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Two Out Of Three
on 15 March 2017
This box set contains three DVD's - all in their own case and contained in an attractive holder. All three films are ITV productions, with "Emma" and "Northanger Abbey" being very good, but "Mansfield Park" is much weaker.
The highly regarded Andrew Davies adapted Jane Austen's 1815 novel "Emma" for ITV. Previously, he was the screenwriter for the much heralded 1995 BBC TV serial "Pride and Prejudice" starring Colin Firth and Jennifer Ehle. There is little doubt that this ITV adaptation is far superior to the 1996 "Emma" movie starring Gwyneth Paltrow.
"Emma" is dominated by the superlative performance of the sultry Kate Beckinsale in the title role. She gives a tremendous display of pride, humour and cunning - she is almost too clever for her own good. Samantha Morton is wonderful as Harriet Smith, showing early naivety and gullibility, but emerges strongly through her problems. And Mark Strong is brilliant in his portrayal of the dashing George Knightley - he overflows with energy, decency and wise decision-making.
Wonderful locations were used which brought the film to life, including Broughton Castle in Banbury, Sudeley Castle in Gloucestershire, Stanway House in Gloucestershire,Trafalgar Park in Salisbury, Dorney Court in Buckinghamshire, Lacock in Wiltshire and Thame Park in Oxfordshire. Also, wonderful authentic costumes give at a wonderful period feel.
"Northanger Abbey", also adapted for the screen by Andrew Davies, departs from the novel mainly during the inclusion of dream and fantasy sequences that show what a big impact the reading of gothic horror and romantic novels had on lead character Catherine.
Felicity Jones gives a wonderful wide-eyed portrayal of Catherine, full of energy, emotion, humility and humour. Her friend Isabella Thorpe is engagingly played by the alluring Carey Mulligan. Her portrayal is full of honest intentions and optimism, but she finds it difficult to distinguish bad men from good. And, J J Field is appropriately dashing and exciting as Henry Tilney.
Due to attractive tax incentives, it was filmed in Ireland, with the stunning and grand Lismore Castle in County Waterford making an atmospheric location for Northanger Abbey.
The third film "Mansfield Park" is a big disappointment. Billie Piper is truly awful as Fanny Price - her acting is incredibly wooden, and she looks washed up to say the least. Why was she cast in a Jane Austen adaptation? Blake Ritson is one of the few actors to put in a decent display as Edmund Bertram, and Hayley Atwell is a breath of fresh air as Mary Crawford, but overall this is a doomed film. A poor disjointed script, uninspiring locations, average costumes and mostly terrible acting.
Overall, two films are worth watching, but "Mansfield Park" is a total flop.