Wednesday, February 23, 2011

Tea with Tess: In which Emma and Tess discuss their Jane Austen Favorites :)

Hello, and welcome to "Tea with Tess".  I've been wanting to try a new series of posts, and "Tea with Tess" had a nice ring to it. :)  And hey, Maggie's had "Breaking News with Maggie" almost since the beginning of our blogging days.  I wanted something special, too.  In this series, we'll cover everything from books to movies to music to etiquette.  Well, maybe not everything.  But you get the idea. 

I'd been thinking about what I should do for my first topic when Emma's new Regency dress arrived.  Then it hit me.  Emma and I had been meaning to sit down and have our in-depth Jane Austen discussion that Maggie had teased about when Emma first got here.  Here was a perfect opportunity.

I talked it over with Emma, and she thought it was a great idea.  So, here we are.  Emma and I are both dressed in our Regency dresses to go along with the topic...and, I'll admit, just because it's fun to have an excuse to dress up!

T:  (with attempted British accent) Thank you for joining me today, Miss Hathaway.

E:  (also attempting to sound British)  The pleasure is all mine, I'm sure, Miss Prescott.

T:  (laughing)  Okay, obviously we need to work on our accents.  We're here to discuss our favorite author of all time:  Jane Austen.  Oh, before we start, though, would you care for some tea?

E:  That would be lovely, thank you.

T:  One lump or two?

E:  None, please.  But if you have any honey, I'll take that.

T:  Um...sorry, I just have cream and sugar.

E:  That's okay.  How about a little cream?

T:  That I can do.  Hmm, I'd better have a little more variety on hand for the next post.  So, before we start our topic today, would you mind sharing your favorite type of tea?

E:  Not at all!  I love Lady Grey.

T: (excited) That's my favorite too!

E:  (grinning) What are the odds?

T:  (handing Emma her teacup and saucer)  Here's your tea.

E:  Thank you.

T:  So, first question.  What is your favorite Jane Austen novel?

E:  "Emma", of course! (laughing)  But "Northanger Abbey" is great too, and "Persuasion".  Really, I like all of her stories! It's too hard to choose.

T:  I have to admit I'm not too surprised by your first choice. (smiling)  As we've discussed before, my absolute favorite is "Pride and Prejudice", followed closely by "Northanger Abbey" and "Sense and Sensibility".

E:  Those are good ones, too.

T:  I'm pretty sure I know the answer to this, but if you could be any Austen heroine, who would you be and why?

E:  Emma Woodhouse, definitely.  Not only because I'm named after her, but because I think she's one of the Austen characters that really goes through a lot of growth as a person.  She's not perfect.  Sometimes I feel like we have a lot in common!  But she's surrounded by people like Mrs. Weston and Mr. Knightley who care about her enough to correct her when she's made a mistake.  And of course, the best reason to be Emma is that you end up marrying Mr. Knightley!! *swoon*

T:  (laughing)  Great answer!  Although, I must confess, I prefer my Mr. Darcy to your Mr. Knightley.

E:  (laughing too)  So I assume you'd choose to be Elizabeth Bennett?

T:  Yes.  I love her quick, sharp wit and refusal to be intimidated.  Especially since I have problems with timidity.  I wish I could be as brave as Lizzy.  I also appreciate the relationship she has with her father and her older sister, Jane.  It's funny, I'm actually a lot more like Jane in personality.  I'd love to be like Elizabeth, though.  And, like you said, the best part is ending up with your dream hero, which in my case is Mr. Darcy!!

E:  He's just a little too snobby for me.  I know he ends up being really sweet and caring, but I much prefer a George Knightley or Henry Tilney for their warmth and directness.

T:  I just love how both Lizzy and Mr. Darcy have these pre-conceived ideas of what the other is like, and then they come to realize they were completely wrong about each other.  It's a great lesson about not judging someone before you really get to know them.  

Okay, we've got to get to the next question.  What is your favorite movie adaptation of "Emma"?

E:  Well, the simple answer to that is the 1996 version with Gwyneth Paltrow and Jeremy Northam.

T:  What do you mean by "the simple answer"?

E:  I love that version because I think that of all of them that I've seen, Jeremy Northam is the ultimate Mr. Knightley.  I prefer his version of the scene where he has to scold Emma about Miss Bates to every other version.  But I have a more complicated answer, too, because there are things I like about the other versions as well.  I really like the newer "Emma" with Romola Garai and Johnny Lee Miller.  Especially since it's so long...they had the opportunity to add a lot of detail that the other versions had to leave out.

T:  So, which "Emma" movies have you seen?

E:  The main movie versions of Emma I'm familiar with are the 1996 one with Jeremy and Gwyneth, the 2009 with Romola and Johnny, and the 1996 with Kate Beckinsale and Mark Strong (I'll call it 1996#2).  It's fascinating to me seeing how each screenwriter focused on a different part of the story.

T:  Can you tell us a little bit about each one, and what you like and don't like?

E:  Sure!  I'll try to keep it short, but I do tend to ramble when it comes to Jane Austen.  Just stop me if I talk too much, okay?

T: (grinning) It's a deal.

E:  The 1996 film, as I've mentioned before, is my overall favorite.  Mr. Knightley is wonderful and I love Gwyneth as Emma, too.  I was also impressed with how the screenplay kept the feel of the original wording of the book.  Even though it's not word for word the book (what movie adaptation is?), it doesn't sound nearly as modernized as some of the lines in the other two versions.  It's so sad when they do this...Austen's wording is so beautiful!

This version focused on Harriet's storyline but skimped on a lot of Frank Churchill and Jane Fairfax's story.  I watched this movie before I read the book.  When I read the book later, I was amazed at all of the great details about Frank and Jane that the movie left out. (Sips her tea)

T:  So, what about the next version? 

E:  The 1996#2 is okay.  I have sort of mixed feelings about it.  I was so happy to see that they put in a lot of the details about Frank and Jane that were absent from the other 1996 film.  To this day, this version's Frank and Jane are my favorites.  Unfortunately, in exchange for Frank and Jane's storyline, they left out a lot of Harriet's story.  I also did NOT like the way Kate and Mark played Emma and Mr. Knightley.  Emma just came across as bratty and Mr. Knightley was grumpy and rude.  I honestly had no clue why Emma fell in love with him.

T:  So, how about the newest one, with Romola Garai?

E:  I really enjoyed this version a lot.  I loved all of the details they included.  The acting was superb.  I still think Jeremy Northam is the best Mr. Knightley, but I thought Johnny Lee Miller did a great job, too (much better than Mark Strong).  My main complaint with this version was the watering down of the Austen language to make it more palatable to the masses (I assume).  There were also several scenes in this one which, though well acted, I just preferred in Jeremy's version or even the Kate Beckinsale film. 

T:  Can you think of some examples of scenes you liked better in the other movies?

E:  Well, for starters, as I mentioned before, I liked the scene where Mr. Knightley scolded Emma in the 1996 version the best.  I also preferred their argument over Harriet refusing Robert Martin better in Jeremy's version.  Even though the 2009 film had more of the conversation from the book, I think the wording was a little closer in the 1996 version.  I found that I preferred Johnny Lee Miller's Mr. Knightley in the tender or serious parts, but I didn't care for his argument or scolding scenes.  He just seemed like he was yelling.  Jeremy Northam's Mr. Knightley seemed to be able to scold or argue with an elegance, for lack of a better word.  It felt more like the sharp, witty arguments of the day instead of a yelling match between the two of them, which is how I felt when watching 1996#2 and 2009.

T:  You know, I felt the same way too when I watched them.  

E:  Also, while I really like the Box Hill scene in the 2009 movie because it's closer to the book, I didn't care for the part where they had Frank's head in Emma's lap, and the fact that they made Emma and Frank's nonsensical comments more personal.  That seemed a little forward and made the scene even more uncomfortable.  I liked some of the acting in that scene from Frank better in the 1996#2 version, too. 

Wow, I'm sorry I talked so much.  I didn't mean to be so long-winded!  I warned you I might be!

T:  That's okay.  I think it's interesting!  Just be glad Maggie's not here.  She'd be going completely nuts by now.

E:  (laughing)  Probably so.  Can I just say one more thing on the subject?

T:  If you make it quick!  This post is going to be really long!

E:  I'll try!  I've always thought it would be cool to make my own dream version of an Emma film.  I'd use Mr. Knightley and Robert Martin from 1996, Frank and Jane from 1996#2, and Emma and Harriet from 2009, although I do like Gwyneth's portrayal of Emma, too.  I'm undecided about the other characters.  I'd make it the same length as the 2009 film and incorporate the detail of the screenplay from 2009 but make it more flowery like the 1996 version.  I've even watched the different movies, wondering how easy it would be to edit them and piece them together with my favorite characters.

T:  I don't think that would really work.

E:  I know.  But I can dream, can't I?  For now, I'll just have to be content with watching all three versions.  You get a more complete picture of the story that way anyway.  Each screenwriter brings something unique to each film. 

Wow, I've hogged all of this time going off on my rabbit trails.  So how about you?  I'm pretty sure I know the answer, but which version of Pride and Prejudice do you prefer?

T:  Without question, the 1995 miniseries with Colin Firth and Jennifer Ehle.  I was not as impressed with the newer version with Keira Knightley.  It was so toned down and modernized from the book.  And, like any regular-length movie adapted from a book, they had to cut out a lot of material to make it fit the time frame.  I love the miniseries so much more because of all of the details they were able to add.  Jennifer Ehle is the ultimate Lizzy...and Colin Firth is pretty amazing, too! :)

I'd love to go on, but that's all the time we have for today.  I had more questions...maybe we can get to them another time.  Thanks so much for joining me, Emma!  You should be honored:  you're the very first special guest on "Tea with Tess".   

E:  I do feel honored!! Thanks so much for having me.  That tea was delicious, by the way!

T:  Glad you liked it.  Join us next time for more "Tea with Tess".  Bye!!

Hope you guys all enjoyed my first special post.  What topics would you like to see discussed in my other posts?  Leave your ideas in the comments below, and I may decide to use YOUR idea on the next "Tea with Tess"!  :)              

Some Photos of Our Tea :)

Miss Elizabeth Bennett and Miss Emma Woodhouse
(aka Tess and Emma) :)

My favorite book!

The elegant table :)

Even one of Papa's childhood teddy bears and Shahrukh bear had a tea party!

Emma's book (she still doesn't have her own copy of "Emma").  This is a great book, too!  

My special guest.  Isn't her gown lovely?

Good books and fresh brewed tea...what could be more perfect.  Hmm...maybe some chocolate!!


The Editrix said...

Hi! I just wanted to say thanks for taking the time to comment on my blog! I enjoyed reading your comments. :-) And thanks for following, too!


beast'sbelle said...

Hi Elise! Mama told us all about your blog and how she left a comment almost as long as your original post! :) Maybe that's where Emma gets her long-windedness (I have no clue if that's a real word). :}

We were glad to have a wonderful blog!! Thanks for commenting. :)

Tess for Mama (aka Beastsbelle) and the rest of us