Sunday, November 28, 2010

The Buccaneers

Philip Saville, 1996, tv miniseries (8.2*)
In this lesser-known Edith Wharton novel, two wealthy St. George sisters (Carla Gugino and Alison Elliott) are known as new money in the U.S., and since their father made the money with a casino, are shunned by high society. So they head to London with two friends (Rya Kihlstedt and Mira Sorvino, who actually plays a Brazilian) to gain more prestige by hobknobbing with high society there.

There they actually are courted by dukes and lords, and seemingly by anyone eligible, as this four-hour Masterpiece Theater miniseries follows their stories as they "conquest and plunder" (two of the section titles) the mother country, hence the title. Apparently American women are so less reserved than their snobbish British counterparts that they are infinitely more appealing to the men.

If you enjoy the novels of Wharton and Jane Austen, or the lush historical dramas of the BBC, then this will be right up your alley. Perhaps a bit soapy compared to other Wharton novels, this still recalls the best of Austen, with much humor and fine acting sprinkled among the romance and the opulent settings.

Quote: "They're here for the London season." "Don't they have a season of their own?"


The Rush Blog December 22, 2010 at 11:13 AM  

What do you mean that it's more soapy? Frankly, I consider any drama to be "soapy", regardless of its quality.

José Sinclair December 22, 2010 at 7:38 PM  

I guess by "soapy" I mean the drama and tension comes from romantic problems - "will she or won't she find a man" type stuff, which is a common concern in life, but doesn't make for originality in films or novels. Most Wharton novels avoid extreme soapiness, this one seems to be more concerned with that, as did most Jane Austen novels and subsequent films.

To me, this is what killed Gone With the Wind for me. Rather than deal with the civil war or racial inequality issues, all the drama was about Scarlett's loves - who cares? I sure didn't, and fell asleep during my first viewing in a a theater on its re-release. Maybe I'm too "male", but I like to think that I'm almost asexual when dealing with art.

Most of my favorite films are not too concerned with the romantic aspects, but a few surpass over-sentimentality and therefore "soapiness", such as A Very Long Engagement, An Education, Women in Love, The Last Picture Show, My Brilliant Career. These seem to be more about making one's own path in the world, not about finding a mate to solve our problems, even though love and lonliness were main themes of each of these films.

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These are the individual film reviews of what I'm considering the best 1000 dvds available, whether they are films, miniseries, or live concerts. Rather than rush out all 1000 at once, I'm doing them over time to allow inclusion of new releases - in fact, 2008 has the most of any year so far, 30 titles in all; that was a very good year for films, one of the best ever.

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