Go Luke!

So, I may have mentioned before that on occasion I enjoy watching Hallmark movies. There was a time I watched a lot of them but I have become a little more selective over time because they really start to blend into each other and some (especially the Christmas ones) can really get on my nerves. I do have a few favourite Hallmark actors and I always tune into their movies when a new one of them airs. One of my fave Hallmark actors is Luke Macfarlane. He’s made something like 13 Hallmark movies and going through his IMDB list, I can list these as my faves of his:

Especially the last one, A Valentine’s Match, is quite lovely but I like pretty much all the ones he’s in because I like him! They are all what you expect from a Hallmark movie but these do have that bit of extra charm or bite.

There is one Hallmark that he did that I did find quite awful: Sense and Sensibility and Snowmen. Except for the names, the characters were nothing like the Jane Austen novel or all mixed up. The actress playing Elinor (Erin Krakow, I can never quite warm up to her, she’s also one of the leads in When Calls The Heart) was more like a Marianne in character. Kimberly Sustad (I really do like her) played Marianne but was was far more like Elinor in character. Luke played Edward Ferris but I saw no Edward Ferrars storyline in him. And while there was a Brandon (Jason McKinnon), he was nothing like the tortured soul Colonel Brandon.

Left to right: Jason McKinnon, Kimberly Sustad, Erin Krakow and Luke Macfarlane

I might have liked that movie alright if it had NOT been linked to S&S, but because it does link to S&S, I can’t see it as a separate entity and I found it pretty disastrous. I might watch bits again just for Luke and Kimberly (maybe they should have matched those two up instead?) but other than that, this is the one Macfarlane Hallmark movie that makes me cringe. OK, getting off my soapbox now…

I haven’t watched Luke in a Hallmark recently, so why mention him now? Well, he’s in entertainment news a lot now because he has just made a new movie called Bros, which is a Judd Apatow movie, a romantic comedy about two detached gay men, who have given up on love, falling for each other. It is co-written by Billy Eichner, who also stars in it, and Luke plays the other main character. Luke has been openly gay since the mid 2000s but has not made any feature films yet. This one is with an all LGBTQ+ cast and seems to be quite big. I for one am quite stoked at Luke getting a shot at a bigger audience!

I read that the film had a disappointing opening weekend and that Billy Eichner (whom I’ve never heard of before, other than possibly in passing) has his own theories as to why. I can’t speak to that, what I can speak to is that I do very much enjoy a good romcom and by all accounts, this one seems to be romantic and funny. I plan on going to see the new Julia Roberts / George Clooney one and I also want to see this one. Not because it’s gay or straight but because Luke Macfarlane is in it and he can do sweet and soulful and charming really well and if it really is a romcom that is well done, well, then I sure don’t want to miss it. I’m rooting for Luke!

Mandy Patinkin liked it…

… as did Chris Evans (who seems to be friends with Eichner, so may not be unbiased).

… and maybe I will too? I’ll have to wait and see and in the meantime I’m glad that Luke is getting more exposure. Maybe that will bring him some different kind of (and more challenging) work to sink his teeth into. I’m curious to see what more he can do.

Persuasion 2022

So, I have said before that I am a sucker for a Persuasion adaptation. I think that together with Pride and Prejudice it is my favourite Jane Austen novel. The new 2022 Netflix version arrived just before I went on holiday and I got around to watching it during my holiday as soon as I had the time and headspace for it.

It stars Dakota Johnson as Anne Elliot, Cosmo Jarvis as Frederick Wentworth, Richard E. Grant as Sir Walter, Nikki Amuka-Bird as Lady Russel and the marvelous Henry Golding as William Elliot.

I saw that the movie was trashed in reviews and in honesty I didn’t think it was that bad. It wasn’t great but not bad. I don’t mind adaptations veering off from the original source as long as it is well done and I have been very pleasantly surprised with some modern takes on books I love (like, for instance, Pride and Prejudice and Zombies), so I thought I could maybe enjoy this too. I read this review on Roger Ebert and I think it is the review I most agree with. I especially liked what it said about it being a pop-culture full-circle moment:

If anything, director Carrie Cracknell’s “Persuasion” achieves an intriguing pop-culture full-circle moment. Austen influenced “Bridget Jones’s Diary,” and now Bridget herself seems to have influenced Dakota Johnson’s thoroughly charming portrayal of Anne Elliot. There’s lots of drinking red wine straight from the bottle, crying in the tub and lying around in bed, narrating her romantic woes with a familiar, self-effacing wit. She also repeatedly breaks the fourth wall, “Fleabag”-style, with an amusingly dry aside or a well-timed eye roll. Anne jokes that she’s “thriving,” and clearly she is anything but, but she’s so winning in her state of loss that we can’t help but root for her.

Warning: read on from here at your own discretion as there are some spoilers ahead (and pert opinions) in this review!

So, yes, this Anne is a little less, well Anne, and more Bridget Jones and once you get over that it’s OK. I didn’t even mind the fourth wall thing so much either, it gave a nice background narration to the story. I also read a lot of criticism on the language like Anne calling Frederick her “ex”, which yes, was weird, but, apart from it raising my eyebrows now and again, I could get over that and it really didn’t bother me so much. Some of the modernisms even really amused me, like Anne showing the ‘playlist’ Frederick had once put together for her.

I did like Dakota Johnson as this Anne, even though she’s not the Anne I envision, but that’s all down to the script in this version of the story. However, this Anne also did have some awful moments, like for instance that scene at the dinner party where she blurts out that she was proposed to by someone else. The Anne I know would never have said that and even for this Anne it was a very nonsensical thing to do. So yes, there were some real misses here in the script. And yes, she may have been a little snide and too self-satisfied with her own cleverness, but I could laugh at that. Overall I did like this Anne well enough and didn’t even mind her love affair with the wine bottle.

I also really liked Richard E. Grant in this, he is perfect as Anne’s very vain father, Sir Walter…

… and Nikki Amuka-Bird did a nice job of being Anne’s confidante.

The scene stealer in every scene he was in, though, was Henry Golding. So charming and a little wicked and smart. I swear he could level anyone with just one arrogant look. And that crinkle nose thing he does is irresistible!

In a link Herba shared on Twitter, he is one of the names mentioned for possibly being considered as the new James Bond. I’m not a huge Bond fan but for Henry Golding I would go see it on the big screen.

I also liked spoiled sister Mary played by Mia McKenna-Bruce. In the 2007 TV adaptation she was awful, but this Mary was quite perfect in being very annoying and self-centered and in all her spoiled mumblings she occasionally even did make sense. I love that line about men always getting out of disagreeable things, I’m really glad they kept that line in here.

So, with quite a few positives, what are the negatives you ask? Well, first and foremost that was Captain Wentworth for me. What a boring sap he was in this! I really couldn’t understand what made Anne pine for him so. What makes Wentworth Wentworth is that he has lost his youthful innocence, he has hardened and has become a self-assured man of the world whose pride was deeply wounded when Anne rejected him in the past. He is hell-bent on erasing her from his life, he perfectly hides his vulnerabilities and he is dismissive of Anne and yet in little miniscule details you get the suspicion he still cares for her and can’t quite let her go. The miracle of Wentworth is that he at the end can let go of his hurt and can soften again.

This Wentworth had nowhere near the stature of man of the world, despite his uniform, but I could forgive that. What I couldn’t forgive was his mooning all over the place instead of trying his best to ignore Anne. This just didn’t seem like a man who had grown in the intervening years since the break up. There was a scene at the beach where he wants to be friends with Anne again. What on earth was that about? It was absolutely cringeworthy. I think the “We’re worse than exes, we’re friends” bit may have been the absolute low point. Cosmo Jarvis is, I am sure, a gifted actor but this sappy puppy-dog-eyed Wentworth and his seeking Anne’s friendship was so not it!

From the first meeting he was just too openly soft with her and that just did not feel right. I feared then that this was not my kind of Captain Wentworth and as the film progressed I was sadly proved right. It’s a pretty bad scritping idea when you take away the central tension between Anne and Frederick in Persuasion.

I know it’s tough to touch on the standard of Ciaran Hinds as Wentworth in the 1995 adaptation but even other adaptations I have seen, whether good or bad, they at least did get Wentworth right. This adaptation totally didn’t.

And that magical letter scene at the end. Oh man, why did they have to mess with Jane Austen in that? The 2007 version was awful, the 1995 version was perfection…

… and this version was… meh… I mean, the kissing and hugging were fine (and that end song was very fitting and sweet) but the letter just wasn’t.

So, yeah, I could get over the character of Anne being different and the modernizations but I just could not get over Wentworth and the dynamic with Anne just not being right. That dynamic is supposed to be the heart of the story and it really wasn’t. I admit images at the end were evocative…

…. but other than that I’m sure the Mr. Elliot in this Persuasion would have been way more interesting for this Anne, he was the only one who could match her wit and insights and even playfulness.

OK, maybe not, as he is devious and slimy, so maybe Anne would have been better off with neither of these men and best on her own.

In ranking the Persuasion adaptations I have seen, I thought a Modern Persuasion Hallmark style version from 2020 was the absolut lowest of the lowest, the 2007 adaptation was pretty disastrous in some areas but with a few highlights (and Rupert Penry-Jones being the most watchable part in that), this adaptation was semi-alright, the 1971 adaptation was alright, but over long and somewhat stiff, and for me the 1995 Persuasion safely remains the best adaptation of the story so far.

Football, Tennis, Zoey and Thor

Last weekend Mr Esther, mini me and I travelled to the east of The Netherlands to see our Dutch national women’s football team play a friendly match against Finland. It was fun and mini me wished she could be on the field to play as well. The posed team picture was taken after the match but we saw them pose for that from where we were sitting. After the match we happened to walk past the stage door part of the stadium and indeed saw one of our national players (Merel van Dongen) come out and pose for pictures. The three of us are in the background of one of the pictures that was posted on social media.

The Netherlands won 2-0. It was fun seeing the sea of orange errupt after a goal (I really like that we have such a recognizable national colour) and we even had the wave go around the stadium as well…

What I really loved to see was that the audience was filled with young girls and women. Women’s football has really taken flight here the past 10 years or so and is really inspiring a whole generation of young women growing up now. It was fun to do this, my first time seeing a professional football match too!

I’ve also been loving following Wimbledon this past week and a half. There’s really some excellent talent coming up now and even two Dutch players (Van Rijthoven and Van der Zandschulp), who seem to be coming out of nothing, have done well. We’ve also become enamoured with young Spanish player Carlos Alcaraz and Italian player Jannik Sinner. Alas, all of them are out now but they do show that the future of tennis is looking bright. Oh, and I love that a two time mother, age 35, has made it to the semi-finals! I hope this German player, Tatjana Maria, can make it into the final.

Besides all that, I have recently also been watching a show called Zoey’s Extraordinary Playlist. Only two seasons were made of this show in 25 or so episodes and I have just finished it, really enjoying it too. The show is about a smart computer coder, Zoey Clarke, who after an event magically begins to hear people’s innermost wants and desires through popular songs. Especially the first season with the terminally ill father storyline really struck a chord with me, culminating near the end of season two with my fave father-daughter performance…

I also really liked the diverse cast in this, especially Zoey’s gender-fluid friend Mo and Zoey’s colleague Simon. The second season was less strong, I felt, as was the final movie (a Christmas movie) they made, so I do get that the show had run its course. Still, it was a fun watch and if you like music and drama and some comedy as well, it might be worth a gander. A trailer:

And to finish it all off, Junior and I went to see the latest Thor movie in our local cinema this past evening – Thor : Love and Thunder.

I know not everyone agrees but I really enjoyed seeing Jane Foster again. The movie itself was fun although a little more gravitas to oppose the sometimes almost too much comedy would have been nice. In the whole Marvel universe Thor has always been my fave and I am looking forward to the next one, which will apparently be coming at some point. I heard some harrowing things during my refugee work stint in the afternoon, so watching this film in the evening was a good antidote for that.

That’s it for my little round up. It’s 2 am now, I really need to head for bed as I need to be sitting at my laptop again for work in six and a half hours. Good night!

What is it with Persuasion?

I love Jane Austen’s Persuasion and Persuasion adaptations and as I have grown older, I think it has surpassed even my love of Pride and Prejudice. A year ago I read there were two Persuasion adaptations in the making and I was curious to see how those two would portray the story and also how much they would differ. I now understand that the version with Australian actress Sarah Snook is not happening anymore, which is a pity. She says in an interview with Vogue magazine from last fall: “Case in point: Jane Austen’s Persuasion with director Mahalia Belo, which was meant to be her next project. “The short story is that Netflix decided to greenlight their own, so Fox abandoned the one we were doing, which is disappointing because it was a great script and a director I really wanted to work with,” she says with a shrug. “But had I been doing that, I wouldn’t have had the opportunity to come back to Australia so soon and see family and friends.”

Well, that Netflix version is now finally coming to the screen on July 15th and today a trailer was released:

The cast looks good!

I’m not a huge Dakota Johnson fan but she could be alright in this. I don’t know Cosmo Jarvis who plays Frederick Wentworth but he does look like he has some charisma. I wonder if his charisma can beat Henry Golding’s charisma. I really like Golding, I think he could have made an excellent Wentworth as well but he also looks like he can imbue Mr Elliot with just the right amount of charm and ambiguity. I also love the casting of Richard E. Grant and in the snippet we see of him he already looks perfect as the very vain father of Anne. Nikki Amuka-Bird as Lady Russell looks interesting too. I didn’t know her name before I looked it up but I did know her face instantly from bits and pieces she’s done on TV where she somehow always manages to capture my attention.

For me an adaptation really doesn’t need to be the same as the book (I unexpectedly really enjoyed Pride and Prejudice and Zombies for instance) but it does need to capture it’s spirit somewhat. In this trailer, I do wonder about a friendship storyline that is hinted at – one of the big points in Persuasion is that Captain Wentworth is wounded and therefore outwardly very dismissive of Anne Elliot, so much so that there is no question of a renewed friendship until closer to the end of the story. Also, Captain Wentworth looks less stoic and unforgiving in this trailer so I do wonder how that will all work out. There also seems to be Anne breaking the fourth wall in this, which could be either very cool or very annoying.

No matter how good or how bad, I am very excited for this and I will definitely watch it as soon as I can. This adaptation has big shoes to fill, because I do love the Amanda Root / Ciaran Hinds version from 1995…

… but I don’t think it can be as bad as a Hallmark-ish version that was released two years ago (with the uninspired title of Modern Persuasion), which was quite terrible. I’m really curious on the take of this adaptation.

Besides the film/TV adaptations I also like reading Persuasion book adaptations and I just happened to finish reading one over the weekend. Even if the adaptations can’t always equal the original, the original storyline is quite strong and therefore the adaptations are really enjoyable for me too. So, I keep going back to them. Somehow I can’t seem to get enough of this story. I do keep wondering what attracts me to all these Persuasion re-tellings. Is it because the story is about a slightly more mature love? About second chances? Is it about learning from your mistakes or possible errors of judgment but also being grateful for them because they brought you to where you are today? It’s all of the above, I guess, and more. At the end of the book Anne Elliot says this:

“I have been thinking over the past, and trying impartially to judge of the right and wrong, I mean with regard to myself; and I must believe that I was right, much as I suffered from it, that I was perfectly right in being guided by the friend whom you will love better than you do now. To me, she was in the place of a parent. Do not mistake me, however. I am not saying that she did not err in her advice. It was, perhaps, one of those cases in which advice is good or bad only as the event decides; and for myself, I certainly never should, in any circumstance of tolerable similarity, give such advice. But I mean, that I was right in submitting to her, and that if I had done otherwise, I should have suffered more in continuing the engagement than I did even in giving it up, because I should have suffered in my conscience. I have now, as far as such a sentiment is allowable in human nature, nothing to reproach myself with;

I really like that. Even though the choice she made then caused her a lot of heartache, it still was the right choice for her at that time. It made her who she is but also drove Captain Wentworth to become as accomplished as he is. It also shows that timing is everything. There is a time to listen and take advice, there is a time to grow up and learn, there is a time when you can let experience lead you to another choice.

One of the great things about Jane Austen novels is how the main characters learn to know themselves better and what they want out of life and I think Anne may be Austen’s most self-aware character. She has loved and lost and has had time to absorb and analyse, thus maybe making her more wise and more empathetic than other Austen characters. She has had time to reflect and now knows who she is, she is level-headed and capable and she assuredly knows that if given a second chance she will grab it with both hands. I think it’s Captain Wentworth who is forced to make a bigger learning curve in this story, learning to deal with his petty anger, learning to understand himself, learning nuance (her youthful choice against him didn’t mean she didn’t love him) and finally accepting the fact that Anne, being steadfast and wise and empathetic, is indeed the best woman for him out there. I love Anne and that she stays true to herself and I love that she is able to inspire Wentworth to know himself better.

Persuasion is Jane Austen’s last completed novel. It is possibly her most nuanced one as well (despite also having some biting characterizations) and I think I will forever love coming back to it. Ah, the stories Austen could have told had she only lived longer!

Two favourites in one post

It’s the weekend! And I saw this lovely picture come across my Instagram feed this afternoon after I finished working…

Source

Apparently Damage has wrapped filming in Marseille and this is Richard with his co-star Charlie Murphy (an actress I don’t know yet but seems to also have been on Peaky Blinders). I have a feeling Richard is still wearing filming make-up in this picture but it’s such a sweet picture nonetheless! In his Instagram post Richard says he is ‘transformed’. I’d love to know in what way.

It reminds me of another sweet picture I came across earlier this week that I wanted to share of Colin Firth and Matthew Macfadyen: Mr Darcy 1995 (my absolute fave Darcy ever!) and Mr Darcy 2005…

They starred in their first movie togther and this was them at a premiere…

They seem to like each other apart from that Darcy connection and apparently only briefly exchanged Darcy experiences. They filmed a movie called Operation Mincemeat together about a British deception operation to disguise the Allied invasion of Sicily in 1943, using the body of a dead man, planting fake documents on him for the Germans to find. It’s based on a true story. I went to see the film with my friend last Tuesday (it was a pre-premiere showing). The cinema had a huge display to advertise the film…

It’s not Colin’s masterpiece and I could’ve done without that love triangle part of the story but it was a fun film to watch nonetheless. Ian Fleming, writer of James Bond, was part of the team who executed the deception plan and it was also very amusing finding out where M and Q in the James Bond movies seemed to have gained their names from. Colin and Matthew really play well off each other…

It’s not a film you really need to watch but it really was very nice to have seen it, especially with the added context of that Darcy connection. Although, I admit to not thinking much about either Darcy while I watched this, which is a good thing.

I love seeing my favourite actors making good connections with those they work with and showing it with a hug or a touch. It always makes me feel warm and happy inside.