I feel that I haven’t been honest with you. I have moved on from my actor crush on Stephen Moyer to a similar crush on Richard Armitage. You know, where I watch everything he’s ever been in? I had been courting the idea for a while, and was a little disheartened about how Richard is a) not in anything, and b) in lots of things that are bad. I finally dropped the idea altogether, until Mckenzie encouraged me to pick it back up again. So here I am, fully commited to a Richard Armitage crush, for better or for worse.
It started with North and South, but what really clinched it was "Sparkhouse", a 2002 tv mini series that is a reinvention of Wuthering Heights. Get it? Spark-house, Wuthering Heights? It’s a three parter, set in modern times. I think it might be the best adaptation of Wuthering Heights I have ever seen, and I’ve seen many, since I lived with Mckenzie.
It’s not a word-for-word adaptation, and I can only approve. I hate it when a modernization uses the original names in modern times, as if names like Claudio or Mercutio could ever really be accepted in today’s world. There aren’t even specific characters that are specific people: they are all a little mixed with each other, in a inbred way true to the claustrophobic novel. Sparkhouse takes the story their own way, diverging from the real story in interesting ways, while still retaining the feelings and motivations behind the characters in WH that I think more faithful than some more "faithful" adaptations. The Catherine and Heathcliff characters–here, Carol and Andrew–are in love with each other in a way that is crazy, passionate, and mean in the true Heathcliff/Catherine style, but also manages to be believable. It’s hard to make those two believable, even in the novel. But they did in Sparkhouse, and it was grand.
This movie went through the Ultimate Modernization Test: I watched it with Jared, who hates period movies so much he once slept through Persuasion out of spite, and I late watched it with Mckenzie, who adores the novel but hates every adaptation out there with a firey passion. Both loved it. I have to admit that it’s hard to get into period dramas if you aren’t used to them, and it’s even harder to get into Wuthering Heights if you don’t innately appreciate unrestrained passion and meanness. But Sparkhouse is both approachable and true to the story, so I feel like it’s a great starter-kit for loving the crazy Bronte.
And who is Richard Armitage in this? Tall, rough, surly Richard Armitage who can sneer like a pro? You’d think Heathcliff, right? Actually, no! He plays John, the tall, rough, and painfully socially awkward farmhand on Carol’s shitty little ranch who is completely awkwardly in love with her while she cares for someone else! Sparkhouse does this interesting thing. Andrew is more Linton than Heathcliff: he lives in the rich little farmhouse on the hill that Carol desperately wants to be a part of. Since Andrew is upperclass, he has prospects for the future, he’s "going somewhere," while Carol gets caught stealing and doesn’t finish High School. Since WH spends so much time making the Linton family, their gentle ideals, and everything they stand for utterly dispicable, I love thinking of the implications of this turnaround. You start to realize that the roles have been reversed: Carol is Heathcliff, and Andrew is Catherine. Which is fine, except that poor Andrew is played by the Hobbit who was never in Lord of the Rings:
That was a little below the belt: this shot is from a period drama (Cranford, I think) where he was a little bit older, and at least five points hobbit-y-er than he was in Sparkhouse. Really, he’s not that bad looking. And that’s not to say that he didn’t do his part well; really good acting from the Hobbit That Never Was. In fact, stellar acting all around; I’m really impressed with everyone on the show.
The biggest problem is that you end up sympathizing much more with Richard than the Andrew character. It also doesn’t make much sense why she doesn’t like him. When he’s rough and dirty and awkward, I can kind of understand, but there’s this whole clean up session later, and I just don’t understand how you can look at him with his new cute little haircut and not be attracted, much less have eyes for The Fifth Hobbit Who Stayed in the Shire.
Disturbing Behavior is a teen thriller made in 1998, starring James Marsden (oh, my how he must wish the days of first billing), Katie Holmes, and introducing Neve-Campell-turned-Man, Nick Stahl. If you look at pictures of him, you’ll see what I mean. James moves to a new town that is conspicuously Pacific Northwestern, and find that the school has been solving teen delinquency through brainwashing them and putting chips in their eyes.
Surprise! It’s not very good. Predictable, and cheaply thriller-y, you begin to groan when you realize that their theme song, even in the beginning, includes Psycho-esque blares of sound as part of the music, not just as a surprise sound. It’s a cheap way to scare the viewers in the first place, but overusing it is just plain sad.
I was excited to see that James was considered a normal person in this movie. Rather than, say, a Baxter, or a loser, or whatever. Katie Holmes comes into her role by doing absolutely nothing but staring at the camera lazy-eyed. She’s “hot chick loser girl.” Like those exist. Luckily, everyone else is labeled clearly, and packed into nice little like-minded groups. It’s funny that in these movies, the druggies and the preppies both have the same number of members, with an even dispersal of diversity and different but group-matching clothes. This is also much like high school. James, who is definitely jock statue with that iron jaw, joins the druggie group because Katie Holmes is hot. And Katie Holmes, lazy-eyed, eventually accepts his advances with the coolness that suggests “I’m only doing this because you saved me from those crazed monsters.”
The monsters: turns out the chip in their head, as well as making them Mormon, goes on the fritz every time they are aroused, so they start killing and raping and stuff. Arousal? My friend, these are teenagers. They would constantly be pillaging and raping if this was true. I have to say that the brain-washing micro chip seemed to have some religious connotations in a pretty demeaning way. When a micro chip girl is aroused by James (a weird hair-flicking scene), she slams her head into a mirror “this is wrong, this is wrong…” At the very least this could be a scrape against the Abstinence Only policy.
I don’t agree with the ending. I’m going to tell it right now: retarded janitor-turned-undercover smart guy drives the crazed kids off a ledge, plummeting to their deaths. It’s a micro chip, man. It can be taken out, I’m sure. Plus, no matter what the cops think (one cop has been shielding crazed teens from the law) I’m sure the parents would want to help their kids from, you know, getting murder charges. But this is a teen movie; everyone is against the kids. Which is sad, because the parents in this movie actually seemed pretty well-meaning.
So, really not that entertaining, but I’ve wanted to see it since I was a child so there you go. Hilarious, though, that they are triggered by arousal. The first time it happened, I was like, seriously? That’s it, isn’t it? Neve Campell as Man is really unattractive. He has a large bobbly head.
With a sudden hard turn to the right, I finished the Professor recently. The Professor is the first book written by Charlotte Bronte, author of Jane Eyre. A friend of mine told me it was awesome. I really have no idea what she’s talking about.
I only read the first line of the foreward and it was Bronte saying, “I wanted to make a portrait of a self made man.” Oh no. Some of the best things about Jane Eyre are the magical and gothic circumstances that make seem mystical, romantic, and ridiculous. I love to laugh at the part where she yells to the winds, “I’ll be right there!” But this, I suppose is a serious novel. And therefore really boring.
The man, Crimsworth, a delicately boned youth with too much education and no connections at all, has to scrimp and struggle in a couple nasty jobs before becoming a teacher. And we all know how the Brontes felt about teaching.The kids are nasty, the pay sucks, but at least he’s not a governess. I miss the love affair, and Crimsworth is much too isolated. We only get to other women halfway through the novel, and one’s a detour. After we spend too much time on a coy headmistress, we redirect by teaching a cute little Swiss girl English. She is the one Crimsworth eventually marries. FINALLY. But it’s not very interesting even then. It’s too late; the characters aren’t well established, and there aren’t enough examples.
This is the first book Bronte turned in to a publisher, and it was declined. Frankly, I don’t blame him. I can definitely see a vast improvement in her writing from Professor to Eyre: Charlotte is one to talk for too long, and while it’s noticeable in Eyre, it’s freaking everywhere in Professor. The characters are not well defined, and the plot is long and dragging. I had a hard time convincing myself that Crimsworth was a man: he wasn’t particularly masculine and just sounded like Jane Eyre, who is probably Charlotte herself. So this book is Charlotte going, “wouldn’t it be cool to live as a man?” Even when the female protagonist shows up, all plain and stern and submissive, I would lay my money on Crimsworth being more like Charlotte. It provokes a strange question: “if Charlotte Bronte were a man, what kind of woman would she like?” I’m not sure Frances is the answer, but she must be close.
Professor might have been an exercise to get Charlotte more comfortable for Jane Eyre. I think Charlotte started Professor by saying, “It is impossible for women to establish themselves in the world, but these things are easier for men. I’ll write about them.” Wrong impulse. Jane Eyre’s struggle is more intimate because it addresses a frustration more personal to Bronte herself. She doesn’t push aside women’s struggles, she faces them.
Poss other title: Brontes Sisters: Frigid bitches and the men that are driven crazy by them.
And I thought Anne would be the safe bet. You know, Anne Bronte: the youngest sister of the Yorkshire sensations Emily and Charlotte Bronte, the forgotten one, the quiet, nice girl that just loves God oh so much? I read Agnes Grey, the book she published with her sister’s Wuthering Heights, and man, it was booring. It’s a tiny, straightforward account of guess what, how much being a governess sucks. It was like a Jane Eyre 0.5, missing the all that wonderful gothic intrigue and the long-winded yet passionate Rochester. With all the warnings beforehand that Anne was the "gentle Bronte," I can’t say that I was surprised at how poorly the book turned out, but I can say that I was a little disappointed.
There was one thing that intrigued me about Agnes Grey, however. It was really blunt about the poor conditions of governessing, and in its bluntness, really horrifying. She tells stories point-blank of monster charges, and loveless marriages with evil men. Then you are reminded that she was a governess herself, so how much of this is really true?
The final verdict on her first novel is: Ehh. But I just wasn’t convinced that someone related to two women that just burst with angst and passion, actually can’t make a passionate book. So I tried her next one: Tenant of Wildfell Hall. And man, what a book.
The story is about a rich, nieve yet religious woman that falls in love with a cad, hopes to change him by marrying him, and then learns to regret her mistake through the next five years of her marriage until she decides finally to leave him. Watching her degeneration is amazing: the guy isn’t just a jerk; he is evil, and the wife has to day to day come to terms with that fact. Her supporting characters are equally intriguing: the husband Huntingdon seems to have made a pact to get all of his worthless friends married to every one of Helen’s nieve girlfriends. It is bad marriage pandemonium: someone is always tortured by the bad deeds of their partner.
This is not where the story begins, however. It begins with Gilbert, a gentleman farmer who is blissfully unaware of the whole situation until Helen Graham shows up at Wildfell Hall and captures his heart with her mystery and frigidity. Unlike Helen, who seems to only be involved with the higher emotions related to serving God, Gilbert seems to live a life of petty feelings and actions. He’s surrounded at first with the merciless gossip about Helen Graham, shows jealousy, pride, and often changes his convictions on a whim. At some moments, he’s downright childish: he walks something like 15 miles to stop Helen’s wedding, but then stops from even saying hello when he finds out she’s rich. But this is the man that eventually worms his way into the heart of the standoffish and jaded Helen. It is done mainly by being nice to her son, I really don’t think he would’ve had a chance if the son wasn’t there.
The novel is organized through letters from Gilbert to his sister’s husband, and we only get to the good part— the part about Helen’s life with her rakish husband–when Helen gives Gilbert her diary from that time. We’re supposed to believe that Gilbert transcribed the extensive diary all to his pen pal. Once the diary started, however, I soon forgot that there even was a first part. A lot goes on, and it takes up a good chunk of the novel. It is a surprising way to take a novel, but at least it’s symmetrical.
About Helen: We all know that the women heroines from Bronte novels are intense, and maybe a little too bitchy to be well-liked, but Helen. Man. Jane Eyre is downright approachable compared to Helen, and at least Catherine can put up a front. Helen is just all about the God thing. When she arrives in Gilbert’s town, people just don’t know what to do with her. Helen is not friendly, she doesn’t try to please, she doesn’t give an inch, and she lectures you about God and the right way to raise your children. It’s horrible. Even though Huntingdon’s point that she looks down on him because he is worldly seems a little too much like out of the handbook for wifebeaters, I kind of agree. It’s not her fault, but she kind of drives every man that is in love with her crazy. And there’s a lot. Lets do a tally.
Huntingdon: First husband. Kind of takes her for a ride. Sees that she loves him and therefore uses it to fulfill selfish need of always being loved and always being watched. Teases her into jealousy and despair just to get a reaction (I can kind of understand that). Hates baby because steals spotlight.
Gilbert: Gentleman farmer. Intrigued by her mystery, fools himself into thinking that they can just be friends. She asks to be friends to the last, while he is just burning for some kind of message somehow. Eventually cracks open a guy’s skull with a horse whip and leaves him in the moors to wander home in the rain alone because he thought he was an adversary.
Hargrave: bachelor friend of husband Huntingdon. Mystefied by Helen’s piety and therefore wants to make her his mistress. This guy is interesting because though he spouts love and devotion at time when she is being completely misused by her husband, Helen knows that he only wants one thing, and therefore always coldly refuses him. Is slowly driven crazy with rejection. Becomes quite a beast about it, actually. There’s this ridiculous chess=rape scene, where he plays a game telling her "you may put up a good fight, but I am smarter and stronger, and I will eventually win." YEESH.
Not to mention other men married to other women that drive them crazy, like Hattersly, who is a cad, and hits his wife because she does nothing but love and support him cad though he is, or Lowborough, who married a woman to save him from loneliness and dissipation, and happened to marry a selfish bitch that only wanted his title.
After all this, after all these loveless marriages, you have to ask CAN ANYONE EVER BE HAPPY THE FIRST TIME AROUND? Not even that: can anyone get married and not be trapped into a loveless marriage filled with ridicule and despair?
Despite, or perhaps because of this, this book is intense. It makes me wonder who REALLY is the hardass in the Bronte family. At one moment, Helen gives Hargrave a fullout smackdown, telling him "I WILL NEVER LOVE YOU." It also raises a lot of questions. Branwell, the Bronte brother, pissed away his life high on laudenum because a rich woman he fell in love with while he was a tutor told him she wouldn’t marry him even if her wicked husband was dead. It makes you wonder: influenced by real life? And if so, who is Branwell? The suave Hargrave that gets a beatdown for trying to lead Helen into sin, or the dolt of a man Gilbert who actually succeeds in the end?
There are some silly moments in the book, however. Besides the chessrape, and the hitting over the head part, there is an uncommon amount of people hiding in shrubbery, finding out about their lovers’ lovers. One moment is even as melodramatic as Helen confronting her husband’s mistress, the mistress gasping with a "how did you know?" and helen saying, quite cheekily, "you should take a closer look in the shrubbery!" So really, "I was in the shrubbery all along!"