Review: From Prada to Nada

I feel a bit like I’m in the early days of college again – when I left everything until the last minute. Though I always got it done (and done fairly well, thank you), it was typically a busy few weeks before the end of a semester. And here I am, three weeks out from the end of Summer of Austen – my first Three Month Project, and I still have three novels to read!

After last night’s lazy summer dinner of half-price ribs and $2 Summer Shandy drafts at Paddy Mac’s, I returned home with the intention of spending, oh, two or three hours on Pride and Prejudice (a novel I am only 1/3 of the way through and did not count in the aforementioned total of three remaining to read). In an expert attempt at procrastination, I first watched Tuesday evening’s episodes of The Daily Show and The Colbert Report. Then I had to see what “Jane Austen” things were on Netflix… for future planning, of course.

As if it were meant to be, pre-determined for my Wednesday night entertainment, I saw it: From Prada to Nada. I had seen it listed there before of course and never paid much attention to it; it seemed a little too “Paris Hilton” for my taste. I had an epiphany last night though: I would watch this movie, in the name of research! Surely if it’s worth watching all the wonderful Austen adaptations, I should temper that understanding with the poorly made films.

One level of procrastination just wasn’t enough though and I had to put these plans on hold while I went out for ice cream. (What a decadent night.)

Now, this movie. This movie was, well, it was actually pretty good. Like ABC Family good. Meaning I wouldn’t see it in a theatre. I wouldn’t buy it. But I would watch it every time I catch it while flipping through cable channels in the middle of winter.

The movie opens with Katy Perry’s “California Girls” and I could not stop the compulsive, exaggerated eye roll it produced. The premise is set up pretty quickly – two spoiled sisters, the younger being the more rash and impulsive of the two, are suddenly destitute after the unexpected death of their father. Elinor Nora and Marianne Mary are forced to live with extended family in a working class neighborhood and comedy ensues as they learn to navigate in this new, scary world – they have to take the bus!

Somewhere after the first half-hour or so, the movie sneaks up and you and becomes, well, kind of good. There’s a touching underlying story or theme about the importance of family and culture. While there is a “Lucy,” Nora and Edward are kept apart by something deeper than that and watching Nora reconcile her feelings was a wonderful way to take that plot. Mary’s redemption, too, is more uplifting than Marianne’s – there is no sense of sad resignation to her future. And Mary is a college student, instead of a 17-year-old, so I appreciated that.

Look, I’m not claiming it’s revolutionary or cinematic genius. It was a solidly entertaining movie, a recognizable adaptation of Sense and Sensibility, and I got a proper proposal scene. What more could I ask for from a Wednesday night procrastination tool?

Review: don’t let the title fool you, if you have Netflix and it’s raining out, just watch this movie ok?

Watching Sense and Sensibility

Friday night, AVH tolerated my intermittent commentary and watched the Emma Thompson adaptation of Sense and Sensibility with me. Overall, I absolutely enjoyed it. The adaptation of this very long and tedious novel was extraordinarily done, keeping all the major plot points and adding just enough extras to make up for some of the things Austen left out of the novel (ahem, a certain engagement scene).

I have a few thoughts though:

  • Hugh Grant as Edward Ferrars did nothing to convince me that he and Elinor were a great match. Maybe I’m too much like Marianne but I wanted to see a certain indescribable spark of chemistry on screen. Just a touch of romance underneath the surface.
  • I felt even more, after watching the film, that Marianne wilted at the end of the story. It didn’t come across to me as growing up, but resigning herself to a tolerable life. And while this was probably very much the case in many real scenarios, I just felt sad for her at the end.
  • The secondary characters (particularly Margaret, Mrs. Jennings, and Mr. Palmer) were delightful!
  • Emma Thompson is flawless and was indeed a perfect Elinor, just as I expected.
I know many people love Sense and Sensibility and I don’t wish to take that away from anyone. I think I’ve been spoiled by my immersion in two other Austen novels: Pride and Prejudice and Emma. I intend to write much more about my love of Elizabeth Bennet and Emma Woodhouse as I launch into those titles. I’ll just say that my literary preferences were formed in my youth and that is likely why I did not connect with Sense and Sensibility in the same way.
For most of the summer, I’ve felt like I have so much time to get through Austen, but it turns out that my three months will expire on September 8th – and that is only 47 days from now! I started Pride and Prejudice again last night and intend to finish that this week and then read Death Comes to Pemberley while traveling this weekend. There is much reading yet to be done and I haven’t even started my historical research or touched any criticisms! August will necessarily be an Austen-heavy month (and this means I should probably stop buying other books).

Sense and Sensibility… and Disappointment

I finished Sense and Sensibility – I fought through to the end while on vacation in Maine late last week. And I was never so glad to finish one book and start another as I was once I moved from this to The Art of Fielding (for another book club meeting I didn’t actually make it to – shocker).

If you have not read
Sense and Sensibility, and do not desire to read blatant spoilers, please do not read further. I will summarize with this: I do not recommend reading it unless you also have a desire to read all of Austen’s novels for yourself. It’s slow and you will not be entertained. In fact, you may feel quite dissatisfied at the end. I certainly do.

Okay, it was fine. At this point, I’m comparing my experience to what I know of Jane Austen: a first read of
Northanger Abbey, a few reads of Pride and Prejudice and countless journies through Emma. Sense and Sensibility. Going up against these reads I have loved, this just did not capture my attention nearly enough. I felt like I knew exactly what was going to happen – I did not have any moments of surprise, save near the end when Austen demonstrates that indeed Colonel Brandon pines for the obnoxious Marianne. And when Edward finally proposes to Elinor, Jane Austen keeps all the details a secret from us! We read through all these pages of insufferable detail in which I was frankly unconvinced that Edward was worth Elinor’s attentions to get to this (emphasis added):

How soon he had walked himself into the proper resolution, however, how soon an opportunity of exercising it occurred, in what manner he expressed himself, and how he was received, need not be particularly told. This only need to be said;- that when they all sat down to the table at four o’clock, about three hours after his arrival, he had secured his lady, engaged her mother’s consent, and was not only in the rapturous profession of the lover, but, in the reality of reason and truth, one of the happiest of men.

NEED NOT BE PARTICULARLY TOLD?! Are you kidding me?! Why does Jane Austen hate me? 

I trust that the film adaptation will be much better and that Kate Winslet will inspire me to love Marianne and Emma Thompson will prove to be a perfect Elinor. But if I don’t get a proposal scene, I’m done. 

Well, done until I move onto
Pride and Prejudice, a title with so much adapted material, I shall be happily inundated with Austen for the rest of July.

it wasn’t for me, i don’t recommend it, but do what you want

Starting Sense and Sensibility

Both Summer of Austen and Project Ukulele took a back seat to another exciting adventure as I traveled to Boston last week to attend and celebrate my friend’s successful defense of his dissertation. Congratulations, Dr. Dan!

Necessary champagne celebration! 
(Photo by Kristen P. via Facebook, as I managed to leave Boston without any pictures… again.)

While a flight is surely a perfect time for reading Austen, I needed to finish Lisa Randall’s Knocking on Heaven’s Door, in the hopes of establishing some sort of very basic understanding of physics. And it worked! On a very superficial level, I understood what Dan’s research is about and was able to more fully appreciate his contribution to science. (So very proud of my friend.)

I found a little time for reading in Boston, while I was forcing myself to stay awake until dawn in sheer terror of a bird-size insect that had made its way into the house. That kind of free time demanded lighter reading and I dived into yet another Sookie Stackhouse novel (a series which I’m not even a little embarrassed to say I love).

And when my next chunk of free time popped up – five hours in Boston’s Logan International Airport, it seemed much more pressing to re-watch some season six episodes of
Doctor Who (“The Curse of the Black Spot,” “The Impossible Astronaut,” and “A Good Man Goes to War”), and then the first two episodes from season one of Bored to Death. (Note: that show makes me want to live in New York City, but not Manhattan – Brooklyn is so pretty.)

Okay – I boarded the flight (thank you, pre-boarding because of the boot) and finally resigned myself to starting
Sense and Sensibility. Why was I fighting it? Maybe I knew how slow it was going to start. I’m only 15% or so in (oh Kindle, already shaping how I talk about books) and I’m so annoyed. Too many Dashwoods to keep track of. 

However, interspersed in this (I’m sure very important) novel set-up text are some moments of the Jane Austen I met in
Northanger Abbey.

On every formal visit a child ought to be of the party, by way of provision for discourse. In the present case it took up ten minutes to determine whether the boy were most like his father or mother, and in what particular he resembled either, for of course every body differed, and every body was astonished at the opinion of others. (Jane Austen, Sense and Sensibility)

Oh, Jane Austen – speaking universal and persistent truths. How little social interactions have changed!

I’m pushing to finish this by Friday night so Anna and I can watch the Emma Thompson adaptation before it leaves Netflix Instant.