Monday, January 17, 2011

Review: Wives and Daughters

I've heard about Wives and Daughters, but I didn't know anything about it other than it was written by Elizabeth Gaskell, who wrote Cranford. My mom bought the DVD and we watched it over a couple of weekends.
Box Art

Seventeen year old Molly Gibson's (Justine Waddell) life gets turned upside down when her father (Bill Paterson) remarries the selfish Hyacinth Clare Kirkpatrick (Francesca Annis), a widow. When Hyacinth's daughter, Cynthia (Keeley Hawes), comes to live with them, Molly forms a quick friendship with her; however, Cynthia harbors a secret that could ruin her reputation.

You will recognize a couple of actors and actresses in Wives and Daughters. Justine Waddell is, I believe, in a verision of Great Expectations (though I have never seen it). You will also find Michael Gambon (Emma and Cranford), Francesca Annis (Cranford), Barbara Flynn (The Barchester Chronicles, He Knew He Was Right, Cranford), Barbara Leigh-Hunt (Pride and Prejudice) among others.

Update 8/1/11: Maria Elisabeth from Miss Georgiana Darcy also noted that Rosamund Pike from Pride and Prejudice (2005) was also in here as Lady Harriet. Thanks Maria Elisabeth!

Molly (Justine Waddell) and
Cynthia (Keeley Hawes)
I absolutely found Hyacinth's character very irritating! She is oblivious, selfish, condescending, and incredibly silly. She was just very irritating to watch. Spoiler When Squire Hamley came to ask if Molly could visit the very ill Mrs. Hamley, Hyacinth says that she can't go because Molly has to accompany her somewhere! How absolutely selfish and uncaring! End of Spoiler I had to feel sorry that Molly has to deal with her condescension. I suppose her irritating character was intended, but still I had to feel embaressment for Molly.

It was interesting to see Molly's and Cynthia's friendship form, since they both have different personalities. Cynthia, since she is much more worldly than Molly, can be a little more outspoken, while Molly is a little more quiet (but she does voice her opinions when needed). I actually liked Molly better than Cynthia; there was something in Cynthia's attitude that I didn't like (whether she sounded too fake or something else). Molly seemed more genuine to me.

Molly and her father (Bill Paterson) overlooking
the scenery.
You get some very nice scenery in Wives and Daughters. Most of the scenes take place in the English country side, but some scenes feature Africa. The colors are very nice and bold, and the houses are very pretty and nicely furnished. Overall, Wives and Daughters is very pretty to look at.

The costumes were a hit and miss with me. Some of them I really liked, but others I hated. I'm not really a fan of big-sleeved fashions of the 1830's, which could have something to do with the fact that I didn't like some of the fashions.

Molly reading a book; I love this jumper/undershirt combo!
Probably it was Molly's wardrobe that I liked the best, though I didn't like all of her dresses. I particularly liked the blue jumper dress and under-shirt that she had on; it was so cute! I also liked the white dress that she wears at Hamley Hall; it almost reminded me of some of the Regency Era dresses that I've seen in other miniseries. Some of her other dresses, however, I disliked. There was the plaid dinner dress that she wore at Hamley Hall: wrong fabric or wrong pattern, but either way plaid did not work for that dress.

Molly and Lady Harriet (Rosamund Pike) going to Mr. Gibson and
Mrs. Kirkpatrick's wedding. Featuring one of Lady Harriet's hairstyles
throughout the miniseries.

I liked some of Lady Harriet's dresses. The dress that she wore for being an amateur bridesmaid was very pretty. I also thought that the outfit that she wore for riding was a good color. Throughout most of the miniseries, I liked the way that she arranged her hair. However, towards the end she had a very short haircut which I did not like at all. I thought that it was a little out of place for the period; it seemed too modern to me.

I did not like Hyacinth or Cynthia's wardrobe. Their dresses had the big sleeves that were fashionable at the time, so that could be why I don't particularly like their dresses since I don't care for dresses from that time period. I will say that Hyacinth's wardrobe fit her perfectly; it was outlandish.

I will say that the trims, fabric prints, and embroidery on all of the dresses were very lovely!

The music shifts back and forth between very flowing, beautiful pieces to more serious pieces. The more serious pieces are usually played when Cynthia is involved in something. A couple of the dance numbers were very bouncy and fun, but others were more flowing and smooth. There are some nice music pieces in here.

Overall 4/5
Overall, I enjoyed this miniseries. I didn't particularly care for some of the dresses, but there are a couple that caught my attention and that I liked. The acting was well done (though Hyacinth made me cringe). A good miniseries, in my opinion.

Wives and Daughters is available on DVD. It is divided into four episodes, each one hour long.


  1. I like this movie! :-) Have you seen North & South? It's my favorite Elizabeth Gaskell film.

    I particularly liked the dress Molly wore to the ball. :-)

  2. I've been meaning to watch this. I haven't read the book yet. Do you think it's better to read the book first?

  3. I'm surprised you didn't know it yet! And you haven't seen Great Expectations either? Not a Dickens fan?

    I really like Wives and Daughters. And the way Molly and *cough* get together at the end is quite romantic. -swoon-

  4. Great review! I had a hard time with this movie. I liked Molly's character, but Hyacinth, Cynthia and even at times Molly's father and Squire Hamley frustrated me to no end. Hyacinth was especially unbearable! So much heartache was caused by people's selfishness or stubborn prejudice.

    I must confess that I also didn't care for the huge sleeves of this era...I much prefer the look of the regency era. And Molly's plaid dress was rather hideous.

    If it had just been a movie about Molly, or she had been surrounded with more likeable characters, the movie would have been much more enjoyable. I guess that would have left out most of the drama, though. :}

  5. Melody,
    I haven't seen North and South yet. I've heard that it was good, though.

    White seems to be a good color for Molly. She always looked nice in the white dresses.

    Stephanie Ann,
    I haven't read the book for Wives and Daughters, so I couldn't say how accurate it is to the book. I usually end up watching the adaptation then reading the book to get more of the details. I know you're supposed to read the book first then watch the movie, but it almost never works out that way for me. I guess, to answer your question, it depends: sometimes I find it easier to remember events in a book if I saw the movie first, but then seeing the movie might spoil the book a little.

    I watched Wives and Daughters a while ago (maybe a couple of months ago). It was something that I heard about for a while then finally watched a while ago. I probably misphrased the beginning paragraph to make it sound like I just found out about it just recently, but I actually saw it awhile ago. Sorry about that.

    I've seen Great Expectations in the stores, but I never watched it. I've seen a couple of Dickens adaptations, though. I've seen Little Dorrit; I thought it was really good (I reviewed it a while ago). I also saw Hard Times in one of my English classes, but I didn't really like it. I need to find more Dickens adaptations to watch, though.

    Thank you for your comments! :-)

  6. I like several Dickens stories, but Great Expectations is not one of them. And I did see that movie with "Molly" in it (and the very next night I saw something with "Cynthia" in it! hehe).

  7. beast'sbelle,
    Thank you for your comment. I felt a little sorry for Molly's father; he did have a few outbursts, but I also had to feel sorry for him since he was married to Hyacinth. On Hyacinth and Cynthia, I completely agree with you. Cynthia seemed to take advantage of Molly too much towards the end, and Hyacinth was just irritating throughout.

    I find the same thing that you said with books: I find that if there aren't any likable characters in a book (or lack of), then I tend not to like the book. I think because Molly was such a likeable character, I liked Wives and Daughters.

  8. I've seen this movie a couple of times...I personally don't think Molly is very pretty. It's not a favorite movie of mine, but I do like it! (who would name their kid Hyacinth? That's terrible!) All that to say, I don't love or hate it. :) Good review!

  9. Just wanted to let you know that you've won an award over on my blog. You don't have to accept it if you don't want to - but its there for you! :-)

    I just found your blog and am enjoying reading it! I LOVE Jane Austen and P&P and S&S and...all her books!! :-)

    ~ Katy

  10. The film version of Wives & Daughters is lovely. I very much enjoy when directors take the time with character development. We can press pause or stop and return to a movie later.
    The characters of Hyacinth and Cynthia are meant to annoy. I must say though, that my favorite character is Squire Hamley. (Michael Gambon plays a similiar character in Cranford.) Squire Hamley is so dear - first in how much he deeply loves his wife and then how well "cough" changes him and he realizes that he judged things too hard. My husband is ripening into a fine Squire Hamley over time. I just love him for it!

  11. I just wanted to point out that Rosamund Pike, who plays Lady Harriet, also plays Jane Bennet in Pride and Prejudice 2005.

  12. Maria Elisabeth,
    Thanks for the tip! I'll go add that now!

  13. By the way, the short hairstyle was in vogue at that time.(Although maybe a little earlier)Just something I noticed. I like to be period correct. :) I don't like it either, but it was in style. :) I love this movie! I liked the review--it seemed quite unbiased and helpful. Great job! Also, Hyacinth is meant to be annoying. (I hate her too--Hey, Hyacinth, I hate you!!)

    A Friend of Charity U.

  14. I am currently reading this... in regard to the plaid dress, it wasn't meant to be very pretty. Molly is specifically discouraged from wearing it the first time she visits her future mother-in-law at Lady Cumnor's because it is considered ugly.


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