Tuesday, January 11, 2011

Review: Northanger Abbey

Sorry everyone that this review is a little late. It got a little hectic this weekend, so the review is a day late. I apologise for this.

I remembered hearing about Northanger Abbey... A couple of times I would try to watch it on YouTube, but something would always get in the way and I ended up watching only part of it. Then my mom bought the DVD and we watched it together all the way through.

Box Art
Catherine Morland (Felicity Jones), a seventeen year old girl who loves to read, is invited by her neighbors, the Allens, to Bath for the season. While in Bath, Catherine meets the handsome Mr. Tilney (J.J. Field) and later his sister Eleanor. She also meets Isabella Thorpe (Carey Mulligan), the sister of Catherine's brother's friend, and the two become quick friends and become fans of Gothic literature. Catherine gets invited by Mr. Tilney's father, General Tilney, to visit them at their home, Northanger Abbey. Catherine is determined during this visit to Northanger Abbey to find herself in some sort of Gothic novel plot.

The TV movie starts with Catherine's birth and a voice-over of Jane Austen (Geraldine James) saying the first few lines of the book. Here, I didn't particularily care for this. The voice over just didn't seem to fit: it seemed almost cheesy to me. The first sentences of the book really set up the plot, but it just didn't work for me here.

I thought that Felicity Jones did a good job as Catherine. She acted Catherine's honest and naive nature well. The only problem I have (and this probably has more to do with the script than anything else) is all the dream sequences that Catherine has, some of which are a little suggestive. Since Catherine is so young and naive, I don't think she would be having some of the thoughts and dreams that she has.

Could they have picked a creepier actor to play John Thorpe? When I read Northanger Abbey, I pictured John Thorpe as more irritating and full of himself, not looking like a creeper (for lack of a better expression). He was so creepy, I can't believe that Catherine would agree to go out on a carriage ride with him even if Isabella and her brother were there.
Mr. Tilney, Eleanor Tilney, and Catherine Morland out for
a walk in the woods.
You get to see two sets of scenery: city scenery in Bath and country scenes at Fullerton (Catherine's home) and Northanger Abbey. I noticed that the scenes at Northanger Abbey were darker than those in Bath. It could be to give the overtone of a Gothic novel, though it is a parody of Gothic novels. There are a couple of scenes that take place in the woods, which are very nice to look at.

There are some very lovely costumes in Northanger Abbey. Catherine is very nicely dressed: I love her ball gowns: their so clean and elegant. She is mostly dressed in light colors, save one dark blue spenser. She is probably dressed in light colors to show that she is young. The only complaint I have about her wardrobe is that she only seems to have one bonnet, and it looks kind of old. I think while she was buying new clothes in Bath, she should have sprang for a new bonnet.

Another well dressed character is Miss Tilney. If I had to pick one word to describe her attire, it would be classy. The only thing I would saw about Miss Tilney's attire was that she needed to wear more white. In the book, Mrs. Allen remarks "Miss Tilney always wears white." I think that they needed to make most of her wardrobe white or, if need be, pastel colors. Not a big deal, but something that was on my mind.

Catherine Morland and Isabella Thorpe talking.
 One character whose dresses I disliked: Isabella Thorpe. The necklines on most of her dresses were so low, it was terrible! I guess it was to show what kind of character she was, but even still it was a little much. I understand that some Regency era evening dresses were a bit low, but low necklines during the day? Her dresses were a bit much.

There are some very good pieces in Northanger Abbey, most of them being dance numbers. I love the dance numbers in here! If you really listen to the songs, you might recognize a couple of the songs from Pride and Prejudice (1995). Other than the dance numbers, the other song didn't really call much notice from me.

Catherine Morland enjoying a book
Overall: 3.5/5
I do like this version of Northanger Abbey, but I just wish it had a little more of some things and less of others. There were just some changes from the original novel that I thought were unneccessary (like some of Catherine's dreams). There is also a scene that, while not graphic, is suggestive and was not, if I remember correctly, in the novel.

I have heard that the 1987 version of Northanger Abbey was fairly bad (I have also seen a couple of clips and could tell already that it didn't look good). Since those two are the only version of Northanger Abbey out there currently, people tend to prefer this one. It was a good movie, but recognize that there are differences from the book.

Northanger Abbey is 93 minutes long and is available on DVD, though the DVD version available in America was cut from the original, so it is shorter.


  1. I've never liked that book as much as JA's other books. Mom watched the movie and said that they did build too much on her dreams/imaginings. Thanks for the review!

  2. Charity U,
    I know what you mean. I didn't really like all the dreams that they put in. There were never dream sequences in the book. Some of them I didn't think were dreams that Catherine would have either.

  3. I had such mixed feelings about this movie. I was so excited when I heard they were making a new version of Northanger Abbey. I'd seen clips of the old one and was not impressed at all...it was way too 80s gothic for me!

    When I first read the book of Northanger Abbey, I loved it. Maybe it's not the best of the Austen novels, but I really related to Catherine. She's almost exactly what I was like in high school (always living in my imagination and letting it run away with me, for example).

    There were some great things about this version. I love JJ Feild as Mr. Tilney!! I think he really captured the playfulness of his character, and it was fun to have a Jane Austen story where the couple didn't spend the entire time trying to hide the fact that they liked each other. :) I really liked Felicity Jones as Catherine, too.

    Like you, I did not care for the emphasis on the racy dream sequences and low necklines on Isabella. Andrew Davies did the screenplay. He's well known for doing a great job of keeping the dialogue and storyline much closer to the book than many screenwriters. Unfortunately, he also likes to find excuses to add suggestive content as well. I totally agree that Catherine's dreams didn't seem to fit her innocent nature.

    My only other complaint was the rushed ending compared to the book. This often happens in movie adaptations, but it would have been nice to see more of that last chapter. That, and it would have been nice if John Thorpe (I agree, what a creepy dude!) didn't use the "d" word so much. I don't remember if it was that way in the book, but it was frustrating none the less.

    Overall, I thought it was a great movie if you just fast-forward every time she reads or dreams. :}

  4. beast'sbelle,
    I also liked JJ Field's Mr. Tilney and Felicity Jones's Catherine. I thought they both acted well.

    I know what you mean about Andrew Davies; he does do a good job with staying close to the books that he adapts, but then he goes in and adds unneccessary suggestive/adult scenes (I know he did that for Little Dorrit and Sense and Sensibility). I've noticed that he's done this more recently; Pride and Prejudice, Emma, or Wives and Daughters didn't have any of these unneccessary scenes.

    Isabella's dresses were getting a bit ridiculous; it was practically everything that she wore had a low neckline. I didn't watch this movie in a while, so I was watching it and I couldn't believe her clothes! They really needed to revise her wardrobe.

    I remember in the book, John Thorpe did use the "d" word, but Jane Austen always bleeped it out by writing d---. I remembered he said it a few times, but I don't remember if it was as many as in this adaptation.

    Still, I think I would rather watch this version than the 80's version. Like you said, you just had to fast-forward through those scenes. :-)

  5. I really enjoyed this version. JJ Feild made me fall in love with Mr. Tilney and it's actually this film that made me read the book - which I really liked. Of course, the dream sequences weren't in the novel but I thought they were amusing and something to help the film stand out from other JA adaptations.


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