'Northanger Abbey' (2007) - Movie Review

The opening credits of this 2007 British TV adaptation of Austen's most difficult novel (it's a satire, and people aren't quite sure what to do with it) mentioned the writer was "Andrew Davies," and I thought this was auspicious although I couldn't remember why I thought that. It was only later that I found that he was the man who brought us the famous and much-worshipped Colin Firth and Jennifer Ehle version of "Pride and Prejudice." Even had I known that and expected great things, I don't think it would have set my hopes too high: this is a great interpretation of the book. Particularly compared to the painful 1987 version I watched recently.

Felicity Jones is Catherine Morland, the oldest of nine(?) children, a bit of a tomboy, and a huge fan of Gothic novels. She's invited to Bath by some friends of the family, where she encounters some friends of her brother (the brother is a nice guy, but his choice in friends is questionable) and the Tilney family - including Henry Tilney, played by JJ Feild. And already we're doing much better than the last version - partly for a very good reason (immensely better writing) and partly for a very shallow reason (both the leads are quite attractive). I don't require my leads to be attractive normally, but in a rom com (I can hear the cries of "great literature!" now, and Austen is that, but her books are also rom coms) it's necessary to believe that the leads will fall in love with each other - and I had some trouble with that in the previous version.

Davies takes some liberties, including a clear statement of some of the people actually having sex with each other, but he did a great job bringing the characters to life. And - despite a relatively short run-time, he managed to fit in most of the plot without making it feel rushed. It's not really a satire in this version, and it's not entirely accurate to the original text (although I suspect many of the best lines came straight from the original - it's been a while since I read it), but I would argue it's now a better drama than it was previously. And Davies made Catherine just a little bit brighter: I remember thinking when I read the book that Henry Tilney, who is a very smart man indeed, had chosen somewhat below him and would live to regret the match. But now, she's got just a bit more wit: she's still an innocent, but I felt like they would do very well.

Beautifully written, constructed and acted, a pleasure to watch.