Archives for posts with tag: tv movie

Northanger Abbey is perhaps Jane Austen’s least appreciated book, at least by me, for much of my life. I thought it would be like the others, but it’s not. It’s even spoofier, and it’s a spoof of Gothic novels. Now, Gothic novels are kind of bad. The Mysteries of Udolpho is remarkable chiefly because absolutely nothing (and nothing shocking) happens in it.

Catherine Morland (Felicity Jones) has read too many novels, and she thinks life resembles them. When she ends up in an old country house, she nearly ruins her life by treating it and its inhabitants as if it were a castle in a Gothic novel.


This TV adaptation is near-perfect. The younger son of the Tilney house, Henry (JJ Feild), likes her, and is tolerant of her many faults. He calls her on them, but not insultingly. His sister, Eleanor (Catherine Walker), is gentle and mature. If they were the only three people in the novel, you might observe, it would be very boring. But Catherine also encounters less virtuous and much dumber people: Isabella Thorpe (Carey Mulligan), who is an insincere fortune-hunter who tries to entrap both Catherine’s brother and Henry’s; John Thorpe (William Beck), Isabella’s brother, who is a blowhard and wants to marry Catherine for her (nonexistent) money; Captain Tilney (Mark Dymond) and General Tilney (Liam Cunningham), who are cold-hearted and generally unpleasant.

My only real quibble with it is that John Thorpe is not good-looking enough to be a plausible alternative to Henry. He’s unbearable and he looks like the back end of a cab. It’s not charming for Catherine to be taken in. But everyone else is great–JJ Feild is exactly handsome enough for Henry, Felicity Jones is adorably but not irritatingly naïve, and all the adults are hilariously one-dimensional dramatic types. Carey Mulligan is hateful.

Of this run of made-for-TV Austens, this is the most pleasant. It’s like a small gelato of period cuteness.

Director: Jon Jones
Rating: so delightfully light
Length: 84 minutes
Score: 4/5

This resembles the John Buchan short story in very few particulars and is, I’m sure, worse than the Alfred Hitchcock movie I haven’t seen. Moreover, it is chock full of battle-of-the-sexes clichés and heavy on modern-audiences-don’t-know-what-an-oubliette-is exposition. It is, nonetheless, completely charming.

Summer, 1914. Richard Hannay (Rupert Penry-Jones) is a mining engineer back in London from South Africa, and he is full of ennui. Just when he’s about to chuck it in and head back, a man (Eddie Marsan) is killed in his flat, having left Hannay with a notebook in code and a lot of stuff about a German spy ring. Naturally, Hannay is suspected of the murder. He goes on the run, concluding that his best bet at not being hanged is to expose the spy ring. Trains, planes, automobiles, suffragettes…

MV5BMTYyMjcxNDExNF5BMl5BanBnXkFtZTcwMzE2MTIwMw@@._V1_UY268_CR4,0,182,268_AL_Victoria Sinclair (Lydia Leonard) falls in his way and is somehow not irritating. She tells him off, withholds information, climbs walls, and generally does everything that such a character usually does, and yet is charmingly spunky rather than hamfistedly shrill. Also they have very good chemistry, even when she calls him a “prehistoric boor” and he calls her an “unhinged hysteric.” We’ve seen it all a thousand times, but here it manages to be amusing instead of hackneyed and lame.

Oh, obviously there are spies, and Patrick Malahide is quietly sinister while David Haig flutters about the place. It’s not, you know, good, but it is deeply enjoyable.

Stray observations:

  • At the beginning Hannay is wearing a white necktie with a godawful white waistcoat and a ventless black jacket. No one has ever worn this combination on purpose, and certainly didn’t in 1914.
  • Patrick Kennedy as Victoria’s brother is so much less unbearable than he is as Carstone in Bleak House or McKechnie in Parade’s End.

Director: James Hawes
Rating: PG or so
Length: 90 minutes
Score: 3/5

Well, this movie is obviously garbage. I mean, it’s a made-for-TV Christmas movie, and it actually has the word “princess” in the title. You are definitely only watching it if you loved “Outlander” and are confused and saddened by the comparative dearth of stuff that has Sam Heughan in it.

That said (and no, I’m not going to turn around and tell you this is, you know, good), this has some charming bits. Briefly, Jules (Katie McGrath) is stuck raising her orphaned niece and nephew in Buffalo. The tricky thing is that her deceased brother-in-law was a fictional nobleman from fictional European duchy or other implausible kind of state, disowned by his father upon marrying Jules’s sister. Jules loses her job (in an antique store), but fortunately the father’s butler arrives to invite the three strays for Christmas, to (I am not making this up) Castlebury Hall. This father, of course, is played by Roger Moore, who looks rough. His other son, Ashton (Sam Heughan), is around and engaged to a horrible woman and just begging to be stolen away by a down-to-earth American. I don’t need to tell you what happens.

Both the writing and the acting are godawful. Roger Moore skates by because his face hardly moves any more, and Sam Heughan is passable because he gives it the old college try and is extremely handsome, but poor Katie McGrath is kind of bad at American accents and looks distractingly almost like Keira Knightley, which ends up being all you can see. Also she is saddled with truly catastrophic dialogue and the disadvantage of acting opposite terrible child actors.  Only the staff at Castle*snort*bury Hall are at all charming, if also slightly caricaturish.

It is dire.

Stray observations:

  • It may be worth it to watch Roger Moore nonsensically accuse the awful fiancée of being “all fur coat and no knickers.”
  • Why Buffalo?
  • It claims to be a comedy, but…it’s not.

Director: Michael Damian
Rating: TV-G
Length: 91 minutes
Score: 1/5