Posts Tagged ‘maggie smith’

This film is very loosely based on the life of Jane Austen, prior to her becoming a successful author.  Jane (Anne Hathaway), whose mother wants her to marry a rich man, meets and falls for penniless lawyer Tom Lefroy (James McAvoy).  Their relationship inspires her writing, and in particular, her novel Pride and Prejudice (called here by its original title of First Impressions).

If you are looking for a biography of Jane Austen, this film is not it.  In fact, the real Jane only referred to Tom Lefroy in a couple of letters to her older sister Cassandra, so this film merely seems to take that as a jumping off point, from which to create a love story.  The subject of the story could just as easily have been a fictional character, but I imagine that to make it about Jane Austen drew in fans of the author (it’s what made me want to watch it).

Although it received quite bad reviews, I did enjoy the film for what it was.  Anne Hathaway is an unusual choice to play Jane Austen, but I thought she did well, and her accent was convincing; had I not known that she is American, I would have believed she was English based on this film.  James McAvoy was also very good as Tom Lefroy, and I thought the two of them had good chemistry.  The supporting cast consists of several well known names, including Maggie Smith, Julie Walters, Laurence Fox, James Cromwell and Anna Maxwell Martin – unfortunately all of them were somewhat under-used, but made the most of their parts.

I found it interesting that the first part of the film mirrored somewhat the plot of Pride and Prejudice – a headstrong and intelligent girl is determined to marry for love, while her mother implores her to marry a rich man, who can support her and her family.  Indeed, Jane is portrayed very much as a Lizzie Bennet type character, and there were also some witty lines and comic scenes.

The second part of the film is more dramatic, and anyone who knows much about Jane Austen’s life, will know whether or not the romance with Lefroy works out.  I thought the ending was a bit too long, and the film could have ended about 30 minutes earlier, but all the same, it tied up all the loose ends nicely.

Overall, an enjoyable film – if you are a Jane Austen fan, approach with caution and be aware that it is very much an imagined version of this part of Jane’s life, but if you are okay with that, then give it a watch.  You might be pleasantly surprised.

Year of release: 2007

Director: Julian Jarrold

Producers: Jeff Abberley, Julia Blackman, Nicole Finnan, Tim Haslam, Joanna Anderson, Robert Bernstein, Graham Broadbent, Noelette Buckley, James Flynn, Morgan O’Sullivan, Douglas Rae, James Saynor

Writers: Jane Austen (letters), Kevin Hood, Sarah Williams

Main cast: Anne Hathaway, James McAvoy, Maggie Smith, Julie Walters, Laurence Fox, James Cromwell, Ian Richardson, Anna Maxwell Martin, Lucy Cohu, Joe Anderson

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This film was directed by Julian Fellowes, who since making it, has made the hugely successful Downton Abbey tv series.  Like that series, this film stars Maggie Smith and Hugh Bonneville, and they are joined by, amongst others, Dominic West, Pauline Collins and Timothy Spall.

Set in 1940s England, 13 year old Tolly (Alex Etel) is sent to stay with his grandmother (Maggie Smith) at her country home, which she fears she will have to sell due to money problems.  Tolly’s father is fighting in WWII, and is missing in action.  As his grandmother tells him about the history of the house, and Tolly’s ancestors, he finds that he is able to travel back in time to 1805 and discover secrets about his family’s past, which still resonate today…

This film is adapted from Lucy M Boston’s book ‘The Chimneys of Green Knowe’.  I have not read the book, so cannot compare the two, but I did really enjoy the film.  Maggie Smith is as brilliant as ever, as the elderly lady who realises that she may have lost her beloved son, and may also have to give up her lifelong home.  Alex Etel does a fine job as Tolly, and credit should also be given to the supporting cast, especially Pauline Collins and Timothy Spall, as two members of the staff at the house.  Dominic West is great (as ever), although here he plays a particularly unpleasant character – I personally prefer to see him in nicer roles!

There is a parallel storyline;  the story from 1805 – which centres around Tolly’s ancestors, the kindly Captain Oldknow (Hugh Bonneville) and his selfish wife Maria (Carice van Houten) and their children Sefton; a spoiled, selfish young man (Douglas Booth) and Susan, a kindly, blind girl (Eliza Bennett).  Into their lives comes Jacob (Kwayedza Kureya), a former slave who escapes from captivity with the help of Captain Oldknow and joins the household as a companion for Susan, much to the chagrin of Sefton.  The second storyline is of course set in 1940s, with Tolly and his grandmother worrying about what has become of Tolly’s father (and we do find out), while at the same time getting to know and understand each other.

I thought the film was incredibly well acted, and both story lines were very touching.  So much so, that I ended up in tears at the end, which is not something that happens very often when I watch a film.  This was just a lovely film, well acted, well told, and very emotive.  Highly recommended to all fans of period drama.

Year of release: 2009

Director: Julian Fellowes

Writers: Lucy M. Boston (book), Julian Fellowes

Main cast: Maggie Smith, Alex Etel, Eliza Bennett, Dominic West, Timothy Spall, Hugh Bonneville, Douglas Booth, Kwayedza Kureya

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Lucy Honeychurch (Helena Bonham Carter in her first cinematic role) and her cousin and chaperone Charlotte Bartlett (Maggie Smith) are on holiday in Florence, but find that their hotel rooms do not have the view they requested.  Mr Emerson Denholm Elliott) and his son George (Julian Sands) offer to let the ladies have their rooms – which do have a view.  A friendship of sorts develops between Lucy and the moody and slightly eccentric George, but when she goes back to England, she becomes engaged to the stuffy Cecil Vyse (an almost unrecognisable Daniel Day Lewis).  However, when George and his father rent a cottage in the village where Lucy lives, she finds herself drawn to George again…

This is a lovely looking film, and still feels fresh although it’s now 26 years old (!)  It has a stellar cast – Maggie Smith and Judi Dench are excellent as always.  Simon Callow is also great as Reverend Beebe, and Denholm Elliott snatches his scenes from under everybody’s noses; he is absolutely terrific as Mr Emerson (and garnered an Oscar nomination for his performance).  A fresh faced Rupert Graves plays Freddy, Lucy’s brother, and the character is adorable.  I was less keen on Danie Day Lewis’ performance as Cecil Vyse, but that is probably because I found the character difficult to warm to.  Helena Bonham Carter displays the talent that would lead her to become one of Britain’s most respected actress.  Her performance here may be more raw than her later performances, but she still captures the character very well indeed.  The only weak spot in the cast for me was Julian Sands.  I wanted to like him, but I just thought his acting was so incredibly wooden as to verge on embarrassing.

However, there’s still plenty here to enjoy – it’s one of Merchant Ivory’s most popular productions and definitely a must-see for any fans of period drama.  Florence looks lovely, and it’s a very sweet film with lots of unexpected humour.  The ending is hardly a surprise, but is very satisfying nonetheless.  Certainly recommended, for a lovely story, and an almost perfect cast.

Year of release: 1985

Director: James Ivory

Writers: E M Forster (book), Ruth Prawer Jhabvala

Main cast: Helena Bonham Carter, Julian Sands, Denholm Elliott, Maggie Smith, Daniel Day Lewis

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Downton Abbey finished it’s seven episode run last night – sob!  However, the good news is that there will be another eight episodes next year, and I’ll be looking forward to watching them.

This show really captured viewers’ imaginations, pulling in an audience of nine million.  And why not?  It had it all – it looked fabulous, the writing was great with all the elements required for a great drama – intrigue, scandal, romance, secrets, treachery and humour.  However, what raised it head and shoulders above so many other shows was the top-notch cast: Hugh Bonneville, Elizabeth McGovern, Michelle Dockery, Dan Stevens, Brendan Coyle, Joanna Froggatt, Penelope Wilton, Ron James-Collier and Maggie Smith, to name a handful.

The story starts in 1912, when Lord Robert Crawley (Bonneville) discovers that his cousin and heir to Downton has perished aboard the Titanic.  As Lord and Lady Crawley only have daughters, this means that the heir is now a distant nephew, Matthew Crawley (Stevens).  As Matthew and his mother Isobel (Wilton) move to a cottage on the estate, the family and the new heir find it difficult to adjust to the new arrangement.  In particular, Lord Robert’s mother, Dowager Crawley (Smith) is concerned that her eldest grand-daughter, who was due to marry the original and now deceased heir, will lose out on the family’s fortune.

This provides the backdrop to the story, but equally as much time is focused on the lives of the staff at the house, and the social events in the lives of all of the characters.  The villains of the piece are footman Thomas (James-Collier) and Lady Cora’s maid, O’Brien (Siobhan Finneran).

In a time when there seems to be a dearth of good drama on television, and instead there is a deluge of awful reality and ‘talent’ shows, Downton Abbey provided some fabulous and intelligent entertainment.  If you didn’t catch it while it was on, I highly recommend that you put the DVD box set on your Christmas list, and indulge yourself!

Year of release: 2010

Directors: Brian Percival, Ben Bolt, Brian Kelly

Writer: Julian Fellowes

Main cast: Hugh Bonneville, Elizabeth McGovern, Michelle Dockery, Maggie Smith, Brendan Coyle, Dan Stevens, Penelope Wilton, Rob James-Collier, Joanna Froggatt

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