Monday, January 28, 2008


Life is pretty boring lately, just the normal rounds of toddler wrangling, work, work and more toddler wrangling. The house is largely arranged the way I want it and the only real unpacking is books, which, considering there are books we never unpacked from the last time we moved, could take a while.

We watched the season premiere of Torchwood last night. I think it might be the best episode I've seen of that series. James Marsters is so good at playing a flamboyant bad guy. And for once there was an episode with some real humor and joy to it. I was reading someone's comments about Torchwood recently and they put their finger on why I don't like it nearly as much as the new Dr. Who: they sucked all of the humor and charm out of Captain Jack and turned him into an angsty bore. But the fun Jack made a bit of an appearance in this episode, which I hope will continue.

Meanwhile, tonight's Mansfield Park It's so hard for me to separate the fact that I don't like the book very much from any movie I watch based on it. I think tonight's version was certainly better than the version from 1983, which was so low-budget they couldn't afford to hire normal-looking actors.* And it was much more faithful to the book than the 1995 adaptation, although not nearly as entertaining. And I think part of it was the fault of the book and partly the fault of the movie.

The book itself is difficult because the heroine is so hard to like, dull, meek and prissy. I think it's particularly hard to take because it's entirely possible to have a very nice, shy heroine who Does the Right Thing according to her unfailing moral compass who still manages to be likeable (see: Anne Elliot). Fanny Price is not that character. The 1995 solved that problem by making Fanny vivacious and clever, and therefore completely unlike the character in the book. Unfortunately, in this version, Billie Piper attempted to portray Fanny in a manner so wooden she should have been starring in Pinocchio. More accurate to the book, but do we really want her to be?

As for the rest of the characters, Lady Bertram seemed far too alert, and for counterpoint, everyone else seemed slightly dull, without much chemistry between any of the potential lovers. I'll watch it again sometime this week to see if it grows on me, but my first impression is that my quest for the film version of Mansfield Park that manages to be simultaneously entertaining and accurate to the book will have to continue.

*The thing I took away from that very accurate, yet so extremely flat and dull adaptation was the one memorable scene where Lady Bertram roused from her laudanum-induced stupor to insert the non sequitur, "I think...I should like a shrubbery." It was the first time I realized that Monty Python has made any mention of shrubbery far more funny than it actually is.

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