It is February, and whether or not the groundhog has seen his shadow to determine how long we wait for spring, we know for certain that Valentine’s Day is coming on the 14th.
A great way to celebrate is to snuggle at home with a good DVD, and there are many options this year for both entertainment and romance.
Of course I have to begin with Jane Austen, and my colleague Jeff Swindoll is already rolling his eyes at this choice. Seriously guys, Jane Austen IS romance! Any lady will be impressed if you suggest an Austen film adaptation for a cozy evening’s viewing, giving you stars for your intelligent and gentlemanly choice.
There is quite a list of Austen films from which to choose:
Persuasion – Starring Sally Hawkins and Rupert Penry-Jones (you will remember him from MI5) as Anne Elliot and Captain Frederick Wentworth, a couple who are given a second chance at romance after being separated for eight years by family pride and lack of fortune.
Northanger Abbey – Starring Felicity Jones and JJ Feild, as Catherine Morland and Henry Tilney. Young Catherine loves Gothic novels, and tends to view situations she encounters in the light of what she has read.
This is the most humorous of Jane Austen’s novels, and makes a film full of scenes poking fun at various fashionable tastes and mannerisms of the time, including courtship and marriage.
Mansfield Park – Starring Billie Piper and Blake Ritson as Fanny Price and Edmund Bertram. Fanny comes to Mansfield Park as a child, to live with her rich relations. As she grows into a young adult she realizes she loves her cousin Edmund with far more than sisterly devotion, but he seems so interested in Mary Crawford.
This is one Jane Austen novel where the “bad” people are every bit as intriguing as the hero and heroine.
Older BBC Jane Austen productions include:
Pride & Prejudice – The wonderful miniseries starring Jennifer Ehle as the sparkling Miss Elizabeth Bennet, and Colin Firth as the brooding romantic hero Mr. Darcy.
This is several hours in length, so plan on a marathon viewing or several nights devoted to the most romantic story ever written.
Emma – Starring Kate Beckinsale as Emma Woodhouse and Mark Strong as Mr. Knightley, neighbors, old friends and perhaps soon to be something else.
Theatrical releases versions of Jane Austen:
Pride & Prejudice – Starring Keira Knightley, and Matthew Macfadyen. One of my friends insists someone mixed up the pages of screenplays of Little Women and Pride & Prejudice and the result was this film. It is fun, and presents a different style for the story.
Emma – Starring Gwenneth Paltrow and Jeremy Northam. I like both versions of Emma for different reasons. Both are excellent choices for a romantic evening.
Persuasion – Starring Amanda Root and Ciaran Hinds – again, both Persuasion adaptations are finely crafted and beautifully performed.
Each has a great deal of merit, plus being an elegant setting for the most romantic love letter ever written!
Sense & Sensibility – Starring Emma Thompson, Hugh Grant, Kate Winslet and Alan Rickman. Emma Thompson wrote the screenplay adaptation for this film. It is a treasure of gorgeous scenery and wonderful performances.
Stories about Jane Austen, or inspired by her work:
Becoming Jane – Out on DVD February 12th is an imaginative look at the great love in the life of Jane Austen that is only hinted at in her remaining papers. (Her sister Cassandra burned much of Jane’s legacy of letters and papers after her death to preserve her privacy.)
Anne Hathaway plays a sparkling young Jane smitten with Tom Lefroy (James McAvoy) a young lawyer from Ireland. Jane is considering marrying, and marrying for love not money.
Bride and Prejudice – a modern day Bollywood musical based on Pride & Prejudice. One of my favorite movies, not only because it has the spirit of Jane Austen’s novel, but it is bright, colorful, well acted and the musical numbers are amazing.
If you rent this DVD, absolutely watch ALL of the special features…it was a work of love and fun for the entire cast and crew.
Bridget Jones’s Diary – Renee Zellweger and Colin Firth. This modern take on the Lizzie/Darcy story from Pride & Prejudice is a look at the problems of being single in your thirties, looking for the right person.
Equally good is its sequel Bridget Jones: The Edge of Reason, loosely based on Persuasion.
If you have had enough of Jane Austen (but let me caution you, there are many who do not believe such a state exists) there are some recent releases that are good choices for Valentine’s Day viewing.
Saving Sarah Cain – Starring Lisa Pepper as Sarah, a columnist for a paper in Portland Oregon, who life is changed when she learns she is the legal guardian of her dead sister’s five children.
These children are Amish, and have been raised in the “plain” traditions of their belief. There is a lot for everyone to learn, but it results in great love. This could be a Valentine treat for the entire family to share.
Eagle vs. Shark – If quirky romantic comedy is your Valentine’s favorite, this will be a winner. From New Zealand, this is a treat! It is a funny and touching story of love between two people who are perhaps a bit out of step with the rest of the world, but who find each other.
The language and some scenes make this for mature audiences, but it is so much fun in a goofy, off-beat way.
Scenes of a Sexual Nature – Which is not as racy as it sounds. This is a movie about relationships, about sex, but more what sex makes people do, or not do to keep a relationship working.
It is very funny, tragic, odd, sweet, and seems completely real. This is not for kids, (they would be bored by the lack of action), but the well-written and beautifully performed script should inspire fine discussions among adult viewers.
Everyone has a favorite romantic movie, and most likely there could be endless lists of these treasures. It might be an interesting discussion around the coffee pot or water cooler for the next few days.
What do you think is the most romantic movie of all time? What do you think is the most romantic recent release film? Of course a lot will depend on your personal interpretation of romance.
A quick poll of my office colleagues resulted in Return to Me, When Harry Met Sally, Gone with the Wind, Notting Hill, French Kiss, and Die Hard (Although I am not sure many women would agree with the romantic value of the film).
In any event, wishing you Valentines, flowers, chocolates and a great DVD to watch, Happy Valentine’s Day!