Review: Bride and Prejudice

Hello readers!

Some of you will remember that I wrote a review a while back about a Sense and Sensibility Kollywood adaptation that Aishwarya Rai was starring in, as the Marriane-inspired character. Well, she has had a hand in more than one Indian cinematic Jane Austen adaptations, because she also plays the Elizabeth Bennet lead in the Hollywood meets Bollywood Pride and Prejudice adaptation, “Bride and Prejudice,” directed by Gurinder Chadha. Of course, as always, I rented from Scarecrow Video in Seattle. One of my readers from that old review had recommended I review this movie, so here I am.

If you are curious, here is the trailer:

The trailer itself actually purports in many ways what Lalita (the Elizabeth Bennet Character of the film) was trying to counteract in many of her interactions with Will (Mr. Darcy). It advertises somewhat of an imperialized and Anglo-cized version of Indian cinema, and this trailer version seems directed at an American audience.  At one point in the film, Lalita says that Will, an entrepreneur from America, is trying to sell India to tourists who don’t want to see the real India, but who instead want to have “a touch of culture thrown in” during their vacation. Tourists who, “want to go to India, without having to deal with Indians.” This moment is made light of in the film, but it is a serious concern for the main character. Disappointingly, the movie almost becomes just that in its marketing strategy, geared towards an “Americanized” audience used to Hollywood films.

This movie is pretty hard to explain, but I will do my best to give you what in my opinion were the best and worst moments.

Think: cultural cross-pollination and filmic shots between Amritsar in India, London in England, and Los Angeles in America, with some big name stars and some who may be unknown to you.

screen shot from B & P

Pros:

  • Pretty colors, and lots of them;
  • First wedding dance number is very fun, and really sets the tone for excitement throughout;
  • Lots of music to dance to (if you are into that);
  • Aishwarya Rai plays a much better Eliza Bennet character than she does a Marianne, in my opinion.
  • Fun if you are an Austen fan to see how the director interprets some of Austen’s characters from P&P;
  • Underlying critique of American Imperialism;
  • Defense of a developing India after independence from British rule;
  • Not your typical Bollywood film, and quite a bit shorter, which is refreshing;
  • Balraj (Mr. Bingley) is one of the actors from the old television show Lost- Naveen Andrews;
  • “Take me to love” song and Montage that includes helicopter rides, a canyon, and epic choir moment on a beach…

Cons:

  • Unrealistic acting, singing (often in English), and storyline;
  • A definite classism, with characters easily able to traverse the world, and even the “poor” Bakshis (Bennet family) have quite a few servants at their disposal (which is actually true in the original novel as well);
  • Light and fluffy in places it might serve from its modern direction and have some sort of social commentary;
  • Has some pretty heavy colonial overtones in a lot of problematic ways, and makes light of some pretty serious cultural and racial tensions that are present in the movie
  • “Cobra Dance” as the youngest sister’s embarrassing moment- it just felt way over the top, and also kind of another moment of cultural clashing just barely touched on.
  • It must be hard to pull off a mix of so many different genres and cultural references, but I don’t know that this film necessarily did it in a very graceful way.

I won’t recommend it, even though I enjoyed parts of it, because honestly I think it appeals to a very specific niche, and falls short in many other ways. If you love cheesiness, silliness, Pride and Prejudice and dancing, then you may enjoy the movie. Honestly, if you are strapped for time, I would recommend the two songs mentioned above- epic choir moment and intro wedding dance number, as they are probably two of the best moments in the movie.

For story coherency, creativity, energy, and the way it connects back to its source of inspiration (you can at least tell who the characters are supposed to represent from the novel within the first 20 minutes), I would say that the film Bride and Prejudice deserves a 2.5-3 /5 rating.

Warning: do not watch this movie unless you in the mood for pure brain candy, or if you want to do an analysis of the cobra dance moment and share it with me. Honestly, right now I just don’t have the mental energy.

Happy Monday,

Miss E

What is Queer Theory?

Hello dear readers!

I have had a few questions recently about some of the terms that we use here often at Looking For Pemberley. Although many of the terms that I use range from academic to very informal, made-up words, there area  few that I think you should know about when you are reading posts here. I don’t want anyone to feel left out.

So, I’ve decided that I will start a “definitions” post series, so you can familiarize yourself with some potentially unfamiliar terms.

In the future, look under the “defined” category to find the posts in this vein.

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Let’s start with the term Queer Theory, as I have had a few questions about that.

For many people who grew up when the word “queer” was pejorative, this term may seem a little alarming. Really, queer is not a bad word.

Queer theory came out of gender studies, which derived from feminism, and is used as a lens or framework to view different media or texts, such as works of art or books, for example.

It is a type of theory that challenges binary constructions like “male” and ‘female,” but is not at all limited to gender. One of the reasons many people may be confused about what queer theory actually is, is because it has so many applications. Scholars and others often use the ideas from “queer theorists” such as Judith Butler and Jack Halberstam and Chandan Reddy (as mentioned previously here) to understand and question any given text, ideology, simplistic construction, or social situation.

Queer theory can be a very freeing tool, and remains politically important, because it also allows for personal identity to fluctuate, and resists definition of who we are as people, what makes us the way we are, and what we can or should prescribe to.

I myself am very interested in queer theory and studied it in school, so if you have questions about it, feel free to continue asking!

Also, if you have anything to add, please pitch in through the comment section or e-mail me from the “about” page! I would love to hear your personal definitions.

I also have some resources that I think will help you understand the purpose and goals of Queer Theory listed below that might help.

Queer Theory

Theory Org

Queer by Choice link database

GLBTQ

Have a great weekend!

Miss E

Moby Dick Door

I have been posting pretty frequently this week, primarily because all of Seattle was shut down in what you may have heard termed the “Snowpocalypse.”

Yeah, it snowed for a while, and it was cute.

We actually had skiiers going down our hill because the city doesn’t have plows (or very many of them).  Also, trapped inside with what could only be equally dramatized as the absolute the worst cold of my life for the past week, I have gotten a lot more time to rest and be online.

When I was looking for pictures to post onto my blog background, I came across a fun picture that I wanted to share with other Literature Nerds out on the internet.

A few years ago, I painted this on my closet door, in devotion to one of my favorite novels:

Image

Needless to say, it was an art project born of boredom and no regard for how much doors actually cost. However, I still quite enjoy it to this day whenever I visit my parents. Not sure they quite do, but I suppose it may have been better than some things you can put on a door.

The lower panel has a picture of Pip falling upside down in the multitudinous depths, and the door itself has quotes from the text all around the perimeters.

I believe one of my favorites is still the one I painted in the center underneath Ishmael who is floating on the coffin life-buoy.

“Dissect him how I may, I go but skin deep; I know him not, and never will…” Oh yeah!

Anyone want me to paint scenes from Literature on their doors for them?

Having a huge nerd moment,

Miss E

Sense and Sensibility adaptations: Janeite Movie Marathon!

Sense and Sensibility Movie Adaptations all over the place.

Last week I rented the 2007 BBC adaptation of Sense and Sensibility from Scarecrow Video, which came with a bonus disc, Miss Austen Regrets. When I checked out Sense and Sensibility, I was blissfully unaware that the bonus disc was included in my rental. Scarecrow Video came through for me yet again. Needless to say, I was very happy when I got home. Two movies for the price of one, amazing. Extra surprise Jane Austen-based movie to feed my addiction, priceless.

I also found a movie with Aishwarya Rai,  advertised on the cover as a Tamil “Kollywood” adaptation of Sense and Sensibility, called I Have Found It. I figured that renting two different adaptations of Sense and Sensibility would make for a fun-filled movie marathon.

I got both of them from the Literature section of Scarecrow’s vast room selection.

Literature room at Scarecrow Video, Seattle

I watched the two BBC movies first , and loved them both.

Let’s start with the BBC version of Sense and Sensibility. This same version of Sense and Sensibility was playing every Sunday on Jane Austen Season when I was staying in London, Spring 2007. I have also seen bits and pieces on PBS Masterpiece Theatre in the states, but it was really nice to view the film in its entirety. The whole movie felt right- it felt like being in the novel, with rustic simplicity of the English countryside in the background.

My favorite things about this version:

  1. The Casting. Most of the characters really seemed authentic to the period, and behaved in believable ways, or as their characters might be expected to from what we know of them. It took me a while to warm to some of the secondary characters, but it was not long before I fell in love with them too. In my opinion, the cast in this newer Sense and Sensibility just felt right. For example, Mrs. Dashwood was cast wonderfully. She was just aristocratic enough to be polite in rough situations, and to whether the family crisis with class, while still not quite understanding the financial predicament that her family was really in.
  2. The script. The words in the script were chosen very well, and it seemed enough like the sentiment and tone of the novel without being a recitation of the novel.
  3. Costumes. Marianne and Eleanor were dressed very believably, and so were the other characters. They were not so worried with appearances, especially when they moved to the cottage. Marianne dress was simplistic with a touch of whimsy to match her character’s personality, and Elinor’s sensible and more rustic dress suited her character as well.
  4. Marianne. I was bracing myself to hate this new version of Sense and Sensibility’s Marianne, since I loved the 1995 version with Kate Winslet so much. Although Kate Winslet is one of the best actresses in the world, (and I still love the older version of S&S), I thought this Marianne (Charity Wakefield), knocked her role out of the park as well. She was not only NOT disappointing, but was instead very much like Austen’s Marianne.

Marianne from the 2008 BBC Adaptation

This new Marianne looked and acted as I’d imagined her character when I read S&S for the first time, and it was refreshing to see her vs. Kate Winslet’s version of Marianne. Kate brought more fervor and passion to the role, but Charity Wakefield brought more subtlety, and I think was closer to the correct age of the character when she played her. Her hair also seemed more natural, and Kate Winslet’s blond curly wig in the 1995 version just drives me bonkers when I watch it because it doesn’t even look like real hair.

Three rainy versions of Marianne

  1. The awkwardness. This awkwardness, created by the crass country company and the impropriety of the new connections is downplayed by the social skills of Elinor and her mother; although Marianne handles it somewhat less gracefully, she also confronts the rudeness more directly and changes the behavior of her “attackers.”

What I didn’t like about this adaptation:  honestly, I can’t say much about that. Besides missing Kate and Alan Rickman simply for nostalgia’s sake,  I enjoyed this new adaptation thoroughly. It was one of the first times I’ve really been able to sit and watch an adaptation without critically analyzing it. I think this is because it felt so comfortable to me. As I said, the film makers really did a wonderful job with it, and the music was spot on to convey the tone of the different scenes, none of which were hyperbolic or as dramatic as the older movie version. I was impressed. I would recommend watching this movie with a cup of warm cider, since the scenery gets a bit chilly and wet.

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Now, I Have Found It, although intriguing on the exterior, was a little too far out there for me. I was definitely in the right mood for a long Bollywood-esque movie, which I later learned (thanks M.) is different from Kollywood, and prepared myself to sit for hours on the couch enjoying musical numbers and Janeite references. However, I was pretty confused during the first 30 minutes of the film. It starts with footage of a war, and gun fighting, which of course was never a part of Sense and Sensibility.

I didn’t really understand at all how this movie had been even loosely adapted from the novel until at least 30 minutes in when the family loses their home to their brother and his wife (who seems really nice at first, and then suddenly turns into a greedy evil sister-in-law,  an unrealistic character shift). The person who is responsible for the home is the dying grandfather (not father/ husband of the Dashwood women), so that threw me off.

Once I finally figured out which character was supposed to refer to which, I didn’t feel that the sentiments of those characters were in any way matching. I was also disappointed in Aishwarya Rai’s portrayal of a young and excitable “Marianne.” Her acting was too controlled and had no emotion, the opposite of Marianne. She kind of just acted like a spoilt brat through most of it.

Aishwarya Rai

The cover says that the film is about two sisters who are opposites, (ahem, one with “Sense” and one with “Sensibility”) but it really seemed to be primarily focused on the Colonel Brandon character, and his struggle loving the Marianne character unrequitedly. He is also a war vet (hence the first part of the film), is a raging alcoholic when first introduced on screen, and has lost his leg. It seemed a bizarre representation of his character, and although I appreciated a more imaginative Colonel Brandon, the Marianne character still seemed to keep him grounded and sober, while in the novel he is the steady one who rubs off on her more.

So, not only did the director choose to focus on the man and his plight, making the female story less impactful, but the gender roles between Colonel Brandon and Marianne’s characters were reversed as well.

I could go on and on about this movie, but really, it doesn’t seem worth it. If interested, I found this fairly entertaining and pretty thorough summary of the film. I think that Jane Austen’s works are so fabulous because they are open to various interpretations. However, this one really missed the mark, and I think that it is almost nothing like the novel. In fact, they may have just referred to already popular and already very famous Sense and Sensibility to sell more movies.

If you value your time and sanity, don’t watch this movie. I would not recommend it to anyone, not even to someone with loads of time on their hands, and will never suffer through it again myself.

Until next time,

Miss E

Year of Pleasures, Elizabeth Berg

So, number one on the aforementioned Winter Book List ticked off and read: The Year of Pleasures, by the author Elizabeth Berg.

Look at the delicious looking food on the cover 🙂

I bought this novel from Third Place Books in Ravenna, Seattle.

I read this on the plane ride home for Christmas holiday. It was quick and enjoyable, and I only got my pen out three times, a record low for me in recent years.

That isn’t to say that it was boring, however. I’ll call it subdued, but I didn’t mind that for this type of story. I thought the message embedded in the novel was that living for oneself, and living the best life possible, is never a mistake, while wallowing in grief or pain is a definite mistake, and in fact destroys the pleasure in life.

Good point.

Betta, the main character in the novel, seems to know this pretty well. She is a writer, after all. However, it is with the death of her husband that she is forced to really recognize the importance of living her own life, for herself.

Although Betta herself seemed a bit dull as a character exploration, despite hints throughout the novel at her bravery, adventurous nature, and creativity, her personal story, and the idea of the novel itself was beautifully executed from a writer’s perspective.

My favorite parts:

  1. Female empowerment. The lifelong female friendships portrayed and discussion of women giving of themselves for each other and for loved ones, sometimes at the expense of simple pleasures in life was well-done. While not as dramatic as it could have been, I appreciated that Berg had addressed this issue, one that rings true for many womens’ lives. For example, Betta realizes that she can play music that she hasn’t listened to for years in compromise to her husband’s taste. She can eat when and whatever she likes, and etc. She is, in a way, beautifully freed by his death.

Even though there is some sadness and pain alluded to, Betta is in no way portrayed as tortured over the loss of her husband. At the same time however, the reader’s sense of her freedom is lessened by the narrator’s constant mention of her husband.  She does often wonder if he would approve, and most of the time, he does. I wanted to know, why does it matter?

It was Betta’s story, not his, and at times I felt it was the author’s sense of duty to Betta’s husband, rather than Betta’s. We get a sense as readers that he was a kind and loving man, who showered Betta with thoughtful support and encouragement. However, we as readers don’t actually know him as a character. While it’s expected that Betta will think of him, I felt like some of the narrative reminders of her husband were forced, and made Betta less of an interesting character.

The language on a sentence level was often lush in description, rich in parallel construction (I am a sucker for parallel construction), and done with an elegant respect for language.

  1. I brought out my pen to underline beautiful sentences, something I usually only do in workshop. Don’t get me wrong, I love reading nineteenth century lit. However, since that is the area I research, I usually take out my pen much more often and underline a few beautiful sentences, while focusing primarily on the social constructions of gender, national identity, or class commentaries in the novels I read from my research period.

That being said, those elements of interest still existed in this novel as well. They were just couched in simple and elegant language, and they were more overarching and systematic, inherent to the very nature of the novel itself, as opposed to statement after statement, passage by passage.

  1. The descriptions of food and cooking- YUMMY.

Problematic elements of the novel:

  1. White upper class privilege. It was practically screaming at me. Betta is a white woman from the East coast, and the most financial trouble she seems to have ever endured in her life is during a hippy phase in college. I feel like this might be one of the only explanations of why she seems so lackluster despite the allusions to her interesting personality. She never has really suffered until her husband’s death, and even then, she is a millionaire who can do whatever she pleases. It seemed just a little too convenient, and a little too boring.
  2. She moves to the Midwest, outside of Chicago, so she can experience the “simple” life. I am from the Midwest, and am in fact on a visit there while I write this. I still don’t know how “big city” people, like the fictional Betta, can romanticize it as much as they seem to, while deriding it all the same. I wish Berg would have more deeply imagined her characters from Betta’s new Midwestern town a bit more as well. Many of them were hollow representations. There were a couple that could have been interesting, and Betta only has a few interactions with the most interesting one (the old woman with spunk and history who she buys her new home from). Since it was Betta’s dream to move to the Midwest and open a knickknack store, and her personal goal to reconnect with old friends and make new ones, you’d think that the people in the town she moves to would be painted a bit more clearly. They were not, because they apparently didn’t matter in Betta’s egocentric “search for herself.”
  3. The other problem I had with the novel was that even though Betta and her former husband were supposed to be the main focus, they were so dull that I just really didn’t care. Her old college friends and some of the characters even just mentioned from the town she arrives in seemed much more interesting than Betta herself.

Overall, I enjoyed the book, despite the small disappointments, and in its optimism I can see why it sold well. The writing tone and style was warm and inviting, and Berg treats her characters very kindly.

I would recommend the novel if you are in the mood for a quick read that is not complete trash, that has some literary merit without being actually literary, and that focuses on renewal and new beginnings.

I would not recommend it if you get jealous easily, since I think it is very easy to envy the fictional Betta and her cushy gushy, yet lonely and somewhat dull life.

It gets 3.3 of 5 stars from me purely for entertainment purposes and beautiful sentences.

Read with a DR. Pepper (a drink that gets mentioned so many times you start to crave it) and Indian food leftovers (because it’s something Betta might eat, and because they are simply delicious).  Or, herbal tea and a fruit pie, which is also discussed in the novel often.

Reading Queue

I have noticed lately that I am not reading nearly as much as I usually do. I was staring at a computer for at least 10 hours a day during my former job reading blogs, and I usually just wanted to close my eyes after work.

I also unfortunately have had a hard time reading without a pen in hand, waiting for a gem to underline or mark or analyze.

In order to give myself a healthy dose of both fun and academic reading, I’ve decided to create a reading queue, that alternates between a fun, fast pleasure read and a longer more verbose (and usually more thought-provoking) read. I’ll most likely be reading at least two at a time, anyways. My goal is to get these read by February.

Queue:

1. Elizabeth Berg’s Year of Pleasures

2. Grapes of Wrath, John Steinbeck

3. The Darcy Connection, Elizabeth Aston

4. Ulysses, James Joyce

5. The Happiness Project, Gretchin Rubin

6. Colette’s complete works

7. Hunger Games Trilogy

8. Cranford, Elizabeth Gaskell

9. White Teeth, Zadie Smith

10. The Omnivore’s Dilemma, Michael Pollan

11. Anna Karenina, Leo Tolstoy

12. The Year of Living Famously, Laura Caldwell

This is what I have so far, but I would like to get this list to 15, so let me know if you have any suggestions!

***So, there is no way that I will be able to read all of these by February 1st- I was really thinking more in terms of through the month of February, and even that might be a stretch 🙂

Miss E

Looking for Pemberley?

Me too.  In fact, I have been looking for a while.

There are a few reasons that I chose to include Pemberley in the title of my blog.

I feel that Pemberley is significant to me and thousands, if not millions of others. It represents home, and it represents epiphanies. It was where Elizabeth had her AHA moment about Mr. Darcy, wasn’t it?

Reading Pride and Prejudice my freshman year of high school opened me up to the rewards of trudging through some maybe-not-so accessible language for a 20th century audience and long character descriptions, and was a pivotal moment in my life as a reader.

My first read took me about a month (partially because I re-read the first four chapters over and over and over trying to figure out which sister was which and why the new neighbor was so important), but after I was finished, I was exhilarated. I told all of my friends at school that the novel was amazing, and rented every P&P adaptation I could lay my hands on.

In high school, when other friends were out partying on the weekends, my best friend and I would geek out, rent an Austen adaptation and wallow in visions of the Edwardian period.  To us, the time Jane Austen lived in was brilliant and wonderful.

Many men seem baffled by this obsession with Austen. An ex-boyfriend once asked me, “why do you enjoy this so much? I mean, I can’t even understand what they are saying?” The answer was and always will be, (for me at least), courtship.

Courtship, you say? Yes. Courtship. The thought of having a man who attends social functions as part of his social manly duty, politely pursues you, and after your family is sure of his “intentions” really has to provide for you with an offer of marriage (albeit not always a happy one, but are they now?) or be called a cad for the rest of eternity seems pretty romantic when you are 16 and don’t fully understand the political contract of 18th century unions.

In high school, (and probably even in college), I would have given up anything to be wearing a bonnet and riding in a carriage with one of Austen’s characters. I don’t think this is unusual- check out the film Lost in Austen http://www.imdb.com/title/tt1117666/  for an entertaining parody of this desire (give it about a half hour to grow on you- it has a slow start).

I have fallen in, and out, and back in love with Austen’s world, but the love her most prolific novel inspired in me for reading, for human relationships, and for courtship, is a passion I will never stop looking for.

This blog is about my journey through life and literature, looking beyond Austen’s novels into text, media, and society for home and human connection.

Looking Forward to Blogging with you!

Cheers,

Miss E