~No. 9 - Northanger Abbey 2007~
JJ Feild as Henry Tilney and Felicity Jones as Catherine Morland
Northanger Abbey is the sole Austen novel that has been adapted only twice for TV or film. The 1986 BBC adaptation is without a doubt the worst Austen adaptation I have ever seen - Mansfield Park 2007 not excepted. The 2007 ITV version of NA, however, is a (mostly) charming rendition of what is perhaps Jane Austen's least known novel.
JJ Feild and Felicity Jones were adorable as Henry Tilney and Catherine Morland. Both actors were almost perfectly cast. JJ Feild doesn't quite do justice to my favourite Austen hero, but then, I'm biassed. :-) No-one will ever really capture Henry as he is in the book.
Of the supporting cast, Catherine Walker as Eleanor Tilney and Sylvestra Le Touzel (Fanny in MP 83) as Mrs. Allen were, I thought, the most memorable. Though evidently made on a low-ish budget, the costumes and settings were still lovely, and the score by Patrick Doyle (S&S 95) is delightful.
It is unfortunately a truth universally acknowledged that screenwriter Andrew Davies simply can't resist sensationalising classic texts. If there isn't a cheeky scene in the book, he'll invent one of his own - most famously in the "lake scene" of P&P 95. Northanger Abbey, the book, is a gentle parody of the Gothic novels that were so popular in Jane Austen's day. "The Mysteries of Udolpho" by Ann Radcliffe in particular is targeted, and is in fact read by Catherine herself in the course of the book. But for this adaptation, Davies instead chooses to focus on "The Monk", - a much more lurid piece of "literature" than Udolpho. For more on my annoyance at this seemingly innocuous change, click here.
Catherine with Sylvestra Le Touzel as Mrs. Allen
And I could have done without that scene between Frederick Tilney and Isabella. In the book, they flirt a good deal, but he doesn't seduce her!! Whilst there's nothing at all graphic, it still bothers me that they made that change from the novel. It's just cheap sensationalism - something which truly good books (like Jane Austen's!) don't need in order to be entertaining.
Carey Mulligan as Isabella Thorpe
Other cons: there aren't many, really. Oh yes - the running time - only 90 minutes, which meant that unfortunately some of best and funniest dialogue from the book had to be left out. Of course, there would have been more time for Austen's brilliant dialogue if it wasn't for the silly dream sequences. One more minor quibble: John Thorpe is a more unpleasant, annoying character than he is in the book. The same could be said of Isabella Thorpe. Unpleasant, annoying characters should be used sparingly onscreen, or the audience starts to lose patience with them (and the movie) - we see a bit too much of the Thorpes and not enough of Henry Tilney, in my humble opinion. ;-)
But in spite of all my whingeing, rest assured the good far outweighs the bad in this case. Like I said, the two leads are wonderful, and it's one of the more charming, light-hearted Austen adaptations around.