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Fun Friday–A Room with a View on Masterpiece Classics

Friday, April 11, 2008


The Complete Jane Austen series might be over, but PBS isn’t leaving us high-and-dry without our costume-drama fix. This week is the U.S. premiere of the new BBC production of the Andrew Davies adaptation of E. M. Forster’s coming-of-age novel, A Room with a View. As I mentioned yesterday, I’ve never seen the Merchant-Ivory production of the film, nor have I read the book, so I’m really looking forward to seeing this one. I’d hoped that my review copy from WGBH would have arrived in time for me to view it before posting, but unfortunately, the mail must be running slow. 😦

    “To experience the true Italy, one must be a little daring! Eschew the Baedeker, dismiss the Cicerone, and venture out alone…”
    — Miss Lavish in A Room With A View
    Lucy Honeychurch (Elaine Cassidy, Ghost Squad) and her nervous chaperone embark on a grand tour of Italy. Alongside sweeping landscapes, Lucy encounters a suspect group of characters — socialist Mr. Emerson and his working-class son George, in particular — who both surprise and intrigue her. When piqued interest turns to potential romance, Lucy is whisked home to England, where her attention turns to Cecil Vyse (Laurence Fox, Inspector Lewis). But now, with a well-developed appetite for adventure, will Lucy make the daring choice when it comes to love? Andrew Davies offers a new adaptation of the E.M. Forster classic.

Since I don’t know a lot about this movie, so I don’t know what to be expecting, I’m going to focus instead on some of the actors it’ll be fun to see in something new. I haven’t seen the main actress, Elaine Cassidy, in anything, but thre are several other names on the cast list that are quite familiar (to me, anyway!):

Laurence Fox as Cecil Vyse. Laurence Fox, who recently got married to Billie Piper (Fanny in the fiasco known as Mansfield Park 2008), has been in several things that some of my regular readers might recognize him from: Elizabeth-The Golden Age (Sir Christopher Hatton), Becoming Jane (Mr. Wisely), Marple: The Sittaford Mystery (James Pearson), Jericho: The Killing of Johnny Swan (Peter Bridgewater), and Gosford Park (Rupert Standish).

Rafe Spall as George Emerson. I’ll mention in a moment why Rafe’s last name may sound familiar. Rafe Spall is probably most recognizable from his roles in the dark comedies Hot Fuzz (DC Andy Cartwright) and Shaun of the Dead (Noel). I find it interesting that with as little leading-role experience as he has, he’s been cast into one of the key roles in this movie. I’ll be very interested in seeing him, knowing what his acting background is.

Sophie Thompson as Charlotte Bartlett. Sophie Thompson is one of those actresses that, if you’ve seen a few British costume dramas, you probably recognize her but have no idea who she is. Well, Sophie Thompson is one of the daughters of actress Phyllida Law, with whom she appeared in the Gwyneth Paltrow version of Emma. But Sophie’s Austen connection doesn’t end there. She played hypocondriac Mary Elliot-Musgrove in Persuasion 1995; her sister, Emma Thompson, wrote the screenplay and starred in Sense & Sensibility, in which Sophie’s husband, Richard Lumsden, played Robert Ferrars. Sophie has also appeared in Gosford Park and Four Weddings and a Funeral.

Mark Williams as Mr. Beebe. If you read my review of the first part of Sense & Sensibility, you may recognize this name. Or if you’re a fan of the Harry Potter movies, you’ll recognize this name. Yes, the actor whom we saw last week as Sir John Middleton in the Regency period will now be giving us Mr. Beebe in the Edwardian period. I didn’t realize until I looked him up on IMDb exactly how busy an actor he is. He’s only 49 years old, and he already has 64 film and TV credits. It’s understandable, because he’s a fun, comedic actor.

Timothy Spall as Mr. Emerson. That’s right, you noticed this actor has the same name as the actor playing George Emerson. Well, Rafe Spall is Timothy Spall’s son. Many people will recognize Timothy Spall as Wormtail in the Harry Potter movies. He also played Beadle Bamford in Sweeney Todd, and Nathaniel in Enchanted. It’s always fun to see actors we so closely identify with a specific role in something totally different.

Sinead Cusack as Miss Lavish. Sinead is not an actress that many Americans who aren’t avid BBC costume-drama viewers would recognize. But anyone who’s seen her loves her and is with me in highly anticipating seeing her in this film. I first came to admire her in her role as Mrs. Thornton, the prickly mother of heart-throb Richard Armitage’s character in North & South. She’s also been in some big-screen thrillers recently, including Eastern Promises and V for Vendetta. But what most people don’t know about her is that she’s been married to the inimitable Jeremy Irons since 1978 (in fact, their 30th wedding anniversary was March 28!).

Timothy West as Mr. Eager. What hasn’t Timothy West been in? He was most recently seen on Masterpiece Theatre in the 2005 miniseries adaptation of Charles Dickens’s Bleak House, as Sir Leicester Deadlock (Gillian Anderson’s character’s husband). West has appeared in TV shows and big-budget films. As with many older British actors, he’s a workhorse, taking roles from Shakespeare to a judge in 102 Dalmatians. He might be most recognizable though as King Francis from Ever After.

  1. Friday, April 11, 2008 8:21 am

    I’m not familiar with this one at all, but you can be sure I’ll be watching. You’re really educating me on British actors.


  2. Friday, April 11, 2008 11:20 am

    I’m really looking forward to this. Leticia told me this morning that there was about a page write-up in this month’s Vanity Fair about it!

    I’m really looking forward to seeing Timothy Spall…it will be interesting if I can forget that he’s Peter Pettigrew! (His son is rather hot…just thought I’d throw that randomly out there… :P)

    I’m also really looking forward to seeing Sinead Cusack now! I didn’t realize she was in this!


  3. Friday, April 11, 2008 2:58 pm

    Kaye, you’re becoming known for being the expert on these British period pieces. And since I’m clueless but enjoy them, please keep posting! I wasn’t going to watch this one, but now I’ll have to record it.


  4. Friday, April 11, 2008 3:21 pm

    One of my closest friends is British—though she’s lived in the U.S. since 1989. We always laugh about how I know more about British TV and movies than she does—and she’s over there at least once a year. But that’s okay, because she knows more about American pop culture than I do. (She has a 12-year-old daughter.)


  5. Corie Martin permalink
    Saturday, April 12, 2008 9:26 pm

    I love it Kaye! I just learned some fun facts about actors I too have seen many times but knew nothing of! Thanks for the enlightenment.

    Ok, so I’m going to date myself here, but the 1985 film version of ‘A Room With a View’ was what initially sparked my life-long love of period romance/dramas, both written and in film. It starred Helena Bonham-Carter as Lucy Honeychurch and Julian Sands as George Emerson and also starred Maggie Smith, Judi Dench and Daniel Day Lewis! Julian Sands alone was pretty enough to make my 11-year-old knees wobble and my little heart skip a beat. I immediately went out and bought the book, and then ‘Howard’s End,’ and then the rest of the Forster collection. I believe Austen fans who have not read this collection would love them, although it has been many years since I read them myself, so my literary palette is much more refined today than it was (OMG!) 23 years ago when I first read the book! Looking forward to the movie! Great blog!


  6. Sunday, April 13, 2008 10:07 pm

    Okay…this was okay but I’m not nuts about it. I do want to read the book though.


  7. Corie Martin permalink
    Sunday, April 13, 2008 10:54 pm

    TOTALLY.HATED.IT. The ending here simply DID NOT HAPPEN. George DID NOT die in the war; in fact, he never even WENT to the war. Here are a couple of substantiating links, first, the final chapter of E.M. Forster’s novel and second, the New York Times review of the new film, which pretty much sums up my feelings in the first paragraph.–Forster

    Take my advice, Netflix the 1986 version of A Room With a View for a much more compelling, romantic, visually stunning and heart wrenching version that pretty much mirrors the beauty of the book itself. Boo hiss Boo hiss!


  8. Wednesday, April 16, 2008 9:29 am

    The book is fabulous, and I agree with Corie: the Merchant/Ivory production is so much better. Why Andrew Davies insists on changing plots in his scripts to such a degree that he is fabricating scenes wholesale is beyond me.

    I liked your descriptions of the characters and actors. Thanks for the info!


  9. Friday, October 24, 2008 5:06 pm

    The 1985 version of “A Room with a View” is one of my favorite movies. I haven’t seen the BBC version but hmm…don’t know if I want to. The 1985 was so full of wit and humor and romance…and the leads had such chemistry…sometimes when I see something and really like it, the “remake”, so to speak, ruins it for me. Soooo I don’t know. I always watch 1985 it when I need a laugh. It always helps lighten my mood.

    And George dies????? How horrible!!!!! 😉 I think I’ll stick with the 1985 version. Who can beat Denholm Elliot as Mr. Emerson, after all?

    “Here is where the sun shines! Here is where the sky is blue!”

    Sigh. I love that movie!


  10. Friday, October 24, 2008 6:56 pm

    You know, six months later and I still haven’t gotten around to watching this one yet!


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