A Tale of Two Movies

20160130_130803_resizedI watched two new movies this past week – first the Hallmark Channel’s Unleashing Mr. Darcy and then, a couple of days later, I rented the recently released version of Far From the Madding Crowd.

I had looked forward to seeing them both. So few films are made for my particular demographic. “Mature women of refined taste and sensibilities” are largely neglected by Hollywood, it seems. But now I had not one but two excellent prospects, each looking like it would be right up my alley! I hoped to like them so well that they would both soon find places of honor, filed alphabetically in my permanent video library. (See related post: My Movie Picks)

As it turns out, though, one of the two will make the cut and the other won’t.

unleashing Mr. DarcyLet’s begin with Unleashing Mr. Darcya modern day take on Pride and Prejudice set in New York against the backdrop of elite dog shows and a posh country estate. Here’s the blurb:

Elizabeth Scott (Cindy Busby), is fishing for direction in her life and gets the opportunity to professionally show her Cavalier King Charles Spaniel in a fancy New York dog show. Dog show judge Donovan Darcy (Ryan Paevey) comes across as aristocratic and rude and a chain of misunderstandings unfold during the competition, complicating their mutual attraction. In true Jane Austen fashion, Elizabeth and Donovan begin to see the error of their ways and it turns out Mr. Darcy is far more kind and interesting than Elizabeth ever imagined.

All the pieces were seemingly in place: rich and handsome but rather snobby guy, cute and spunky girl who’s a bit too outspoken for her own good, and counterparts for all the other P&P characters as well (Darcy’s sweet little sis, horrid aunt, and a Miss Bingley styled rival for Elizabeth). Unfortunately, the whole thing fell kind of flat, at least for me.

This was a typical Hallmark Channel production – no better and no worse than the rest.

You would think Hallmark movies were made just for me, since I’m all about romance and happy endings – Hallmark’s stock and trade. So it’s hard to explain why I’m not a big fan. Maybe it’s the same reason I don’t much care for standard “romance” novels. The formulaic, low-budget, mass-produced nature of both tends to result in less original, lower quality fare. Makes it difficult to sink my whole heart into the story and fall in love.

far from the madding crowdFar From the Madding Crowd, based on Thomas Hardy’s classic novel of the same name, resides at the other end of the spectrum in so many respects. It’s clear no expense was spared in any department, from the well-written script, to the top-drawer cast, beautiful sets, costumes, locations, and wonderful cinematography. Here’s the blurb:

The story of independent, beautiful and headstrong Bathsheba Everdene (Carey Mulligan), who attracts three very different suitors: Gabriel Oak (Mattias Schoenaerts), a sheep farmer, captivated by her fetching willfulness; Frank Troy (Tom Sturridge), a handsome and reckless Sergeant; and William Boldwood (Michael Sheen), a prosperous and mature bachelor. This timeless story of Bathsheba’s choices and passions explores the nature of relationships and love – as well as the human ability to overcome hardships through resilience and perseverance.

I know that Thomas Hardy stories don’t always end well, but this one does, fulfilling one of my very basic requirements. And the movie does a good job sticking to the book in essentials. Apparently, the film’s producers didn’t feel the need to pointlessly “improve” on a story that has stood the test of time. Hooray!

20160126_223320_resizedAnyway, I watched Far From the Madding Crowd twice before being forced to return it. Now it’s at the top of my wish list for what my husband or sister can get me for my birthday in a few weeks. I can hardly wait to file it in the F section of my collection between The Family Man and Father Goose!

I guess the way I feel about these two movies also reflects my philosophy about my own writing. I would much rather produce one book per year to suit myself than to be obligated by contract to crank out one every four months to suit somebody else. Other authors may be entirely capable of maintaining quality under those circumstances; I could not.

I have a pretty good model in Jane Austen of striving for quality over quantity. As much as we might wish she had left us more, wouldn’t we all rather have her six wonderfully written novels than a whole slew of books we could not care for?

God willing, I will complete my sixth novel this year and hopefully a few more after that. I’m not likely ever to become rich or famous, though, and I’m okay with that. Like Catherine Morland below, I am content. I am perfectly satisfied with my share of public attention.

She was looked at, however, and with some admiration; for, in her own hearing, two gentlemen pronounced her to be a pretty girl. Such words had their due effect; she immediately thought the evening pleasanter than she had found it before – her humble vanity was contented – she felt more obliged to the two young men for this simple praise than a true-quality heroine would have been for fifteen sonnets in celebration of her charms, and went to her chair in good humour with everybody, and perfectly satisfied with her share of public attention. (chapter 2, Northanger Abbey)


About Shannon Winslow

author of historical fiction in the tradition of Jane Austen
This entry was posted in Jane Austen, Jane Austen Quotes, movies, Shannon Winslow's writing, Uncategorized, writing and tagged , , , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

17 Responses to A Tale of Two Movies

  1. Julie Rakowski says:

    Yes Shannon I agree that the Hallmark movie brand is really a bore for me as well, I just can’t get into any of those movies, no substance at all for me. I am really looking forward to seeing Far from the Madding crowd, I will rent if from my library. 🙂

  2. Jill says:

    Shannon, you are so right about Unleashing Mr. Darcy! The book was awesome! One of my favorite modern adaptations, but Hallmark changes too much about the story. And the actors had to have been directed to act in a stilted fashion, because, I just saw the actress who played Elizabeth Scott in another movie and she was quite good and not robotic at all. So, frustrating because Hallmark did another one of my favorite books, Flower Shop Mysteries: Mum’s the Word with Brooke Shields, the week before and it was the same. In that one the story was completely unrecognizeable! It’s so much better when the Hollywood types keep their hands off the plot and characters! They seem to ruin everything once they start making changes. And Far from the Madding Crowd was amazing!

    • I haven’t read the book (Unleashing Mr. Darcy), but I’ve heard it’s good. And it’s interesting to hear that even the actors are better in other things. It’s so frustrating when an adaptation of a favorite is poorly done. As much as I’d love to see one of my books made into a movie, it would about kill me if they made a mess of it. In that case, I guess I’d have to console myself with the money. 😉

  3. schilds says:

    I could not agree more. I was so disappointed with Unleashing Mr. DARCY. It just did not have a romantic flow. I have not seen Far from the Madding Crowd but I will now on your recommendation. By the way I love the movie Father Goose!

  4. Kimberly says:

    After seeing Far from the Madding Crowd in the theater, I couldn’t wait for the DVD release so I could own it! I also watched Unleashing Mr. Darcy, typical Hallmark Channel Movie, but I really didn’t like the Elizabeth Scott character, I thought she was much too rude. I bought the book for my kindle, but didn’t get a chance to read it yet. Really don’t know if I will now.

    • Several people, like Jill above, have told me how much better the book is than the movie (Unleashing), even that it’s one of their favorite modern variations. So don’t give up on it yet, Kimberley. Thanks for visiting and commenting!

  5. Maggie says:

    Shannon, I agree about Hallmark movies. While I thought about watching this last Saturday, I just couldn’t. I could guess the plot before it started. Girl and boy meet and fall in love in a week. All of the plots are the same. I will admit that I really enjoyed 2 of their Christmas movies: the one with Sam Hueghan from Outlander and of course the one with Rupert Penry-Jones who was a great Captain Wentworth.
    I am ambivalent about how often you release a book. I love your stories and wouldn’t want any changes in what you have released so far, but as a reader I wouldn’t mind a few more. I have been disappointed so often in other authors. I start reading an author and then about the 3rd or 4th book think “Haven’t I read this before?”. I vote to have one of your books made into a movie but not by Hallmark.

    • I’d love to be able to lock my myself in my studio and write for 8-10 hours every day (although, when the weather’s nice, I’d let myself out for long walks – for exercise and inspiration!). Then I think I could pick up the pace from one to two books a year. Alas, other responsibilities absorb gobs of time I might otherwise be writing. Thanks for your kind comments, Maggie!

  6. Sheila L. M. says:

    I, too, was disappointed with Unleashing but did like a Princess for Christmas with Sam Hueghan. Unleashing Mr. Darcy has now been rerun several more times. I read Far from the Maddening Crowd in HS and didn’t like it. I don’t particularly like Thomas Hardy’s fatalistic premise in his books. We read several of his in HS but never any of Jane Austen, which, looking back, was too bad in my opinion. I do want to see the move but am waiting for the release to TV to see if I like the film better than the book. Thanks for sharing your views. It is always interesting to read others’ opinions and sometimes causes me to pause and re-think my own.

    • Hi, Sheila! I have enjoyed some Hallmark movies (my sister especially loves the Christmas movies, so I’m sure she knows the one you mentioned). I guess I was somehow expecting this one to be a cut above. With FFTMC, I think my opinion was swayed quite a bit by the quality of the production (excellent cast, cinematography, etc.) because I wouldn’t say I was a huge fan of the book. As an author, though, I appreciated that the movie stayed close to the original story.

  7. Greta Evans says:

    I do love a Period Costume Drama. I just learned today that they have made “Lady Susan” into a movie called Love & Friendship. It is out on May 13th! I can’t wait. Thomas Hardy is one of my favorite authors (even though it doesn’t always end well). The new Far from the Madding Crowd was wonderful although I really like the version with Paloma Baeza tooI Try Under the Greenwood Tree. It is sweet. I will definitely look for Unleashing Mr Darcy on the Hallmark Channel. Good thing to do on this snowy day!

    • Thanks for the tip, Greta. I’m always looking for new period movies to fall in love with!

    • At your suggestion, Greta, I just watched Under the Greenwood Tree. Liked it very much and will watch it again before returning it. I’ll probably enjoy it even more the second time, now that I know it turns out well. I kind of kept waiting for something to go terribly wrong the first time through!

  8. Greta Evans says:

    I forgot to say, I loved your books, Shannon. Thanks for feeding my Jane Austen addiction!

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