Last night's installment of PBS's "Sweet Jane" series (okay, not really called that, but they've been playing that promo so much it's seeped into my brain) was "Northanger Abbey," and while I was looking forward to it, my hopes weren't too high after last Sunday's disappointment. The book was never among my favorites, either, so I admit I sat down to watch primarily with an eye to the clothing and bonnets my friend Natalie so lovingly previewed in her blog the other day. (She also did a review of the movie for PBS, complete with a fantastic play-by-play "bonnet watch" countdown of her favorite "Northanger" headgear.) The one pictured above is my favorite, incidentally. Pretty simple in design, but I just can't resist the rich texture of that ribbon trim.
There's something to be said for setting one's expectations, because I was very pleasantly surprised. The story was well-paced and funny, with dashes of tension and even a rather shocking seduction that I certainly do not remember from the novel, and wonder if Austen could even have hinted at something so disgraceful. (Must have been an example of screenwriter Andrew Davies putting "burlesque into bonnets," much as he popped Colin Firth into a wet shirt to sex up "Pride and Prejudice.")
The film offered many pleasures, but I think my favorite moment was when the two little sisters of our heroine, Catherine, see her suitor approaching across the lawn - Henry Tilney, a man they have heard is quite dashing, but have not yet met - and grasp each other gleefully, chanting, "Mr. Tilney, Mr. Tilney!" It might as well be Christmas morning for them.
And let's be honest, isn't that how every costume drama addict feels when a new one of these things rolls around? "Jane Austen, Jane Austen!" At least when it's the kind of adaptation, however familiar we may already be with the story, that succeeds in charming us all over again.
Labels: costume dramas