A Room with a View

I’m very fond of A Room with a View, so I was excited to find out that PBS was showing a new version (2007) tonight. I watched for a while, but was terribly disappointed, though I promise I had an open mind and I was ready to be pleased! First, it started off in 1922, with Lucy, obviously George-less, revisiting the Pension Bertolini, and remembering the story in flashbacks. Um, what? The first thing that popped into my mind was that, for some reason, they decided to kill George in The Great War. Maybe there’s some other reason, but I didn’t stick around long enough to find out. The characters were All Wrong. Mister Emerson and George were coarse. Mister Emerson was positively creepy; and George, strolling around the hallways of the Bertolini dressed only in a towel — I think not! Lucy was much bolder than she should have been. Charlotte was not manipulative enough. Cecil not stuck-up enough (though I turned it off in his first scene, so maybe he became more like himself later). The directing was clunky and obvious. The lovely delicacy of the novel was gone. Anthony Davies wrote the screenplay, so it should have been better!

One thing I did like — the costuming. It looked 1910-ish (very Betsy and the Great World). Lucy had the most beautiful linen suit on when she was “In Santa Croce With No Baedeker”, so elegant and simple. I wanted to rip it off her and steal it.

So, I gave up and put on the real version (1985) Helena Bonham-Carter, Maggie Smith, Denholm Elliot, Judi Dench, Daniel Day-Lewis, Simon Callow, and, of course, Julian Sands — not coarse at all, a perfect George :)

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11 Responses to “A Room with a View”

  1. Sherry

    I loved the Merchant Ivory adaptation, so I knew it would be hard for me to like this one, but I’ve been able to embrace subsequent versions of favorites, but you were right, this production was absolutely DREADFUL. And its a good thing you tuned out early, because it got worse.

    For one, it was too short, too much plot crammed into an hour and half, so a lot was cut out, especially with all that time wasted on flashbacks. More importantly, it was miscast. The actress who portrayed Lucy is pretty, but there wasn’t anything even mildly interesting enough about her to believe all these men would find her so fabulous. George had a distinctly low class British accent and demeanor, and while it was evident from the novel he didn’t have Cecil Vyse’s kind of money or social station, he wasn’t exactly a street urchin either. Cecil’s character barely got any screen time, but that’s just as well, I kept longing for Daniel Day Lewis or Maggie Smith or someone to come in and relieve the tedium.

    And you were right, they killed off George during the Great War. More improbably, at the end, Lucy, while on her 1922 trip to Italy, decides to take a drive into the countryside where she and George first kissed, and what do you know, runs into the very same carriage driver who led her off to George in the first place. He drives her off into the countryside, she goes to the site where she first kissed George, then she sits down to a picnic lunch with the driver, who now speaks plenty of English. (Oh and for those of us who don’t get the subtext, I think those were brownshirts supposed to be marching around in the background in back of the picnic scene.) Anyway, cabbie now speaks more than enough to tell her that his sweetheart never spoke to him again after that day, he never married, and he deliberately took her to young Mr. Emerson because he wanted to take her to a good man. She agrees he was, and then they touch hands, leading us to believe they will now end up together.

    Oh goody. Just the best revised ending I could have hoped for. George dies in the war, Lucy returns to Italy and hooks up with the driver just in time for the ascension of Il Duce to power. Wish *I* had changed the channel.

  2. kara

    WTF????? Good grief. I am speechless. I am glad I turned it off!

    Everyone else who watched this crapfest, go watch the 1985 Merchant Ivory version and wash the nasty taste out of your mouth. :)

  3. kc

    I knew it! ok I have seen the Helena Bonham-Carter version before, long ago, but didn’t realize what I was watching at the time (does that make sense? hehe)… last night I was watching Masterpiece and thinking, why do I keep expecting to see HB-C? I’ve never read the book, so I didn’t know what to expect – the costumes *were* lovely but I found it kind of hard to follow – the flashbacks were weird, and I’m glad to know she doesn’t really end up with the carriage driver – she doesn’t, right??

  4. kara

    Of course she doesn’t, she ends up with George and they both live happily ever after! I’d be glad to let you borrow my copy of the REAL movie, it’s just wonderful! :)

  5. Sherry

    Yeah, I deleted this episode of Masterpiece straight off the Tivo right after I watched the final scene again to describe it to you.

    I’ve been watching the entire series of the Jane Austen collection that Masterpiece has been broadcasting (my favorite author), and after seeing them, it didn’t surprise me that Andrew Davies took a lot of liberties with the plot and characters in RWAV. I also saw their special on Celebrating Jane Austen, where he talked about his philosophy, how he had to add all this action to the pieces, having the men riding about, lots more physicality, lots more physical contact, and I thought, geez, you don’t get it, not only was the author not in a position to have a lot of real life experience of intimate interpersonal romantic behavior, or if she had any, it wasn’t the sort of thing polite people talked or wrote about, but her works were character studies, interpersonal studies, they absolutely were not about young men riding about the country and fencing and dueling, its about social observation and commentary.

    I really loved his old Pride and Prejudice adaptation, he didn’t stray from the plot TOO much, even though I know enough to know exactly when he did. But it would be hard not to really like it, it was so well cast.

    I haven’t seen the Emma. As for the newly adapted Jane Austen works, I thought Northanger Abbey was done particularly well, thought it was the best cast and acted of the bunch, I also liked Persuasion and Sense and Sensibility (although Emma Thompson’s version was much, much better) to a lesser extent, but as in Room with a View, he either didn’t get or willfully changed a number of the characters. He either didn’t get or didn’t convey the avarice and calculation of Anne’s family, how they mistreated her, the level of interference of Lady Russell (or the eventual break between her and Anne), etc. In Sense and Sensibility, he completely missed conveying that the apparent preference toward Ms. Steele was a deliberate slight to Eleanor, he underplayed the family throwing Colonel Brandon at Eleanor, he got the scene between Eleanor and Willoughby during Marianne’s illness wrong, etc.

    And Mansfield Park was a complete muddle: Lady Bertram’s character was completely rewritten to bear little to no resemblance to the original, Fannie wasn’t well cast IMHO, Miss Crawford wasn’t as calculating as she should have been, Aunt Norris was a shadow of her true character, the whole background of the estrangement between the two halves of the family was lost, and the final straw was having Fannie and Edmund WALTZING at the end while the family stood around looking interested. Puhlease. If even a married couple had done such a thing in public in those days, it would have been scandalous, unthinkable. I know you have to adapt things for a modern audience somewhat, but a complete departure from contemporary mores is ridiculous.

  6. kara

    Yeah, I liked the new Northanger Abbey. It felt right, even when when it wasn’t strictly following the book. The changes felt reasonable, and I thought it was very well cast.

    I missed all the other new stuff, oh, except I caught part of Mansfield Park. It wasn’t bad enough to turn off, but nothing to write home about and it felt like 2/3 of the story was missing. I agree, the waltzing was bizarre — especially since the new and shocking waltz probably wasn’t even being done in nice wholesome English country society in Jane’s day.

    Yeah, I was basing my good opinion of Davies’s work on the Firth/Ehle P&P, and his Wives and Daughters, which I love (though of course the end, with the TROUSERS, is hard to stomach, but oh well, he had to get them together somehow…) I guess he got too big for his britches. Re-plotting Austen and Forster. How dare he? ;-)

    Speaking of hating, did you hate the Keira Knightly P&P as much as I did? Good grief.

  7. Katie Gibboney

    Hi Kara. I started to watch Room With a View the other night, and was shocked to see that it wasn’t the M-I version. I didn’t know any other existed. Who could do better than the one we all love? Anyway, I taped it and went to bed, but probably won’t make it through to the new ending. The characters are embedded in my mind, and simply can’t be changed.

    Incidentally, your reading of the book was just fabulous. A joy to listen to, and I loved the birds in the background.

    Finally, I was walking the dog this morning as usual, here in Central Arkansas, which is really a beautiful place. Was listening to my iPod, to Cast-On, and suddenly, you are reading me a story! It was wonderful to hear your voice, like an old friend. And the story was so sweet. Thank you.

    I’m knitting socks and socks and socks. Such a simple pleasure.

    Katie (kdgibboney on LibriVox)

  8. kara

    Katie, when I read the book I visualize the actors from the MI production. So perfect. In fact, when I watch the movie I feel like some scenes are missing, ’cause I’ve seen them in my mind so often!

    Glad you like the stories :)

  9. Sherry

    I liked Wives & Daughters, too. Never read the book so I have no idea how faithful it is to the original. Must admit I tend to be highly prejudiced towards the FIRST adaptation I see of novels, however, the Ehle/Firth version of P&P wasn’t the first I’d seen, the first was the old BBC production with David Rintoul, which I liked very much (except I thought he was a wee bit too stiff for even Mr. Darcy, but I loved Elizabeth, and Mrs. Bennett was terrific, etc.), and yet I embraced the second version I saw as well.

    As for the Keira Knightley version, I flat out, absolutely LOATHED it, and its not just because they took so many liberties with the plot and the language (as my favorite book, I’m very familiar with what Jane Austen wrote, and how much the adapter has improvised). No, I hated it on so many levels it was hard to divine what my specific objections to just about every scene was. For one thing, although I have seen her in other things I liked, Keira was all wrong for Elizabeth, she just doesn’t have that for want of a better word “intelligent smartass” about her that Elizabeth is. She lacks the maturity on screen that even young Elizabeth must have, the forcefulness of character, frankly, the charisma. She would have been better cast as Miss Darcy, not as Elizabeth.

    She acted as a modern young woman plunked down in a period piece romance novel, not as a contemporary young woman with a few touch ups for a modern audience’s benefit. For example, the confrontation scene when Darcy proposes and she rejects him, aside from the fact that the director decided to get them both wet for some unfathomable reason, she kept getting up in his face, was standing far too close to him, in his personal space, as it were. We’re talking about an 1800s disagreement in a parlour, not a modern day lover’s tiff in the middle of the street. They simply would not have been comfortable enough, or intimate enough, to be each other’s faces like that, never mind you wouldn’t be getting that close to someone you genuinely disliked. Plus I can’t identify just what specifically was lacking, but she didn’t get the period cadence and manner of speaking right. Some actors can do one historic period and not another — for example, much as I love Colin Firth, he did a version of Importance of Being Earnest where he really didn’t get the period banter, the ironic drawl, the Oscar Wilde style right, whereas his fellow star Rupert Everett is absolutely FABULOUS with it, just great. Oh well.

    Let’s see, what else did I hate about it? The casting was hit and miss, more miss in my opinion, I was underwhelmed by the acting talent on display, I kept getting the distinct impression it had been mounted as a Keira Knightley production, rather than an ensemble piece with lots of interesting characters, they took numerous liberties with the dialogue, and while they have to pander to the general lack of education of the average movie attendee, and remove some of the esoteric references that most people don’t get, they went far too far to my mind, they took out comments and plot points to the point where I felt that someone who hadn’t read the book would have a problem understanding the plot progression or the motivation of the characters. Basically, they changed the dialog and plot too much, then they jammed modern characters and behavior into period costumes, plunked them down on a period piece set, and then inserted the most ridiculous ending scene I’ve ever seen attached to a Jane Austen adaptation.

  10. kara

    I hated the whole thing (Kiera Knightly P&P). I think I turned it off before the end. It just felt so wrong — usually these movie adaptations either feel right, or they feel wrong. And that one was just SO wrong. They portrayed Lizzie as a headstrong, obnoxious brat. She was disrespectful to her parents! Grrrrr.

  11. Shell

    I caught 5 minutes of the Keira Knightly version of P&P and was disgusted. It seemed contrived and totally un-Austen-like. I am just not interested in watching any other version than A&E’s almost-perfect version with Firth & Ehle. I think that’s narrow-minded of me, but at least I admit that! :-D


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