“When the beating of your heart/ echoes the beating of the drum”

Les Misérables

Based on the lengthy novel by Victor Hugo (reminder, the same man who wrote The Hunchback of Notre Dame), and typically referred to by the shorthand Les Mis.  The musical show premiered in 1985 starring Colm Wilkinson as Jean Valjean and celebrated its’ 25th anniversary in 2010.  It is one of the longest running musicals on Broadway.  Lea Salonga, who provided the singing voices for Disney’s Jasmine and Mulan, played Éponine and Fantine on Broadway.  A movie version of the show was produced in 2012 directed by Tom Hooper, with an all-star cast.  Hugh Jackman (Australia, X-Men, Greatest Showman) is Jean Valjean, Russell Crowe (Robin Hood) is Javert, Anne Hathaway (Princess Diaries, Becoming Jane) is Fantine, Amanda Seyfried (Mamma Mia) is adult Cosette, Eddie Redmayne (Fantastic Beasts) is Marius, Sacha Baron Cohen is Thénardier, Helena Bonham Carter (Bellatrix Lestrange), his wife.  Daniel Huttlestone (Jack in Into the Woods) is Gavroche.  Samantha Barks plays Éponine, which she played on the West End, and several of the extras have previously been on stage for this show.

The show begins in 1815, twenty-six years after the start of the French Revolution, we are informed at the beginning.  Look Down builds as we get closer to see prisoners hauling a ship into dry dock; Jean Valjean is one of the truly depressed men.  Javert is overseeing the work and calls for Prisoner 24601 and instructs him to life the heavy mast holding the flag..  Valjean’s parole has begun, but it does not mean he is free.  The two men confront each other; Valejan’s main crime was stealing bread to save a dying child, then years were added on to his sentence for attempting to escape.  Javert follows the letter of the law and believes that Valjean will never change.  Valjean eventually ends up at a church, after being turned way for work due to being a convicted criminal and even beaten.  The kindly priest (played by Colm Wilkinson; it’s wonderful to see him a part of the production) shows Valjean mercy, even after Valjean attempts to make off with the silver.  The priest vouches for Valjean and gives him the remaining candlesticks; but know he has saved Valjean’s soul for God and the man should attempt to make a better life.  Valjean looks to God and ponders what to do, finally declaring that Valjean is no more.  (There are many soliloquies in the show; it is also a show that is primarily sung with few spoken lines.)

We jump eight years to 1823 and the poor are oppressed and struggling to survive.  At the End of the Day, every day is the same as the before and they’re almost ready to give up.  We see a factory full of female workers and the foreman is attempting to sweet-talk Fantine.  But Fantine refuses him, which means he takes his bad mood out on the rest of the women.  The others tease Fantine and discover a letter, begging her for more money for her dying child.  They use it as an excuse to throw Fantine out, claiming her to be a slut.  (They’re petty women who are horrible to a woman for no good reason).  Valjean has become a successful man; the owner of the factory and the mayor.  Javert has dropped by for a visit and that puts Valjean on edge and thus does nothing to prevent Fantine’s dismissal.  There is something about Valjean that stirs a memory in Javert’s mind and it’s stirred more when he witnesses Valjean lift a heavy wagon off a man to save him.

Fantine is desperate for money and goes to the wharf to sell trinkets.  But she ends up selling her hair (Anne Hathaway did cut her hair for this role) and a tooth.  Once those are gone, she ends up turning to prostitution and becoming one of the Lovely Ladies.  She’s so disheartened, she remarks to her first customer, “don’t it make a change/ to have a girl who won’t refuse?”  After the man finishes and leaves, Fantine brokenly recalls I Dreamed a Dream (wow, can Anne sing; it’s also hard to sing while crying.  This song was also made famous recently by Susan Boyle’s performance on “Britain’s Got Talent”).  Fantine had fallen in love with Cosette’s father and thought it was forever, but it seems he left her once she was pregnant.  And thus her dream was turned to shame.  Later, Fantine attacks a rich man who tries to force her.  Valjean is nearby, giving money to the poor and steps in on Fantine’s behalf when Javert investigates [this is apparently based on something that Victor Hugo did himself].  Valjean takes Fantine to a hospital and vows to bring her daughter.

Javert confesses to Valjean that he thought Valjean was the prisoner who broke parole years ago.  And he filed a report.  Turns out to be a false report; the true culprit was caught and Javert does not expect the honorable mayor to forgive him.  Valjean tells Javert he was only doing his duty.  But he wonders on his own, should he let this man take his place?  Or should he confess who he is?  Who Am I?  He remembers the priest’s instructions; “If I speak, I am condemned/ if I stay silent, I am damned.”  Valjean decides to go to the court and declare himself to be prisoner 2-4-6-0-1!  Then he rushes to the hospital and comforts Fantine as she dies, hallucinating of Cosette.  Javert confronts Valjean and Valjean begs the inspector to have mercy; let him see to the orphaned child and he will willingly return to prison.  But Javert does not trust Valjean; in the dueling melodies his prejudice stems from being born inside a jail; “I was born with scum like you/ I am from the gutter two.”  The men duel and Valjean jumps out a window to escape.

Meanwhile, at the inn where Fantine left her daughter, Cosette innocently dreams of a Castle on a Cloud and her mother loving her.  Instead, she has the Thénardiers, who are crooks.  They send her to the well in the woods alone, shower their own daughter in pretty things and love and work Cosette like a servant.  They steal from their customers and lie to them, jokingly referring to the husband as Master of the House.  Valjean discovers Cosette in the woods and negotiates with the Thénardiers what they want in exchange for him taking Cosette.  They pretend to be sweet, but Valjean can see through their lies.  Cosette is happy to leave with Valjean and falls asleep in the carriage.  Valjean wonders how Suddenly his life changed [a new song for the movie].  They are still pursued by Javert and receive help at an abbey from the man that Valjean saved by lifting the wagon.  Javert vows by the Stars [I adore Welsh opera singer Bryn Terfel singing this, check it out!] to catch Valjean, “and if you fall as Lucifer fell/ you fall in flame!/ And so it has been/ and so it is written/ on the doorway to Paradise/ that those who falter/ and those who fall/ must pay the price.”

We jump another nine years to 1832.  The poor are still oppressed; a monarch is back in power.  Led by young university students, they entreat the upper class to Look Down.  We’re introduced to Gavroche, who leads a bunch of beggars (he’s the baby that was in the basket that the Thénardiers switched with a customer, proving they are horrible people!)  The police run them off.  One of the students Marius, spots a grown up Cosette and Valjean giving money to the poor and instantly falls in love with her [we see this so much].  The Thénardiers, accompanied by Éponine, their daughter, accost Valjean and Javert shows up again.  Valjean keeps his face turned from Javert and quickly takes Cosette away at the first chance.  Marius asks Éponine for help with Cosette and Éponine realizes who the young woman is.  But she loves Marius and agrees to take him to Cosette.

The students (if one looks a little familiar, he plays young Harry in Mamma Mia: Here We Go Again) rally each other and the citizens of Paris to rise.  “Red, the blood of angry men/ black, the dark of ages past”  Meanwhile, Marius is lovesick and his view on Red and Black is a little different, “red, the color of desire/ black, the color of despair!”  The leader of the student, Enjorlas urges Marius that the rebellion is a higher call and he is needed with the people.  Éponine then takes Marius to Cosette.  Several characters sing over each other, In My Life and A Heart Full of Love, proclaiming their love and their views.  Valjean wants to protect Cosette and refuses to tell her about his past; Cosette loves Marius and Marius loves Cosette; Éponine unrequitedly loves Marius.  The young lovers must part and Thénardier wants to rob Valjean, but Éponine screams to scare her father and gang away.  Valjean fears Javert has found him, so takes Cosette away.  She leaves a note for Marius, which Éponine takes.  The young woman wanders the streets back to the students’ headquarters, in the rain, musing she is On My Own.  “A world’s that full of happiness/ that I have never known!”  Plots are converging, One Day More until the climax.  Éponine disguises herself as a boy; Marius and Cosette pine for each other, but Marius decides to stand with the students; “one day to a new beginning/ raise the flag of freedom high!” Javert plans to put an end to the revolution.  All sing “tomorrow we’ll discover/ what out God in heaven has in store/ one more dawn/ one more day/ one day more!”

DoYouHearThePeopleSing

The show breaks for intermission here.  The rallying cry Do You Hear the People Sing?(and the most famous song from the musical; and probably of all musical history) brings us back as the revolutionaries take over the funeral procession of their hero, General LeMarc.  “The blood of the martyrs/ will water the meadows of France!”  Soldiers face off with them, and one nervously fires into the crowd, killing an old woman (sadly, this is how many confrontations have started throughout history, like the Boston Massacre in 1770).  The students and their compatriots gather and build a barricade with whatever furniture they can find (two fun facts: that set is reused from Harry Potter and the Sorcerer’s Stone‘s Diagon Alley, and the director of the film had four words of direction here: Build a Barricade.  Action!).  Javert has gone undercover with the revolutionaries, then volunteers to find out what the soldiers are planning. When he returns, he claims there will be no attack that night, but Gavroche recognizes him, so they tie him up.  We get little pieces of Gavroche’s solo number Little People; beware of them because they’ve got some bite.  The soldiers advance and shooting starts.  Marius recklessly threatens to blow a keg of gunpowder, killing himself too, to keep the soldiers away.  Éponine takes a bullet for Marius.  Once the soldiers have retreated, Marius holds Éponine, promising her anything if she’ll live.  She gives him Cosette’s note and peacefully dies in Marius’s arms; a Little Fall of Rain will hardly harm her now.

Marius sends a note to Cosette through Gavroche.  Valjean takes it, warning the young boy to be careful, and finds out his daughter is in love.  Valjean goes to the barricade to protect Marius; Gavroche vouching for him when the students don’t believe him.  He then spies Javert and asks to deal with him.  His wish is granted after he spots a sniper on the roof and protects the students.  Valjean shows Javert mercy; the same mercy that was shown him by the priest.  The students know that this may be their last night and pass around a bottle; Drink With Me.  Marius dozes off and Valjean looks down on the young man, pleading with God, Bring Him Home.  “He’s like the son I might have know/ if God had granted me a son…if I die/ let me die/ let him live.”

barricade

Come morning, this group are the only ones left; Paris did not rise.  But they still face the soldiers.  Gavroche starts the chorus of Do You Hear the People Sing and some more of Little People when he goes in front of the barricade to fetch more gunpowder.  He is shot twice and the young men have to hold one of their own back from darting to get the boy.  (In the show and book, Gavroche is Éponine’s younger brother, and even here, he was supposed to be aside from his parents passing him off to a random customer.)  The soldiers have brought canons and the barricade is soon overrun; when the bullets run out, a few of the students, Enjorlas and Marius included, turn to sabers.  Marius is hit and Valjean drags him off.  The last few students are caught on the second floor of their former headquarters and are finally shot.  Enjorlas hangs out the window, mimicking how he typically lies over the barricade in the stage show.  We briefly see Javert walking by the dead lined up and pins his medal on Gavroche’s chest  Valjean takes Marius through the sewer, running into Thénardier again and Javert is waiting at the end.  But he lets Valjean through when the man pleads mercy for the young wounded man in his arms.  And this mercy does not sit well with Javert; he cannot live in a thief’s debt.  He has one last soliloquy and falls off a bridge into a turbulent river, committing suicide.

The women mourn the radicals and we briefly see Marius’s grandfather care for him.  When he has more strength, Marius returns to the headquarters and struggles with the Empty Chairs at Empty Tables.  “Oh my friends, my friends/ forgive me/ that I may live/ and you are gone/ there’s a grief/ that can’t be spoken/ there’s a pain/ that goes on and on…oh my friends, my friends/ don’t ask me/ what your sacrifice was for!”  Cosette is waiting for him and echoes A Heart Full of Love.  Valjean gives them his blessing to marry and tells Marius his history as a prisoner, but instructs him not to tell Cosette.  He will move away.  The couple happily marry.  Until the Thénardiers show up as Beggars at the Feast.  Monsieur Thénardier has one more card to play; he saw Valjean with a dead man on his back in the sewer and wants to cash in on the scandal.  But he’s wearing a ring he pilfered from a body, Marius’s.  Marius recognizes it, reclaims it and realizes that Valjean was the one who saved him.  He demands Thénardier tell him where Valjean is, then drags Cosette from their reception to the church.

Valjean sees and hears Fantine as he sits his last hour.  Marius reveals to Cosette that her father saved him and Valjean gives a letter, his last confession, to his daughter.  Cosette begs Valjean to live and he promises to try, but peacefully passes to be in Fantine’s arms.  He briefly sees the priest again as he passes to heaven, “remember, the truth that once was spoken/ to love another person/ is to see the face of God” where all those died join in the final Do You Hear the People Sing.

I knew the music to this show before I knew the story.  I didn’t see a production of it until I was in high school and went with a group to Pittsburgh.  I sobbed.  A couple years later, my French class saw a performance put on by a performing arts high school in Pittsburgh, a former schoolmate had transferred to the school; and my French teacher also taught us the history of the French Revolution.  There were some changes made to make it more appropriate for high school students.  After I graduated college, the local theatre group performed the show and my parents and I went to see it; a friend was Jean Valjean.  And about that time, my church choir did a cabaret performance and featured selections from Les Mis, I did On My Own.  Then our pastor wanted us to “speak” the final chorus of Do You Hear the People Sing to go along with a sermon…we sang it, because that’s what we do.  We all knew it; there was no way we were simply going to “say” it.  And a helpful hint; not the best idea to watch this movie directly after logging off Facebook when it’s been depressing; at least have something lighthearted and fun standing by for afterwards.

As for my personal preferences and this show; since it’s so depressing, it’s not per say a favorite; I recognize that it is a wonderful show and those who perform it require stamina.  I Dreamed a Dream is a powerful song, but I think I heard it so often after Susan Boyle that I get tired of it pretty easily.  Though I commend Anne Hathaway for her performance in the movie.   Castle on a Cloud was my favorite when I first heard the soundtrack with the London cast and I remember a friend of mine and I having fun miming Master of the House during free time.  Stars is wonderful when performed by Bryn Terfel.  I know there have been people who did not like Russell Crowe’s performance at all; I disagree.  I’ve never like the role of Javert, mainly because he’s pompous.  Russell brought some humanity to the role and brings a pensive quality to his performance of Stars.  I like Eddie Redmayne in the role of Marius for the same reason; he brings humanity to the role.

When I first listened to the music for the show, I wanted to play Cosette.  Now, I’d rather play Éponine.  You also need a soprano who can hit the high notes at the end of A Heart Full of Love, so, kudos to Amanda Seyfried.  While I am a soprano, not that high.  On My Own is in a more comfortable range.  One Day More is a showstopper, which is most likely why they chose it to perform at the 2013 Academy Awards.  It was nominated for Best Picture, but did not win.  It did win Best Musical at the Golden Globes.  And who can ever forget Do You Hear the People Sing?  I get goosebumps every time I hear a performance of it.

Red and Black is another song I like.  Bring Him Home is known for being high in a man’s range; Hugh has commented he blames Colm Wilkinson.  There is a beautiful rendition by the Piano Guys and it is one that brings tears to everyone’s eyes.  Drink With Me, Fall of Rain, and certainly Empty Chairs at Empty Tables drowns everyone in tears.

Next Time: Another incredibly popular musical, Phantom of the Opera

 

A Random Fandom Update

Thought I’d take a step away from my musical blogs (don’t worry, already got the next one planned) and mention the elephant in the room: staying at home because of coronavirus. I work retail, so I have not been to work in several weeks. For the most part, I’m handling it fine; I’ve managed to work on other writing projects, I’ve crocheted several afghans, I’ve gotten back to my books (huzzah!), and I’ve caught up on some movies and shows.

So let me go ahead and state: SPOILERS ALERT!

Finally watched Frozen II; I liked the story. I don’t think the music was quite as memorable as the first and I still can’t stand Olaf, but the sisterly bond was great and very interesting to delve into their family history. (Puts to rest the fan connection between Frozen and several other Disney movies, including Tangled).

Also finally watched Crimes of Grindlewald. Excellent. Though while watching, I had to remind myself that Leta Lestrange was not a direct relation of Bellatrix (same family, but distant cousins). And the Dumbledore angle was better than I feared it to be; I thought they would focus entirely on Dumbledore’s infatuation with Grindlewald, but SPOILER a blood pact is a more solid excuse. And I totally do not believe Grindlewald about Creedence’s real name; the only plausible way he is a Dumbledore is as a cousin.

Supernatural has put filming their final season on hold, but it’s ramping up to be a doozy. News was just released that the final seven episodes will air in the fall. Jack is back, yay I guess. I have loved seeing some old favorites again; Benny was seen briefly. Loved that Eileen was back (then dead, then back!) and I really wish that she could get together permanently with Sam. (Then we find Dean someone, unless they make Destiel canon, which would be cool). And it was hilarious to have both Daneel Ackles and Genevive Padalecki back and in the same episode! The alternative universe Sam and Dean were hilarious as well (though can’t beat their father coming back; love that episode and cried along [unless you watch the blooper where Jared hits Jeffrey somewhere with the pearl; everyone is on the floor in laughter]). I really want to punch Chuck in the face and I hope Amara may come back to help. The boys are shaping up to fight God; I believe they will win and save the world because that is what they and the show are all about; but it’ll cost them. I still figure there is a decent chance the show will end with both boys dead; unless they are serious about producing a film later. If not, the only way for the fans to accept that it is over, is for our beloved boys to die. Even then, we’ll still write fanfiction.

Speaking of fanfiction; I was reading something on Facebook the other night about how fanfiction started. I mean, I had an idea, but it was interesting and a little unnerving. I realized why disclaimers are always posted at the top because you don’t want some bigwig suing you, but to find out that fan writers were punished… Some of the more recent successes give me hope; but I still am not likely to post what I have written. I share with a few friends, but I use it for my own practice. And some of this may end up as an essay or article. In case you’re interested, Supernatural accepts its fan writers and the fandom that has sprung up around it, which makes me love the fandom and the stars even more.

MacGyver just finished its fourth season, which went in a different direction than I originally imagined, and has been renewed for a fifth season. Yay! Their season got cut short due to the virus, but they must have filmed enough ahead to finish things up. I personally miss Jack and wish they would at least mention him in the story. Mac’s spiraling a bit and the fans know that Jack would help him. Still not a hundred percent sure of Russ’s motivations, but he at least tries to keep Mac alive; and Matty is still there, yay! I adored the episode with the plane and Mac in Tesla’s house; the writing has been excellent this season. Personally, I have never been fond of pairing Mac with a woman because I feel it detracts from the story and female characters should exist in shows outside their connection to a man. I’ve warmed up to Desi, but still not wholly sure. I like Riley, and I’m liking the Riley – Mac dynamic, but this triangle is only going to end badly. I shed tears when SPOILER James died. And I’m even sad that Auntie Gwen died; because she had just decided to protect Mac and it would have been great for Mac to have a familial connection, particularly to his mother. Though, baby Angus MacGyver is the cutest baby in the world! (And I refuse to believe that he’s named Angus because of a sign for beef; that’s demeaning to the character). Fanfiction should keep me occupied until it’s back.

Also been re-watching Hallmark’s Good Witch, going through the most recent episodes and the movies and now starting at the beginning of the show. Some days I can handle Hallmark and some days I just get annoyed; real life does not give us the right guy and the right job to keep us happy. But I love the magical elements of Cassie and the story. She and Sam are adorable. I’d love to live in Middleton. And when things get rough, there is a comfort in knowing that things will turn out alright; it’s Hallmark.

My mother and I have also managed to catch up on Outlander; we got behind. I miss them in Scotland; that was a reason I loved the show. Not fond of the time they were in the Caribbean, but now that they’ve settled in the colonies, my interest is peaking again. I’m glad Brianna has joined her mother and is bonding with her father. And proud that Roger has followed (though at times he was a bit of an idiot). I’m glad Stephen Bonnet finally was stopped; though I wished it had happened sooner. Whenever I would see Billy Boyd, I kept commenting “bad Pippin!” though I had to explain to my mother what I meant. I like the family that is growing at Fraser’s Ridge, and Ian has returned. Brianna, Roger, and Jemmy have also ended up staying, yay. The final episode; they actually found Claire sooner in the episode I thought they might, but we did get to see Claire’s struggles with the aftermath. I’m sure the time-traveling Native American will return; we’ll have to see what sort of time jump there may be before the next season.

Also enjoying watching the original MacGyver series with my parents and catching episodes of Race to the Edge (still love the show!). We’ve put on a few other movies, like some older James Bond (which was a bit weird), and re-watching the Librarian films (I’ll be covering all of those and the show upcoming. And it also gave me a writing idea). We are also going back and re-watching the newest Star Wars movies in preparation for finally getting to Rise of Skywalker (never fear, they are on the list to cover…down the road; MCU stands between us and them).

As for books; since I am first and foremost a reader; I have made a tiny dent in my “to-read” pile (and bought a few to add). Finally finished Raging Heat, a Richard Castle book (based on the show Castle that I don’t think I’m going to be covering, due to length) and Ireland’s Pirate Queen about Grace O’Malley, which have been on the back burner for a while. Enjoyed Castle and Lost Symbol by Dan Brown. Read Jeffersonian Key by Steve Berry. Few other books in there that weren’t great, but a relatively quick read; got around to Sense and Sensibility and that was a bit boring; the movie helped make sense. Just finished a Philippa Gregory book, The Lady of the Rivers which is a prequel in a way to White Queen (my mother and I have watched the first episode of the series). Parts are interesting and it is relatively well-written, but parts are now appearing a bit implausible (which happens with her books). Now I can move on to other books on my list. My Richard Castle, Nikki Heat series is up to date, but I want to get to some others first. I’ve got half a shelf of romances that I need to catch up on, so I can go looking for those newest books. Picked up another Librarians novel (based on the show) and some Peter Jackson/ Lord of the Rings books (like I need more of those). Some history series and the first book to a couple fantasy series I’d like to try. Some fun books I am holding off on as a reward, like behind the scenes of MacGyver, the last How to Train Your Dragon art book (I am that much of a nerd).

What are you guys doing to keep your minds occupied? Any good movies or books? Creative projects?

She has a Friend, Every Time She Paints

Miss Potter

A romantic bopic of children’s author, Beatrix Potter. It stars Renee Zellweger as Beatrix, Ewan McGregor as Norman Warne, her publisher (the two appeared opposite each other in Down With Love, which is coming up soon in my posting schedule). Emily Watson (she was in Testament of Youth [that WWI movie I watched with Kit Harrington] and War Horse) plays his sister, Millie. Beatrix’s father, Rupert, is played by Bill Paterson; we’ve seen him in Amazing Grace and Outlander.

This film beautifully showcases the Lake District of England and is a huge reason why I want to personally visit the scenery at some point in my life. It opens with Beatrix’s voice-over telling us when writing the first words of a story, one never knows where one will end up. We see her struggle to publish a children’s book and be taken seriously as a single, unmarried woman in 1902 London. Her publishers fob her off onto their younger brother who is making a nuisance of himself; if it gets mucked up, it’s no real loss. However, she is determined to look upon this as an adventure and encourages her illustrated animal friends to do the same. There is a flashback to her childhood, showing that she was a talented artist and making up stories even then.

Luckily, Norman loves Beatrix’s book and quite enthusiastic to work with her on it; everything can be done to her specification. Another flashback shows us that when Beatrix was young, her family started vacationing in the Lake District, where Beatrix got a lot of her inspiration. There was even a young man in the area who liked her stories, Willie Heelis. But Beatrix’s mother despairs of her ever marrying, or at least, marrying properly. She has introduced a string of suitable suitors to her daughter, but Beatrix wants none of them. Meanwhile, she and Norman make a good team publishing her book, and Norman encourages her to produce more stories. The first book, Peter Rabbit, is a success. Norman takes Beatrix to meet his mother and sister and Millie is determined to be fierce friends with Beatrix, bonding over their unmarried states.

In turn, Beatrix invites Millie and Norman to her family’s annual Christmas party. Her father comes to her rescue when her mother disapproves of their “tradesman” status. Beatrix’s present for Norman is a new Christmas story, which the party insists she share. She is a bit scandalous, showing Norman her bedroom, but they are chaperoned and Norman leads her in a sweet dance [I saw this movie before Down With Love or Moulin Rouge and was unaware that Ewan could sing]. Norman proposes, but Beatrix’s answer is interrupted. Then she confers with Millie if she minds. Millie encourages her friend to take a chance on love. Beatrix tells Norman yes. The next day, he visits her father. Unfortunately, Beatrix’s parents disapprove, her father mainly on the point that it is too sudden. They compromise; Beatrix can accept in secret. Their family will vacation in the Lake District for the summer again. If the couple still wants to marry at the end after some time, they will give their blessing. Norman bids farewell to Beatrix at the train station in the rain and they send letters back and forth.

Then, Norman’s letters stop coming. Millie writes, informing Beatrix that Norman is ill. She returns to London, sadly to discover that Norman has died. Millie was the only one who knew Norman and Beatrix were engaged. Oh, I cry every time during this part of the movie. Beatrix returns home, utterly depressed. She tries to draw, but her friends run from something. Millie comes to her rescue. Beatrix must get out of the house. She ispotter cottage quite wealthy now with the royalties from her books; she buys Hill Top Farm in the Lake District, from her old friend, William Heelis. Slowly, Beatrix comes back to life. She draws again and has new stories buzzing about. She reconnects with William, and they share the notion that the landscape of the Lake District needs preserved, farms should be kept farming, not bought out by developers.

The film ends back at the beginning, with Beatrix sitting down to write. We are told that eight years after moving to the Lake District, Beatrix married William Heelis and she donated 4,000 acres of farmland to the British people through a land preservation trust.

Miss Potter is not a terribly dramatic movie, which makes it a good movie to put on when I don’t want to have to think too hard on something. The scenery is gorgeous and I love Millie Warne’s views on unmarried ladies. I want a home someday like Beatrix’s cottage; it’s so cute. I have always loved bunnies (though I am quite content to let the bunnies that live in our backyard be as close as I get to having a pet), so I’ve always liked Beatrix’s illustrations.

Up Next: Titanic

A Tale of Woe

Jane Eyre

Another classic novel that has had many film versions made of it; I’ve only ever watched the 2011 film, and that was due to the cast. Mia Wasikowska (opposite Johnny Depp in Disney’s live-action Alice in Wonderland movies) is the titular Jane Eyre. Michael Fassbender (young Erik Lensher/Magneto from the prequel X-Men films) is Mr. Rochester. Judi Dench is Mrs. Fairfax. Holliday Grainger (we saw her in Disney’s live-action Cinderella movie as one of the stepsisters) is Diana Rivers alongside Tamzin Merchant (Georgiana Darcy) as her sister Mary Rivers. And if Mr. Brocklehurst, the overseer of that horrid boarding school looks familiar, he is played by Simon McBurney. He wasn’t terribly nice as Father Tancred in Robin Hood and not exactly nice as Charles Fox in The Duchess. Harry Lloyd (Will Scarlet in BBC’s Robin Hood series, Viserys Targaryen in Game of Thrones, and he appeared in two episodes of Doctor Who as well during David Tennat’s tenure) is Richard Mason. This film did encourage me to read the novel and it wasn’t too bad. Charlotte Brontë is not an author I will rush to read more of, but I see why it is renowned.

The film jumps around the timeline; we begin with Jane running away, laying down and crying when she sinks to the depths of despair, and being taken in by the Rivers, headed by their brother John. Then Jane recalls her childhood, brought up in her aunt’s house after the death of her parents and uncle. Her aunt cannot stand to have her in the house, so makes it out that she is a wretched child and sends her to a boarding school that encourages beating the girls. Jane makes one friend, who comments that Jane is surrounded by an invisible kingdom of spirits. Sadly, the other girl dies. When we jump back to the present, Jane is looking for work. John Rivers finds her a small parish school and Jane recalls fondly her farewell from school and her beginning at Thornfield Hall.

The house is kept by Mrs. Fairfax and Jane is the new governess for Mr. Rochester’s ward, a young French girl, Adele. Jane settles into Thornfield rather well, but still wishes for some adventure. Mrs. Fairfax sends her on an errand, and Jane manages to startle a man and his horse on the road. When Jane returns to the house, she discovers the injured man is her master, Mr. Rochester. Rochester asks if she was looking for her people, the fairies. He is intrigued by Jane and they speak frankly with each other. He toils alongside his help, but is changeable. One night, Jane hears something outside her door. She goes to investigate and discovers smoke in Rochester’s room and saves him from being burned alive. He thanks her, but also cautions her to say nothing. The next morning, he has left again. Then abruptly returns with wealthy guests. Mrs. Fairfax surmises that he will propose to Miss Ingram soon.

After enduring the wealthy guests, Jane leaves the drawing room. Rochester follows, but their conversation is interrupted by a visitor from Jamaica, Mr. Richard Mason. Rochester oddly asks Jane if she would remain his friend even if he faced disgrace. She would. Richard greets Rochester warmly and the two men speak. Jane is woken that night by a scream, as are the other guests. Rochester sends them back to bed, but asks for Jane’s help. She is to keep an eye on Mr. Mason while Rochester fetches the doctor; Mason has been stabbed. But both are ordered to not speak to each other. Jane discovers a hidden door in Rochester’s room, but the man returns before she can investigate further.

Come daylight, Rochester opens up to Jane about a woman who revives him. Jane believes he speaks of Miss Ingram. In truth, “what would Jane Eyre do to secure myjane eyre happiness?” He tucks a small flower in her hair. Later, news comes that Jane’s cousin has committed suicide and her aunt requests she return home. Jane acquiesces, only for her aunt to reveal that she lied to Jane’s other uncle when he inquired of her whereabouts, wishing to bequeath his estate. Jane returns to Thornfield Hall in good spirits, though she is greeted by the rumor of Rochester’s engagement to Miss Ingram. She informs him she will seek a job elsewhere. She and Rochester share a confusing conversation about their souls before Rochester asks her plainly to be his wife. The sun shines brightly and the couple are happy.

Unfortunately, their happy day is interrupted by Richard Mason again. Rochester pulls Jane back to Thornfield and reveals that behind the hidden door is a hidden room containing his wife, Bertha, Richard’s sister. He had married her fifteen years prior in Jamaica, but she turned wild. Jane returns to her room and removes her wedding gown. Rochester pleads with her that night, but she will not marry him while he is married to Bertha. She flees come morning, bringing us back to the beginning. Rochester’s shout of “Jane” echoes through the rest of the film.

Jane imagines in her little cottage that Rochester has been searching for her and finds her, planting a searing kiss on her. Sadly, no, ’tis only John Rivers with news of Jane’s uncle. He has since passed and left her a considerable inheritance. Jane desires to share the money with the Rivers who were kind enough to save her life. But John wants more than friendship and a sibling relationship. He wants her to marry him and become a missionary wife in India. She refuses to marry him and goes searching for Rochester. In her absence, Thornfield has burned. Mrs. Fairfax informs Jane that Bertha lit another fire and Rochester wouldn’t rest until everyone had been rescued. He even went back in for Bertha, but couldn’t prevent her from jumping from the roof. Jane searches for her dear Rochester. She finds him underneath a tree, now blind, but he recognizes her hands. Jane kisses him, the sun shines again, and the movie ends.

While the tale is relatively depressing most of the time, there are some rather tender moments between the two main characters. The film is well acted. We can see how Jane wants Rochester, even before she knows his feelings, without her having to say anything. Not the most romantic movie, but there are others that get me feeling all warm and fuzzy inside.

Next Time: Miss Potter

“Your Hands are Cold”

Pride and Prejudice

Again, this is the 2005 rendition of Jane Austen’s most famous work and is full of familiar faces. Keira Knightley (Pirates of the Caribbean) leads as Miss Elizabeth Bennett. Rosamund Pike (the femme fatale of Die Another Day) is her elder sister, Jane. Jena Malone (one of the contestants in The Hunger Games series) is one of the younger sisters, Lydia. Donald Sutherland (who also appears in The Hunger Games and the original MASH movie amongst his illustrious career) is their father, Mr. Bennett. Opposite Keira is Matthew Macfadyen (Athos in 2011’s The Three Musketeers, star of BBC’s Ripper Street [which I have only caught commercials of during Sherlock and The Musketeers, don’t really have a desire to watch], The Sheriff of Nottingham in Robin Hood with Russell Crowe, and also starred opposite Keira Knightley in Anna Karenina in 2012 [my mother and I sat through that movie, neither of us ever having read the book and were thoroughly confused. That is the movie that led us to creating our twenty-minute rule with any movie; if we are not interested in the movie within the first twenty minutes, we shut if off; because that was three hours of our lives we will never get back]) as Mr. Darcy.

Kelly Reilly (Mary Morstan in Robert Downey Jr’s Sherlock Holmes movies) is Caroline Bingley.  Darcy’s younger sister, Georgiana is played by Tamzin Merchant (she was the young Catherine Howard fated to be beheaded as Henry VIII’s fifth wife in The Tudors series, and even shows up in our next film, Jane Eyre).  The Bennett’s cousin, Mr. Collins is played by Tom Hollander (he showed up in two of the Pirates of the Caribbean movies as Cutler Beckett).  The formidable Lady Catherine de Bourgh is played by the as formidable Dame Judi Dench (M in several of the more recent James Bond films).  And another relative of the Bennett’s, Mrs. Gardiner, is played by Penelope Wilton (Harriet Jones in Doctor Who and Isobel Crawley in Downton Abbey).

The story opens with Mrs. Bennett informing her husband, and her daughters overhearing, that Netherfield Park, a grand estate, has been let at last to a very wealthy young aristocrat. He must see that one of their daughters should marry this Mr. Bingley, but first, Mr. Bennett must visit Mr. Bingley so the women may then visit. Mr. Bennett has already visited Mr. Bingley. There is a ball, where the Bennetts are enjoying themselves when Mr. Bingley arrives, with his sister Caroline, and dear friend, Mr. Darcy. Mr. Bingley is immediately taken by Jane. Elizabeth seems a little interested in Mr. Darcy; her sister has just warned her “one of these days Lizzie, someone will catch your eye, and then you’ll have to watch your tongue,” but Elizabeth then overhears Mr. Bingley and Mr. Darcy speaking and Darcy comments that Jane is the only pretty girl in the assembly, Elizabeth is passing enough. She lets on she overheard him when they speak later. Elizabeth also has to put up with her mother speaking rather crassly.

The next day, a letter arrives for Jane, from Caroline, inviting her over. Mrs. Bennett, hoping it was from Mr. Bingley, insists Jane ride instead of taking the carriage to Netherfield. It begins to rain and Jane falls ill. Elizabeth walks over herself to check on her sister. Mr. Bingley already seems taken by Jane. Caroline attempts to make friends with Elizabeth and is quite comfortable around Mr. Darcy. They discuss women’s accomplishments and Darcy reveals that one of his faults is “my good opinion, once lost, is lost forever,” but Elizabeth cannot fault him for that. Then her mother and younger sisters traipse in for a visit and all return home. Mrs. Bennett is quick to point out the expensive furnishings and young Lydia insists the Bingley’s hold a ball. Mr. Bingley helps Jane into the carriage and Darcy helps Elizabeth, though he quickly walks away after.

Mr. Collins, the cousin who will inherit, visits. He is a preacher and his rectory lies near the estate of Lady Catherine de Bourgh, who acts as his patroness. He reveals to Mrs. Bennett he intends to marry one of her daughters. She informs him that Jane is expected to be engaged soon, so he settles for Elizabeth. Though it looks like Mary wouldn’t mind marrying Mr. Collins. Meanwhile, the young ladies meet the officers of the regiment that is lodging in town, a Mr. Wickham in particular. Elizabeth is charmed by the young officer, but it quickly becomes known that he and Mr. Darcy have a past. Wickham tells Elizabeth that Darcy’s father loved Wickham better and Darcy never got past that and threw him out.

The Bingleys do hold a ball at Netherfield. Elizabeth hopes to see Wickham, but gets stuck with Mr. Collins who stares at her and bluntly states he intends to remain close to her for the evening. Mr. Darcy surprises Elizabeth and asks her for a dance. She is trying to overcome the different accounts of Darcy she has heard in order to make out his character. He hopes he can provide more clarity in the future. There is an interesting part of the dance when the other dancers seem to disappear and it is just Darcy and Elizabeth together. Mr. Collins, who just interrupts Mr. Darcy, reveals that Darcy is Lady Catherine’s nephew (see the similarities with Becoming Jane? A nephew to a powerful patroness). We also witness the rest of Elizabeth’s family in a competition to make fools of themselves; Mary would rather play piano than socialize, Mrs. Bennett speaks loudly that she is sure Jane will be engaged shortly, Kitty and Lydia are rather too social, and Elizabeth’s friend, Charlotte Lucas remarks that Jane needs to pluck Mr. Bingley up; being too shy will not let him know she is interested.

Mr. Collins asks for an audience with Elizabeth the following morning. She mouths to her father to stay, but they all abandon her. Mr. Collins proposes. Elizabeth heartily declines and firmly tells the man that she will not make him happy and she is certain he will not make her happy. This puts Mrs. Bennett in a kerfuffle, she enlists her husband’s help in making Elizabeth change her mind and accept, in order to keep the house, or else she will never speak to her daughter again. Mr. Bennett tells Elizabeth that she will have to be a stranger to one of her parents then, for he will not see her if she does marry Mr. Collins. Turns out, Charlotte Lucas accepts Mr. Collins, figuring she will get no other proposal (after Collins has already insinuated to Elizabeth that she will receive no better offer). Sadly, the Bingleys have left as well.

It seems some time has passed; Jane visits their aunt and uncle and Elizabeth accepts a visit to Charlotte. There, she meets and dines with the great Lady Catherine. Darcy is there, as well as a Colonel Fitzwilliam. Elizabeth is seated next to Mr. Darcy, and then Lady Catherine quizzes her on her accomplishments. After dinner, she is ordered to play the piano (she does so poorly, as she told the lady.) Darcy visits Elizabeth briefly, and awkwardly the next day. But Fitzwilliam informs Elizabeth that it was Darcy who split Mr. Bingley from Jane, due to objections to the family. Darcy finds Elizabeth in the rain and proposes, well, not the best proposal. Not wise to start it with saying you love someone against your better judgment. Elizabeth questions him on Jane and Bingley and informs Darcy that Jane is shy; she doesn’t even always reveal her heart to her sister, let alone a man. Darcy throws back that the rest of Elizabeth and Jane’s family are fools, but the two eldest daughters are excluded. Elizabeth also questions him about Wickham. They part angry, but Darcy leaves a letter. He (somewhat) apologizes for separating Bingely and Jane and tells Elizabeth what really happened with Wickham; he essentially gambled his inheritance away and when Darcy refused to give him more money, seemed to fall in love with Darcy’s very eligible younger sister and planned to elope. Darcy informed him he wouldn’t receive a penny of the dowry and so Wickham left, and Darcy’s sister was broken hearted. Elizabeth returns home very confused.

Lydia is invited to go to Brighton with family friends and Elizabeth’s aunt and unclepeak district invite her to accompany them to the Peak District (which seems absolutely stunning). Elizabeth attempts to persuade her father to not let Lydia go or else she will become the most determined flirt. Mr. Bennett simply wants peace and feels that Lydia is too poor and insignificant to get into too much trouble. Elizabeth and her relatives break down near Pemberly (where Mr. Darcy lives) and decide to visit. Elizabeth wanders and discovers Georgiana playing, and Mr. Darcy. She flees, but Darcy follows. He then calls at their lodgings and invites them over the following day. Georgiana is a cheerful young lady and is determined to be friends with Elizabeth; it is clear Darcy dearly loves his sister. Their lovely day ends in despair when news arrives that Lydia has run off with Mr. Wickham. Darcy feels it is his fault for not outing Wickham sooner; Elizabeth feels at fault for not sharing her knowledge with her family. The men of the family set out after Lydia. News returns home that Wickham will marry Lydia for a pittance.

She flounces in as a happy bride, showing off her ring to her family. Lydia inadvertently reveals to Elizabeth that it was Mr. Darcy who discovered her and Wickham and paid for everything; “he’s not half as high and mighty as you,” she remarks to her elder sister. Shortly after, Darcy and Bingley return to the Bennetts. After their brief visit, Elizabeth is on the verge of telling Jane she may like Darcy. We see Bingley rehearse, then he bursts back in and requests and audience with Jane: “first, I must tell you I have been the most unmitigated, incomprehensive ass…” Jane accepts his proposal: “yes, a thousand times yes” (which is what I imagine the most romantic proposals end with). Jane wants her sister to be as happy as her, but Elizabeth cannot bring herself to tell Jane of what almost was with Mr. Darcy. Their night is interrupted by a visit from Lady Catherine de Bourgh, who speaks to Elizabeth, demanding she does not accept any proposal from her nephew, Mr. Darcy. He is intended to marry her daughter, a match planned since infancy. Elizabeth then orders Lady Catherine out and runs from her family, refusing to speak on the matter.

darcy mistShe takes another early morning walk and meets Mr. Darcy in the mist (an utterly breathtaking scene). She attempts to make amends, for judging him so harshly. Darcy tells her, she must know, it was all for her. His affections have not changed; she has bewitched him body and soul [another line I desire in my own proposal]…”I love, I love, I love you and never wished to be parted” (and this is why we love Jane Austen). Elizabeth gently kisses his hands and their foreheads meet as the sun rises. They return to the Bennett household to get permission from Mr. Bennett. He is confused; they all thought she didn’t like him. Elizabeth tells her father she was utterly wrong about him; they are so similar, and so stubborn. In short, she loves him. She also explains how Mr. Darcy has already helped their family, but he would not want Mr. Bennett to respond.

I adore the ending of this film, even though it is not how the book ended. Elizabeth and Mr. Darcy are enjoying an evening together and discuss what endearments Mr. Darcy may use. he inquires when he may call her Mrs. Darcy, when he is cross? No, “only when you are completely, perfectly, and incandescently happy.” He proceeds to kiss her, murmuring “Mrs. Darcy,” he time, until their mouths meet. …sigh, swoon!

In truth, I believe I fell asleep the first time I watched the movie; it is one that needs time and a few watching’s to grow fond of. Mr. Darcy improves with each viewing. I did manage to read the novel after watching the film in college. A quick skimming of the ending enforces why I prefer it in film format; it is much easier to digest, dispensing of some of the flowery language. But as Becoming Jane comments, both sisters ended up with good matches and lived happily. The visual artistry of the film is gorgeous. I do like the soundtrack to this film, much better than the last batch of movies; I actually own it. It is mainly piano pieces, which are played by various characters throughout the film. And the dance tracks are lively pieces.

Up Next: The Gothic romance Jane Eyre

 

jane austen dressAn added treat: this is me in a Jane Austen inspired gown that I wore for Halloween one year at college; made by my talented mother (I did not inherit that talent).  I still have the dress.

 

“No sensible woman would demonstrate passion”

Becoming Jane

Portrays Jane Austen’s life before she became a famous author and some experiences she may have had that influenced her writing. Stars Anne Hathaway as Jane Austen, James McAvoy (Mr. Tumnus in Chronicles of Narnia, and young Charles Xavier in the prequel X-Men movies) as Tom Lefroy. Julie Walters (Mrs. Weasley) is Mrs. Austen, opposite James Cromwell. Dame Maggie Smith (Professor McGonagall and Violet Crawley, Dowager Countess of Grantham, among her other roles) is Lady Gresham. Anna Maxwell Martin plays Jane’s older sister Cassandra, but the actress also portrays Elizabeth Darcy in the TV mini-series, Death Comes to Pemberley.

Jane spends the early morning hours writing and puzzling through the proper way to phrase a passage. When she figures it out, she rejoices by spiritedly playing the piano, quite early on a Sunday morning. Which her father comments on during the sermon, along with what a lady’s proper place is; at this time point, married with children and obeying her husband. After church, the Austen family visits Lady Gresham; her nephew is slightly captivated by Jane, which would be a boost to the Austen family for he will inherit well. Cassandra is engaged to be married to a young man bound for an expedition to the West Indies as chaplain. The Austens also have two boys, though one seems to be disabled of some sort, and they have their cousin visiting as well, a French comtess fleeing events in France.

In the bustling city of London, Tom Lefroy engages in boxing matches when not studying the law under his constraining uncle. He is friends with the elder Austen son, Henry, who is in the militia. Tom’s uncle wants him to learn to settle down; his sister, Tom’s mother, married for love and now lives in near poverty in Limerick with more mouths to feed than she can handle. So, Tom is sent to spend time with his country cousins, where he encounters Jane Austen. Their small community is delighted by her writing, but the higher educated Tom Lefroy sees areas where she can improve and truly be equal to the greats.

Jane is not terribly impressed with Mr. Lefroy upon first introduction. They end up dancing together at a ball, after Mr. Wisley (Lady Gresham’s nephew) trods on her toes. Tom quietly tells her, “I think that you, Miss Austen, consider yourself above the company…secretly.” That line has always stuck with me. It’s a bit like the theme of Pride and Prejudice; even those of lower means may feel pride; at least we’re better than someone else, or at least we don’t act a certain way. The two young people get to know each other through other encounters. Jane is good a cricket (and she and her cousin make to follow Tom and Henry when they go dashing off for a swim; at least, until the young men strip naked and the young ladies retreat). Tom and Jane meet accidentally in the Lefroy’s library (oh, to have a library like that!) and Tom offers Jane a book to widen her horizons (several re-watchings and age have pointed out the innuendo reading Tom gives).

Later, they discuss the book. Jane disapproves of the morality. She argues that a novel must show how the world truly is; good people do not always succeed and bad people prosper. “A novel should somehow reveal the true source of our actions.” Mrs. Austen personally hopes that Jane will settle down with Mr. Wisely, but Mr. Austen doesn’t want his daughter to sacrifice her happiness. By now, Jane is starting to look at Tom more favorably. Lady Gresham visits the Austens and Mr. Wisley strolls with Jane and proposes. She does not answer immediately, which draws her mother’s ire. Jane must marry well, there is no money for her. Yes, it is ideal to marry for “affection” (they don’t say love), but money is essential. Lack of money can wear away and ruin a marriage. Jane desires to live by her pen, but her mother doesn’t support that notion. Her father asks her to at least consider the proposal; it is likely to be her best offer.

Jane’s French cousin, the Comtess, has also developed affection for Henry Austen. She is more aware of the world and not hemmed in by conservative notions. Yes, Henry is younger and poorer than her, but they love each other, so what does it matter?

Lady Gresham holds a ball (I love the music) and Jane dances with Mr. Wisley again, though Tom joins partway through. Anyone watching can see the difference in Jane between Wisley and Lefroy; she smiles when she sees Tom and can barely take her eyes off of him. Lady Gresham deigns to speak to Jane. Against her own better judgment [oh, there are times that Lady Gresham is reminiscent of Countess Grantham, though Downton Abbey is a few years off], she implores Jane to accept her nephew; Lady Gresham feels that Jane is beneath Wisley, but she is the one that her nephew desires. Outside, as Jane ponders all of this, Tom meets her. Such a romantic meeting; I seriously want my future potential fiancé to propose to me saying: “I am yours, heart and soul,” because I simply melt at that statement. Jane kisses Tom, wanting to have gotten a kiss right just once in her life. He begs her to marry him instead, but he has to persuade his uncle.

becoming jane proposal

So, the couple concoct a plan. Jane, her brother Henry, and cousin Eliza will visit Cassandra on the coast, but stop in London, where Lefroy will host them. The uncle is impressed with the Comtess, but not Jane. Nevertheless, Tom takes Jane to meet Mrs. Radcliffe, a married woman to a man with some money, who makes her own living by writing Gothic novels (played by Helen McCrory, another Harry Potter alum, she portrayed Narcissa Malfoy). Mrs. Radcliffe cautions Jane that society frowns upon a wife who has a mind of her own. That evening, Jane begins drafting First Impressions (the first draft of Pride and Prejudice). Tom speaks with his uncle the following morning, but a letter has arrived prior; the contents of which we do not hear for certain, but they do not speak favorably of Miss Austen and Tom’s uncle denies Tom’s wish to marry Jane. They part brokenhearted; Tom relies on his uncle for money and cannot go against him.

Soon, all the Austens are back home and again at Lady Gresham’s home. Word is delivered that Cassandra’s fiancé has died. Jane and their mother attempt to comfort her that evening. Cassandra cheers a little watching her younger sister write and Jane summarizes her idea for Pride and Prejudice; two sisters, better than their means, eventually make happy marriages. Sadly, Tom is back in town for a brief visit, and is engaged. Jane in turns accept Wisley’s proposal, though walks away after giving the gentleman the news. In the woods, Tom comes upon Jane and her brother George. The couple shares a passionate kiss and plan to run away. Cassandra tries to talk her sister out of it, but gives in.

The two lovebirds’ carriage gets stuck on the way, necessitating Tom removing his coat, which holds a pouch of letters. Due to be his wife, Jane reads one, discovering it is from Tom’s mother, thanking him for the money to support his family. Things begin to clarify for Jane. Once the carriage has stopped for a short break, she tells Tom she found the letter and cannot be the ruin of him. She returns home, only to be greeted by Henry’s more dour friend, John, who has known Jane for years, and he too proposes. She of course rejects him, “are there no other women in Hampshire!” then realizes that he wrote the letter destroying her hopes of marrying Tom. She makes to strike him and he shrinks away.

Mrs. Austen is simply pleased that Jane returned home. Lady Gresham on the other hand refuses to be near the Austens in public, for they are tainted with suspicion. Wisley, having grown a bit of a backbone, defies his aunt’s wishes and speaks to Jane. They part as friends; he would rather not marry simply for his money. He seems to support Jane’s intention to write, as she cannot seem to marry even for affection, much less without. He inquires, “will all your stories have happy endings?” “My characters, after a little bit of trouble, will have all they desire.”

Henry and Eliza marry and are seen together, with Jane years later at a concert. Afterwards, they catch sight of a familiar figure and Henry returns with Tom Lefroy, and a young girl, his daughter Jane. Young Jane is a great admirer of Miss Austen and precociously asks for a reading. Henry explains that Jane does not read in public in order to remain anonymous. But Jane relents, for her new friend. Tom looks on; it seems he still loves Jane Austen as well.

Jane Austen is not my favorite author, though she may be my favorite classic author. But I do what I have read of her. This gives us a glimpse at the woman behind the beloved stories and shows that she may not be so different from her characters. I see so many echoes of this tale in Pride and Prejudice. This film did make me fall in love with James McAvoy a little; I love how passionately he speaks to Jane. As already stated, I swoon at his proposal. It is a movie I like to watch around Valentine’s Day.

Next Time: Pride and Prejudice (the 2005 film with Keira Knightley. I know the mini-series with Colin Firth is well regarded, but it is longer. I feel the film is easier viewing)

I Probably Share Qualities with Jo

Little Women

This will primarily focus on the 1994 film. I’m aware there are older versions and there is a wonderful new version out (unfortunately, not on DVD yet so I can do a closer watching), but I will insert little quips from what I can remember from the theatre. In grade school, Little Women was my best friend’s favorite book; I did finally read it and it is on my shelf. I remember it being well written and the characters fully realized. But what truly drew me to the 1994 film was the fact that Christian Bale (Batman in Christopher Nolan’s universe, we’ll see a young version in Newsies once we get to musicals, he was also the voice of Thomas in Pocahontas, and has won awards for some of his other roles) as Laurie. Winona Ryder (star of Beetlejuice, Edward Scissorhands, and Bram Stoker’s Dracula [refuse to see either of the first and I’ve only caught bits of the last]; she also made a brief appearance in 2009’s Star Trek as Amanda Grayson, Spock’s mother) stars as Jo March, a character very much based on author Louis May Alcott. Claire Danes (we saw her in Stardust) is Beth March and Kirsten Dunst (same age that she was in Interview with a Vampire [another film I have not seen]) is young Amy March. Susan Sarandon plays their mother, Marmee. Mary Wickles (the housekeeper in White Christmas, and Sister Mary Lazarus in Sister Act, amongst other roles) pops in as Aunt March, and Gabriel Byrne (D’Artagnan in The Man in the Iron Mask; he also introduced a concert between Irish groups the Coors and the Chieftains [he is Irish…though it was a bit of a shock to be watching a video on YouTube and pondering “where have I seen that guy?” and realize]) as Professor Friedrich Bhaer.

march women
The March women: Jo, Meg, young Amy mother Marmee, and Beth

Little Women is set in New England, specifically Concord, Massachusetts during the Civil War. The March’s father is away, leaving the women to make do. This film opens on Christmas, narrated by Jo. We see early on that Jo is an avid writer. The four girls make their lives a merry one when possible. Meg still yearns for nice things, like they had before the war. Amy desires to marry well. Beth is shy, but loves the piano. And Jo is fiery. Led by the example of their mother, they donate their Christmas breakfast to a less fortunate family. They catch a glimpse of their next door neighbor, Theodore Lawrence and his grandfather. At a dance, Jo encounters Theodore hiding in another room; they quickly strike a mutual friendship. He gallantly comes to the rescue when Meg sprains her ankle at the dance.

Amy gets into trouble at school with a deal over limes; the girls trade them, but they’re against school rules, so the teacher strikes her. Jo is now in charge of her education. Jo also sits with her Aunt March as her companion, reading most of the time. But when the elderly lady dozes off, Jo rummages through her other books for subjects more to her amusement. The four sisters produce their own newspaper and imitate a gentlemen’s club. They put on Jo’s plays. And Jo soon wants to include “Laurie,” or “Teddy,” and Jo sometimes calls him. He is loved as a brother.

While the four sisters all love each other, tensions and anger have their place as well. Amy is upset that Meg and Jo get to go to the theatre and not her. She cannot persuade Jo to help, so yells as the older sisters leave, “you’ll be sorry, Jo March!” To extract her revenge, Amy burns her older sister’s recent manuscript. When Jo next goes to jot something down, she discovers is missing, then in the fire. She screams at her sister and they have to be separated. She refuses to forgive Amy. Later, Amy follows Jo and Laurie as they ice skate, but Jo ignores her calls and neglects to tell Amy of the thin ice. Amy falls through and Laurie and Jo rush to save her. Jo is now apologetic to her little sister and there is a cozy scene of all four little women curled together, working on re-writing Jo’s manuscript.

Meg attends Sally Moffat’s coming out. She has strong opinions on slavery and the silk industry, but allows the other ladies to dress her up. She flirts with the gentlemen in attendance and Laurie is displeased with what he sees; this is not the Meg he knows. And he tells her. Later, he apologizes and Meg apologizes for her own actions. Then Laurie is off to college and the March’s father is wounded. Jo can’t face going to Aunt March for money, so sells her own hair. At night, she cries a little for her loss. Beth, continuing their mother’s request to check on the poor Hummel family, catches scarlet fever. Amy must be sent to Aunt March so she doesn’t catch it and Teddy and his grandfather come to the rescue, along with his tutor Mr. Brooke. Teddy promises Amy that he will kiss her before she dies. Beth worsens and they are forced to recall Marmee, who had gone to care for her husband. Beth recovers in time for Christmas; the elder Mr. Lawrence gifts her a piano in memory of his own daughter who died young, and they are blessed by the return of Mr. March.

We jump four years to Meg and Mr. Brooke’s wedding (the hymn they are singing is For the Beauty of the Earth, which I have sung in church and is very easy to get stuck in your head). Teddy and Jo talk; Teddy proposes. Jo refuses; she does not love him that way. They both have tempers, they’d only quarrel. But Laurie wants her. She insists she can’t be a wife. Both are broken hearted after the encounter. Jo cheers slightly when Amy informs her sisters that Aunt March is going to Europe, but her spirits drop again when Amy points out that she is Aunt March’s companion now and will be the one going. Marmee arranges for Jo to board in New York City with a friend and teach the daughters. There, Jo encounters Professor Bhaer and other scholars. She even tries her hand at publishing. But she and Friedrich disagree over what material Jo should be writing. She goes for the sensational stories that newspaper editors tell her people want to read and they pay for. Friedrich believes she should write more from her soul. For a while, they manage as a couple, but they still disagree. Then Jo receives word that Beth has taken ill again and leaves for home.

In Europe, Amy encounters Laurie. She dislikes the changes in Laurie; he whiles away his time and money and does nothing productive. Meanwhile, she is being courted by Fred Vaughn, an old schoolmate of Laurie’s. Laurie begs her not to accept Fred. But he is determined to prove himself worthy of the March family. He receives word of Beth’s passing (which is utterly heartbreaking) from Jo and goes to comfort Amy. They must wait to journey back; Aunt March is ill as well. When she dies, they return home.

Aunt March left Jo her home, Plumfield. Marmee remarks that a home that large is only really good for a school. Jo begins thinking. She also starts writing about her family in memory of Beth. Meg has twins. Laurie finally returns home, with Amy as his wife. Jo is surprised at first, but gives the couple her blessing. Jo’s novel is published. She notes a card from Friedrich and inquires who left it. The housekeeper accidently sent him next door, with the news that Miss March had married Mr. Lawrence. Jo runs after her professor and clears up the confusion and they admit their love for each other.

The newest rendition, released on this past Christmas day, exactly twenty-five years after the 1994 version, stars Saoirse Ronan (she was Mary Stuart in the recent Mary Queen of Scots movie, which I tried to watch, then shut off because it just didn’t seem to jive) as Jo March, Emma Watson (famous as Hermoine Granger in Harry Potter and wonderful as Belle in the live action Beauty and the Beast) as eldest March sister Meg. Laura Dern leads as Marmee March and Aunt March this time is played by veteran Meryl Streep. I adored the film and eagerly await its release on DVD. There is a BBC miniseries of the book that I want to check out at some point.

The 2019 film jumps in time period when telling the story, so you need to be at least familiar with how the story is supposed to go. For instance, they play both times Beth is ill on top of each other. So we first get the happy recovery, then Jo wakes up again and our stomach drops when we realize that this time won’t be happy. I liked that elder Mr. Lawrence appears more in the new film and his character is further developed. Overall, I feel the 2019 film better showcased all the characters, not just Jo. We see a scene from the book involving Meg that was not included in the 1994 film, when she uses money they were saving for something else to buy a nice gown because she misses pretty things. We see faults in all the girls, as well as their triumphs.

jo and lauriePersonally, I have always liked the pairing of Laurie and Jo; they get along so well, it seems only natural. I can understand her hesitation, that being too similar will not work well as a marriage, but Laurie is such a charming lad. (This is why it makes a good Valentine’s film, well, Christian Bale’s portrayal a little more than Timothée Chalamet…oh, if a man would offer to take me to London and support my writing…[but alas, it hasn’t, so I make do with my books and my writing and my movies and shows]). But I utterly adore how Jo is portrayed as a writer in the 2019 film. I recognized so much of what I do in her. And her conversations with the publisher; I was set on seeing the film when Jo commented in one trailer that if she was to sell her characters and writer’s integrity, she would get some of the profits.

I like the ending scene of the 1994 rendition, between Jo and Friedrich; it is very touching and romantic. But I also like the take in the 2019 film *Warning: Spoiler* that Jo does not marry, very much like Louisa May Alcott herself. And Jo turning Plumfield into a school and all of her loved ones there was heartwarming.

Do you lot have a favorite version? What are some of your favorite romantic movies?

Up Next: Becoming Jane