beat. If you've never seen this, or you didn't like it the first time, give it another go. I watched it today, and it was a good day.

The Bolter: Idina Sackville - The woman who scandalised 1920s Society and became White Mischief's infamous seductress
The Bolter: Idina Sackville - The woman who scandalised 1920s Society and became White Mischief's infamous seductress
by Frances Osborne
Edition: Paperback
Price: £9.99

11 of 13 people found the following review helpful
1.0 out of 5 stars Not worthy of its fascinating subject., 6 Aug. 2012
I recently read `The Temptress: The Scandalous Life of Alice, Countess De Janze' by Paul Spicer; a book so compelling and beautifully written that I was sorry when it ended. For that reason, I picked up `The Bolter.' Notorious socialite Idina Sackville features in Spicer's book, so I was looking forward to learning more about her. Sadly, though Sackville is fascinating, Frances Osborne's biography of her is not.

The first 100 pages or so are mainly concerned with Idina's first marriage to Euan Wallace. It's clear that Osborne is virtually transcribing events from terse entries in Euan's tiny travel diary (an object Osborne describes in unnecessary detail in chapter 5). She seems to recount - in painstaking chronological order - every occasion, every visit, every telegram sent and letter received between the time Idina and Euan married and the time they divorced. She tells us what time they went to a dance, how many times they danced and with whom, and what time they arrived home. She tells us what they had for breakfast, what time they played tennis, who they went for a drive with later that afternoon. Though she frequently hints at the impending collapse of the marriage, it's an age before we get there. The narrative quickly devolves into a mere list. If you watched `Days of Our Lives' for 6 months and recorded in succinct sentences every single thing that happened, you couldn't come up with something more mind-numbingly boring.

What's more frustrating is that Osborne fleshes out the bare bones of Euan's diary with wordy embellishments at every opportunity, as though she were writing a novel. For example, "at twenty to one precisely Idina grazed her lips on Euan's moustache," "Idina, glowing... watched Euan walk towards her. His cap was straight, his shoulders still square, feet stepping briskly forward," "ashen sandwiches, scones and transparent jam were arranged around the gently diminishing stacks of an empty cake platter..." These details are not only unnecessary but annoying. It is fictionalisation, because of course there is no way Osborne could know that Idina "grazed Euan's moustache" or that "his cap was straight." The tone is patronising and twee, as though she were writing a wartime romance novel instead of a biography. I don't think Osborne has a gift for synthesising research in a way that makes a fluent and readable narrative. Her process didn't give me any insight into Idina and Euan's marriage. Its demise is still a mystery to me. She would have been much better editing Euan's diary heavily, skipping the flowery language, and just telling a compelling story of a brief and doomed marriage.

I can see why this book made it on Oprah's summer reading list. It's chick lit, replete with cutesy details about sexual excitement ("even the married women became more predatory in a near-frantic need to prove themselves still able to attract a new man"), pretty clothes ("she dressed for Paris: a tunic coat, a single row of buttons running down over her left breast to just below the knee") and food ("a feast of coffee, croissants, des oeufs pour les anglais, spread out over a thick, white, starched tablecloth that hung to the floor.") It's `women's writing' in the grand tradition of `Eat, Pray, Love" or books about the transformative power of French cooking and holidays in Tuscany (incidentally, I am a female reader). Osborne wants us to connect with Idina, and to think of her as a mid-century Carrie Bradshaw; fun, flirty, liberated. To this end, she makes some nauseating generalisations about women, such as "The worse a woman behaves, the better she needs to look in order to hold her head high" and "One of the things a woman does when she wants to know how much a man loves her is see how large a piece of jewellery she can persuade him to buy." (This is news to me.)

She also wants us to think of Idina as a desperate romantic, deep and emotional. On the brink of divorce, Euan's "face was still the same one that [Idina] had spent years wanting to reach out and touch" she writes. As the couple sits down to talk, by a window overlooking Hyde Park (which Osborne describes in mournful detail), "burdened with a saucer and a cup full to the brim with scalding liquid... and a sandwich plate," Idina farewells her husband in a pitiful and largely fictionalised conversation. Euan sums it up briefly in his diary thus: "Important discussion with D after tea, explains much thank goodness." No mention of teacups or the "dulling green autumn grass" and "bare-armed trees" of Hyde Park.

This is what's wrong with Osborne's writing. I think it misrepresents Idina and Euan. They both had extra-marital affairs, and by all accounts Idina and others of her set were infamously pragmatic about marriage and sexual relationships. I just don't think Idina Sackville was the simpering, melancholy romantic that Osborne wants her to be. I think she was jolly and unflappable and amoral, and thoroughly British in her attitude to emoting.

The constant description is wearying. Cold beer is "glacial" and shiny cars are "gleaming." No book should have more than one description of a generic white tablecloth. It's as though Osborne wrote this with a thesaurus in one hand. She describes "cigarettes tipping out of long, black holders slid between grey gloved fingers" and writes "Gin fizzes saw out the afternoon until teatime, when sundowners of ferocious spirit blends kicked in..." She wants to immerse her reader in the ephemera of the era, and the mood of each moment ("The pace of their chatter quickened as the alcohol flowed through their veins") but this tactic falls flat. I think we're supposed to giggle and clink our cocktail glasses in glee. Instead I find myself longing for some actual story, some narrative, and some plain masculine verbs. She spends a lot of time describing the scene, rather than telling the story of the person in it with whom we're invested: Idina.

Osborne describes Idina as a romantic at heart; insecure and desperate to hang on to her husbands, especially the first. I think this is wishful thinking. Idina is Osborne's great grandmother - her first husband (Euan) is Osborne's great-grandfather. Osborne makes much of her own vested interest in this story, by writing the first and last chapters of the book in the first person and explaining how she came to write the book. Unfortunately I don't think this adds anything to the story. If anything, it makes the narrative too sentimental. Osborne wants to believe that Euan was the love of Idina's life. She suggests that Idina was heartbroken over the divorce, that they had been desperately in love, asserting that when she died, with a photo of Euan "gazing at her" from beside the bed, Idina said "I should never have left Euan."

In concluding Osborne writes "this book has in a way brought Idina back to life. And with her long, manicured fingernails resting on my forearm, her family is finally coming together." The metaphor is typically clunky and ridiculous, and Osborne's fantasy of being guided by her long-dead great grandmother to bring her "back to life" and unite her disparate descendants is grandiose and unconvincing. Unfortunately, the book doesn't bring Idina to life for me. I don't feel acquainted with anything but the minutiae of her busy social life and dizzying succession of shallow marriages. When I call Idina Sackville to mind, all I can think of is the biographer's endless catalogue of insignificant, fictionalised details that ultimately shed no light on her character : "long, manicured fingernails," "whisky flowing through her veins," "pea soup, Dover sole" and "pure-white, starched tablecloths." There must have been more to her than this.

The Temptress: The Scandalous Life of Alice, Countess De Janze
The Temptress: The Scandalous Life of Alice, Countess De Janze
by Paul Spicer
Edition: Paperback
Price: £7.99

16 of 16 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Highly recommended for a rainy weekend., 23 July 2012
Do you ever read a book you enjoy so much that you hunt down similar books about similar subjects to fill the void? It never works. After Paul Spicer's 'The Temptress,' I read Frances Osbourne's 'The Bolter,' which was an anti-climax.

This book, by contrast, was an absolute delight. I can't recommend it highly enough. Spicer is clearly invested in his subject, Alice De Janze, an uncommonly beautiful American heiress and member of Kenya's notorious Happy Valley Set between the wars. The writing is flawless, evocative and transporting. The subject matter is engrossing. Spicer writes about Alice incisively, striking exactly the right balance between analysis and narrative, maintaining exactly the right distance from a subject with whom he is somewhat connected (she was friends with his mother.) This is a story you'll read without blinking, until you realise it's 4am and you're disappointed to be finished. The pace and tone of the narrative is compelling, too. Just when you feel the story is meandering along at a comfortably pleasant pace, something terrifically dramatic happens, and Alice De Janze's life was punctuated with a lot of cinematically melodramatic moments.

The most infamous of these incidents in the book is the murder of Lord Erroll (the subject of 'White Mischief,' a book by historian James Fox, and later a film of the same title.) A reviewer below criticises Spicer for his theory about Erroll's murder, and this is probably legitimate. I haven't read 'White Mischief,' so Spicer's is effectively the first theory about Erroll's death that I have read. For this reason, I was pretty easily persuaded. Those who are more widely read in this area can better judge. However, as an ignorant but interested reader I enthusiastically recommend this to like-minded readers. It's a little bit racy and a lot scandalous, but also thoughtful and empathetic, offering new insight into a beautiful, complicated and deeply troubled woman.

I went on to read Karen Blixen's 'Out of Africa' for the first time, which I loved. I can also recommend 'Wildflower: An Extraordinary Life and Untimely Death in Africa' by Mark Seal. I plan to read 'White Mischief' and 'Too Close To The Sun: The Life and Times of Denys Finch Hatton' by Sara Wheeler. Since finishing 'The Temptress', I find I almost miss the heady atmosphere of white Kenya and the African landscape. I want to read more books with lions in them.

Wedlock: How Georgian Britain's Worst Husband Met His Match
Wedlock: How Georgian Britain's Worst Husband Met His Match
by Wendy Moore
Edition: Paperback
Price: £9.98

3 of 4 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Stranger than fiction, 6 Jan. 2012
This a mightily compelling read. The playful subtitle, "How Georgian Britain's Worst Husband Met His Match", suggests someone comically bad, but in fact "Captain" Andrew Stoney was pure evil: violent, murderous, vengeful, scheming, adulterous, sexually aggressive and guilty of virtually every crime you can name, including embezzlement, fraud, horrific assaults and countless rapes. The abuses of his duped wife, the Countess of Strathmore, are left to posterity in unusual detail, and Wendy Moore exploits them all in this book in her admirable efforts to vindicate and memorialise a battered wife who triumphed over a beastly husband.

The lightness and readability of this book come from it's momentum (unlike a lot of historical biography, it is action-packed, including the 18th century equivalent of a car-chase) and the fact that it's darkest moments are balanced with the promise of triumph. It was a wise move framing the story this way. The writing is good; fluent and articulate enough that you rarely stop to think about it, which is ideal in a story so fast-paced. Moore treats her heroine with warmth and empathy, and is perhaps the first person of the modern era to really champion Mary Eleanor Bowes. Though for much of her troubled marriage she was utterly abandoned by those who should have taken an interest in her welfare, her bruises and bloodstains ignored, there was a small band of loyal friends who stood by Mary and ultimately helped her to escape, and this book is moving as a tribute to them, too: the women who helped her escape, including her devoted maid Mary Morgan; her footman George, who later testified on her behalf; the kindly old gardener who nurtured the plants and preserved the botanical specimens she loved, and endured right up until his death the spiteful rumours Stoney perpetuated, and the solicitous locals who finally captured Stoney and rescued Mary after a lengthy abduction attempt.

Mary is a fascinating subject. Far from perfect herself, she is virtually sanctified by comparison with her wicked husband, and though Moore points out that she was coddled and flattered, resulting in poor choices and a loose lifestyle, by virtue of what she endured she was a heroine of sorts. Her marriage made her serious and focused. She developed interests in botany and literature, realised the true value of her children, and remembered those who were good to her. She was a pioneer in the divorce courts, and while divorce is not usually celebrated, in cases of extreme violence and oppression it really is a triumph, and Mary proved it to be so, which must have been an encouragement to other women in similar situations.

Stoney's antics really do go from bad to worse and I can't resist saying that just when you think it can't get any worse, it does. In a novel, a character so depraved and yet so attractive to women, so violent and yet so widely respected, would be considered poorly written. He doesn't make sense. He believes himself immune to the law and to the usual consequences of bad behaviour, and bafflingly, he is immune most of the time, until the law catches up with him, in the middle of a muddy field, on a horse, with a battered, shoeless wife. The picture Moore paints of Stoney is vivid, and he's an endlessly fascinating character, though always utterly despicable.

The book is not overtly moral, and as a narrative in its own right it's a ripping good yarn. Adventurous, exciting, scandalous and terrifying, it has everything a good story should: early-morning duels, mis-firing guns, clanging swords, horses, laudanum, castles, secret liasons, angry villagers, dramatic legal battles and more illegitimate children than you can poke a stick at (although, seriously, do not poke sticks at illegitimate children).

I'm bemused by the negative reviews below from people expecting a novel. I'm not sure how they ever got that impression, but if you know what genre you're reading (history) your expectations will be exceeded. You will read and read and read and suddenly realise it's 3am. You'll laugh, you'll cry, you'll celebrate, you'll find yourself reaching for imaginary triggers and urging the horses to ride faster. It's not a girly book, either - this is substantial historical writing. Mens' men will appreciate the military elements of the story and the weird boy's-club vibe of Stoney's inner circle, and women will appreciate a smart, independent heroine. If you're a good reader, you'll appreciate both. I'd heartily recommend this to virtually anyone.

Great Expectations [DVD]
Great Expectations [DVD]
Dvd ~ Ray Winstone
Price: £4.86

23 of 44 people found the following review helpful
1.0 out of 5 stars Way to butcher a classic, BBC One., 6 Jan. 2012
This review is from: Great Expectations [DVD] (DVD)
This adaptation is abysmal. I'm surprised it was well received in any quarters, but I gather those who liked it either don't know, or don't like, the book. That's fine, I'm not a book snob - that's largely what film and TV adaptations of good literature are for: so you can acquaint yourself with books you haven't read, and avoid embarrassment at snobby dinner parties. Adaptations are also meant to refresh old stories, reimagine them and present them to a new audience while retaining the germ of what made them worth publishing in the first place. Unfortunately, this production was true to neither the letter nor the spirit of Dickens' text.

In the interests of full disclosure, I should clarify that I've only watched the first instalment, and have no intention of finishing it. I watched the first half of the first episode shortly after it aired, couldn't bear to finish it, then decided after a couple of weeks to give it another shot. I needn't have, because my initial opinion didn't change. I hated it so much I actually feel diminished by it, as though the viewing experience atrophied some vital element of my personality that will never regenerate.

The production values are cheap, with a dark and overbearing blue filter providing most of the atmosphere. Ray Winstone seems okay as Magwitch, I like Shaun Dooley as the loveable Joe Gargery, and David Suchet is an excellent Jaggers (David Suchet is an excellent anything). Oscar Kennedy made a smashing little Pip; expressive, charming and appropriately pathetic. However the script and direction did him no favours, calling for him to smile broadly when he expected a boon from Miss Havisham and frown miserably when it didn't materialise, to gaze with open admiration at Stella, whimper sympathetically at the sight of a convict and roll his eyes at his horrible sister (who, btw, was not nearly as nasty as she should have been). I found myself confused about the motivations of some of the characters, such as Jack Roth's Orlick, who gazed at Joe as though he was in love with him (was he? Forget it, I don't want to know) and Mrs Joe, who seemed proud of Pip, though she despised him in the book. Is Miss Havisham supposed to be kind of in love with Pip, and is Estella jealous? That was weird.

If the shoddy direction obscures the motives of some characters, it exaggerates those of others. This is the Teenagers Guide to Dickens, and if you don't understand it, the script will explain it for you. Pip totally doesn't want to be a blacksmith, and he's desperately hoping Miss Havisham will save him! Stella is, like, REALLY hot, but really mean! Miss Havisham wants to cheat Pip, corrupt Stella, and use Stella to ruin Pip! And in case either Pip or the audience are missing the point, Miss Havisham uses every opportunity to explain it, oh so painstakingly.

Charlotte Rampling was the definitive Miss Havisham for me. Dark, beautiful, sinister and manipulative. What on earth gave Gillian Anderson the idea that delivering every line in a cutesy baby voice would be clever? The character has apparently been completely rewritten. 20 years younger and an awful lot prettier, this Havisham is a porcelain doll in a manicured white wig with immaculate ringlets, pale cobwebby clothes and a childlike sensibility. She's not ancient or skeletal, she's just Scully in white makeup. She wears bare feet, which is a pointless and unlikely change to the original text.

In case we haven't picked up on her fragility, she gestures to some butterflies in a frame that her brother collected, explaining: "he went to the furthest reaches of the earth in his quest for the purest specimen of beauty and when he found it he stuck a pin through its heart". Get it? Men hunt down beautiful women and then break their hearts. Like Miss Havisham, who is fragile like a butterfly, but had her heart broken. Get it? Need more? Miss Havisham goes on. Apparently Master Havisham died of cholera in the tropics, "struck down in his relentless pursuit of beauty... perhaps it was beauty's revenge? To stop his heart, when he had stopped so many others." Then Miss Havisham asks "do you think beauty is a destroyer of men, Pip?". The answer, in case you're wondering, is yes, beauty is a destroyer of men, and beautiful Estella is about to come down the stairs and destroy Pip, thereby avenging Miss Havisham.

There may as well be subtitles explaining this point, it's made so obvious. If you're still not clear on the situation, however, the producers have kindly taken further liberties with the text to labour the point. They also make it plain (too plain, for an audience they obviously consider too stupid to keep up), that Miss Havisham is deceiving Pip into thinking she will make him a man of means. She urges him to borrow an atlas, and "imagine what a world is out there, for someone different and extraordinary", then signs an apprenticeship binding him to the forge for seven years. Again, this was all more artfully implied in the book. Miss Havisham's manner is so affected and silly that it's almost embarassing to watch. She delivers her lines awkwardly, theatrically, and she seems to want to be thought cute, with wide staring eyes and a look of perpetual astonishment. She's self-consciously, deliberately weird, whereas Charlotte Rampling was lazy, comfortable, casually mad and believably eccentric.

By the end of the first episode, Pip has grown up into a very shiny young man who could be (and probably is) a Calvin Klein model, which isn't a fault per sae, except that I really resent the Twilightification of 19th century adaptations. It's Pip and Stella, not Edward and Bella, and 19th century novels don't all need to be reduced to the same generic, intense love story between two teenagers. Grown-up Estella is pretty, but not beautiful enough to be the ice-cold breaker-of-hearts Miss Havisham has made her, though I blame costume and makeup, and perhaps casting. I haven't seen much of adult Estella, but so far I think Vanessa Kirby looks better as a blonde and seems somehow too modern for this role. A scene in which Estella runs after Pip to breathlessly hold hands with him and imply that she loves him is completely superfluous and unconvincing, but I suppose they had to give us something to go on until the next episodes (the ones I didn't bother watching). I'm also seriously concerned at this point that Pip has grown up, but Biddy hasn't made an appearance. Where's Biddy?!?

The issue with adapting Dickens, or any great fiction, is that it's not just a good story, it's good writing. Great Expectations isn't the classic novel it is just because it's a good story, but because it's good writing. I concede that when novels are adapted for stage, film and TV, the new format requires alteration. Also, when something has been adapted as often as Great Expectations, the creators have to do something new with it, otherwise there's no point. However, much of the original text and dialogue have to be preserved, otherwise it's not Dickens any more, and frankly, it's not interesting any more. Andrew Davies is a master of the art of retaining a maximum of original text in TV adaptations while still stretching the limits of the format, but obviously he wasn't available.

I'm not likely to finish watching this, because I don't want to risk ruining a favourite book. There's nothing worse than having poorly-cast characters glued in your memory for all eternity, who spring to mind every time you read the book despite your best efforts to expel them. Unfortunately, the memory of this dreadful adaptation may be like a dead butterfly pinned to wall of my heart. Or like the "ghost of a bride", destined to suffer in sunless gloom. Or like an atlas that never closes, a globe that never stops spinning, "crows gathered 'round my corpse waiting to feast on me"...

Do you need more metaphors? There's no shortage.
Comment Comments (10) | Permalink | Most recent comment: May 10, 2015 2:29 AM BST

Land Girls The Complete BBC Series Two [DVD]
Land Girls The Complete BBC Series Two [DVD]
Dvd ~ Summer Strallen
Price: £8.90

9 of 9 people found the following review helpful
2.0 out of 5 stars Nowhere near as good as the first., 23 Dec. 2011
I enjoyed the first series of Land Girls, but series two was a poor effort. Billy and Bea both seem thoroughly depressed, though it's not clear why. Last time we saw them they were blissful newlyweds with a healthy baby. Suddenly the baby's grandfather turns up and wants to take Bea and the baby back to Chicago, a plot twist which makes no sense whatsoever. Why on earth would Bea want to leave her home and family to live in a city she's never seen with a man she barely knows? The excuse that she has always wanted to "see the world" doesn't explain while Billy and Bea are both willing to split their family. Billy has been called up (though he's keeping the secret from Bea - for some reason it never occurs to her that her young able-bodied husband might be required to fight with everyone else), and uses that as an excuse to send Bea and the baby away "to safety", but surely she'd be safe where she is, surrounded by family and friends?

Everyone in this series behaves peculiarly amorally; their motivations are inscrutable and it doesn't ring true. Why is Tucker allowed to get away with murder? Why does Joyce allow him to suffer for some hours in a rabbit trap while she weighs up the pros and cons of releasing him? Why does Bea flirt unashamedly with an Italian soldier, in full view of everyone, when she has a new husband and a new baby? Why does Lady Hoxley always talk to men as though she's trying to seduce them, and to women as though she loathes them? Why is Lady Hoxley attracted to the corpulent and manipulative American? How did Jack co-opt military assistance to abduct a baby? Why did Esther refuse "charity" to pay for her son's operation, while she was willing to prostitute herself to raise the money? Why does Connie treat Henry with unprovoked contempt, and why does Henry pursue her anyway? In fact, what's a vicar doing pursuing a woman with no apparent religious beliefs? Why is Joyce allowed to feel guilty for killing a soldier, when he was abducting her - and a child - at gunpoint? Obviously all of these questions have answers, but they're not satisfactory. I found it impossible to truly sympathise with any of the characters, because they behaved in ways that seemed unreasonable.

The charm of series one - the landscape, costumes, music and evocation of a truly memorable era - may have compensated for lack of great storytelling, but in series two the sheen has well and truly worn off. The previously cheerful Billy mopes and mumbles, and Bea is perpetually grumpy. Dressed in dowdy clothes, she stomps, growls, frowns and shouts throughout the whole series. She comes across as a spoiled brat who has learned nothing from the misadventures of series one. Joyce is far and away the best character; warm, cheerful and earthy. But even she seems oppressed and dull in this series, racked with guilt about shooting the German soldier. Lady Hoxley is softer, but still cold and nasty. Esther is miserable, and utters every line in a tremulous whisper. Henry is charming, but again, I don't know what he sees in Connie. Though she has some redeeming features, she's a shrew. Finch lends this series its only moments of levity.

Ultimately, season two is grim and stressful. I hope series three will improve.
Comment Comments (2) | Permalink | Most recent comment: Jan 6, 2012 2:37 PM GMT

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