TV review: Still Star-Crossed

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I just want to start off with a confession: my review is going to be seriously biased.  I’ve been excited about ABC’s Still Star-Crossed ever since the casting was announced about a year ago.  A diverse cast on a historical drama is rare, which is what got me interested originally.  I can’t remember the last time I’ve been this excited about a show.  I suspect I’d probably end up liking it even if it was terrible.  Luckily, so far it isn’t.  Minor spoilers ahead.

Based on the young adult novel by Melinda Taub, Still Star-Crossed is a continuation of the Romeo and Juliet story.  After the deaths of Romeo (Lucien Laviscount) and Juliet (Clara Rugaard), Rosaline Capulet (Lashana Lynch), Juliet’s cousin, becomes the heir of the Capulet family.  With Romeo dead, Benvolio Montague (Wade Briggs) is the last hope of the Montagues.  But the two feuding families refuse to stop fighting and a riot breaks out in the city of Verona.  To find a way to bring peace and keep the city united against outside invaders, Prince Escalus (Sterling Sulieman) decides to end the feud by forcing the two families together.  Prince Escalus sees no choice but to force Rosaline and Benvolio into an arranged marriage that neither wants.

Many of the characters in Still-Star Crossed were marginal figures in Shakespeare’s original play but they get far bigger roles here.  Side characters in Shakespeare’s plays are often three-dimensional despite not being lead characters.  Which makes the characters on the show so intriguing – it’s great to see side characters everyone is familiar with get their own story.

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Lashana Lynch as Rosaline Capulet

The lead of the show is Rosaline Capulet, the orphaned daughter of nobles who starts off as a servant in her uncle Lord Capulet’s home.  But despite growing up with Juliet, Rosaline is nothing like her cousin.  She isn’t a dreamer.  She doesn’t have her head in the clouds.  All she wants to do is to join the nuns.  Rosaline is skeptical of a marriage to a wealthy or noble husband because she has no desire to go back to her old life as a noblewoman.  She refuses to be at the mercy of men and she defies anyone who wishes to put her in her place or marry her off.  Lashana Lynch plays Rosaline beautifully.  Rosaline starts off being on the periphery of Verona’s political intrigue but through Lynch you get the sense that she’s gutsy enough to stand up for herself and savvy enough to understand the system she’s being forced into.  Watching a character as practical as Rosaline get thrust into a love triangle is what makes the romance so much fun to watch.  I don’t usually like love triangles but I kind of ship Rosaline with both of the men she’s paired with – Prince Escalus, the man she loved but cannot have, and Benvolio, the man she despises but has to marry.

I’ve been interested in Rosaline and the show in general for so long because there aren’t many black women leads in period dramas.  Which is one of the reasons Still Star-Crossed worked for me.  The cast is ethnically diverse and the diversity is incorporated wonderfully.  There characters in each family are different ethnicities. For example, the royal siblings Princess Isabella (Medalion Rahimi) and Prince Escalus are played by an Iranian American actress and an African American actor respectively.  The casting gives the show a timelessness and a fairy-tale quality all at once.

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(Did I mention how pretty everyone on this show is?!)  Princess Isabella (Medalion Rahimi) and her brother Prince Escalus (Sterling Sulieman)

 

Still Star-Crossed is gorgeous – the show is a feast for the eyes.  Most of the show was shot on location in Spain in medieval castles.  The locations give the show an epic feel.  I’m used to watching all the drama of Shondaland shows, but the palace intrigue of Still Star-Crossed is even more heightened.  The stakes are so much bigger.  If the families don’t stop feuding, Verona will be invaded and torn apart.  The lavish interiors and exteriors of the castles drive this point home.  Verona stands to lose its wealth and beauty.  The costumes are beautiful and you can see the attention to detail.  Princess Isabella has the most exquisite costumes on the show.  They look Elizabethan and she’s bejeweled, dressed in fine silks.  Meanwhile, Rosaline’s costumes look more like they belong in the Italian 15th century.  Still Star-Crossed is set sometime in the Renaissance but isn’t set in a specific year.  The costumes don’t evoke a specific year or even decade which adds even more to the show’s fairy tale quality.

Some of the issues for Still Star-Crossed come down to show expectations.  With all its palace intrigue the show has a very soapy feel.  It’s meant for a younger audience and it doesn’t apologize for this.  The dialogue has been modernized to make it more accessible.  This isn’t really a criticism of the show, just a point about expectations.  If you like shows like The Tudors or The Borgias then Still Star-Crossed has a good chance of being your catnip.  If you hated those shows Still Star-Crossed probably won’t be our cup of tea.  And the show doesn’t try to be anything than what it is: fun, soapy, packed full of family drama, romance, and twists.

As an aside, the show also gets bonus points for including Shazad Latif in the pilot.  I had been wondering when I’d see him in something else again, so I got super excited that he was on another historical show even if the role was small.  I’ve only seen the pilot so I have no idea how the rest of the season will go.  But so far, I had a lot of fun watching, and I’m looking forward to more.  I’d give this one a B+.

Link Roundup: Real Women in History

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Jennifer Lawrence will reportedly play Zelda Fitzgerald in the upcoming film Zelda.

Scarlett Johansson is also set to star as Zelda Fitzgerald in a different movie called The Beautiful and the Damned.  The Fitzgerald estate seems to be attached to this version.

French actress Karidja Touré is going to star in The Adventures of Selika about Victorian equestrian Selika Lazevski.

A limited series about Madam C.J. Walker is coming to TV!  Octavia Spencer is set to produce and star in the series.

The official trailer for Jackie is out.  Natalie Portman looks terrific as First Lady, Jacqueline Kennedy.  Jackie opens in the US on December 2, 2016.

TV Characters: Dr. Jekyll

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Penny Dreadful is one of my favorite shows and before season 3 started I was really excited about one thing in particular.  Dr. Henry Jekyll (Shazad Latif) was being added to the cast of literary characters and he was going to be of South Asian descent.  It’s not a secret that period pieces are notorious for whitewashing history, so this development was awesome.  My excitement lasted for about half of the season until I realized things weren’t going well at all.  And they never got better.  There are going to be MAJOR SPOILERS ahead so stop reading if you don’t want to be spoiled.

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Jekyll being all broody and handsome.

Before I go into what didn’t work, I’ll focus on what did.  Jekyll’s backstory is intriguing.  Jekyll was friends with Victor Frankenstein (Harry Treadaway) when they studied medicine at Cambridge.  At Cambridge, Jekyll was the target of racist bullying and Frankenstein was his only friend.  As the son of an Indian mother and the British father that abandoned her, Jekyll is never accepted by British society.  He hates his father for abandoning his mother and leaving her to die.  The loathing he has for his father and his rage at the racist abuse still directed at him nearly consumes him.  But Jekyll has found a way to medically contain the beast inside him.  He works in a laboratory in Bedlam,  experimenting on patients to see if they too can be cured of their mental afflictions.  When Frankenstein and Jekyll are reunited at the start of season 3, Frankenstein becomes fascinated by Jekyll’s work and the two friends join forces.

The casting was perfect.  I’ve never seen Shazad Latif in anything else, but I hope after his time on Penny Dreadful he gets more work.  He was great as Dr. Jekyll.  The scenes where you can see him fighting to keep his rage inside were terrific.  Penny Dreadful is a show about the monsters inside all of us and Shazad really nailed that with Jekyll.  It’s such a shame that he didn’t get the chance to do more with the character.

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Unfortunately the third season of Penny Dreadful was also its last.  I didn’t know this going into it, so I thought whatever problems there were with Jekyll would have been ironed out in fourth season.  That wasn’t meant to be.  The biggest problem was that Jekyll isn’t given much to do.  When Frankenstein tells him that Lily (Billie Piper), his latest creature, is dangerous and full of rage, Jekyll suggests that instead of killing her like Frankenstein is contemplating, they make her docile with his treatments.  It’s horrifying.  Frankenstein and Jekyll spend most of the season plotting to kidnap Lily and turn her into a docile housewife without her consent.  And the fact that Jekyll, who has had to deal with being controlled by society thinks this is fine, is awful.  That’s what his interesting backstory gets reduced to.  Being Frankenstein’s sidekick in his quest to turn Lily into a 19th century Stepford Wife.  So for most of the season, Jekyll is stuck in his lab conducting experiments to help Frankenstein become a creep.  The one good thing about this setup is that Jekyll doesn’t take Frankenstein’s crap, so there’s that.  But Jekyll deserves better.  The audience deserves better.

The show’s creators have insisted that season 3 being the final season was their plan all along.  But I don’t buy it.  Vanessa is practically written out of her own story for the last two episodes and many of the character’s stories go nowhere.  It feels very haphazard and rushed, so Jekyll’s story gets lost in the shuffle.  His character arc ends with his father finally dying and Jekyll inheriting the title of Lord Hyde.  That’s the closest to Hyde that the show gives us.  It’s one of the happier endings of the series with Jekyll vowing to use his title to get into British society.

So, that’s it.  Jekyll shows up, putters around in a lab, tries to turn Lily’s brain to mush, and then gets a fancy title after being kind of a dick.  It’s not that I expect Penny Dreadful characters to be good people.  Honestly, I love to hate the majority of them.  I just expect them to be more fleshed out and better written.  That said, I’ll miss watching the characters and I hope more TV networks include more diversity in their historical shows.

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Film review: Crimson Peak

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Since it’s October, I’ve been watching some scary movies.  I admit it – I don’t typically like horror.  But a lot of period dramas in the horror category are more gothic than outright terrifying so I thought I’d give them a shot.  Crimson Peak is a gothic romance I’ve been meaning to watch for a while and now that I’ve seen it I can share my thoughts on it.  Beware of minor spoilers.

Set in 1887 and 1901, Crimson Peak is about American heiress Edith Cushing (Mia Wasikowska) and her struggle with life, death, and the past.  When Edith is 10 years old her mother dies.  Not long after, her mother’s ghost visits her and brings with her a dire warning, “Beware of Crimson Peak.”  Fourteen years pass and Edith lives a comfortable life with her father as part of New York society.  But Edith yearns for more, and she dreams of becoming a writer.  Her life changes when she meets Sir Thomas Sharpe (Tom Hiddleston) and his sister Lady Lucille (Jessica Lucille), two mysterious aristocrats who have come to America to secure financing for Thomas’ invention.  As Edith’s feelings for Thomas grow, dark forces threaten to destroy her, and she must solve the mystery of Crimson Peak before it’s too late.

I liked Edith for a lot of reasons.  Despite tragedy in her life, and being literally haunted by the past, she’s optimistic and brave.  She’s also witty and clever.  When the mother of a childhood friend cruelly suggests that Edith will die a spinster like Jane Austen, Edith quips “Actually, I’d rather be Mary Shelly; she died a widow.”  Edith, like a lot of historical heroines is constantly underestimated.  Mia Wasikowska is wonderful as Edith.  Her performances tend to be subtle which sometimes means she comes across as cold and passionless.  But she’s warm and full of life in Crimson Peak.  She’s subtle but she does a great job of showing how spirited and brave Edith is.

Which contrasts nicely with what Jessica Chastain does as Lucille.  Jessica is one of my favorite actresses so I’ll watch her in anything.  Unlike Edith, Lucille is cold and impenetrable.  There’s something unsettling about her presence as she blends into the dark background.  Even though she isn’t the lead, Lucille is probably the most interesting character because she has the biggest arc in the film.  Lucille’s brother, Thomas Sharpe is nothing like her.  He’s more affable, charming, even theatrical, and like Edith, he’s a dreamer.  If it weren’t for the fact that Sir Thomas was in a gothic romance movie I wouldn’t have been at all suspicious of him.  Yet, something strange happens when Lucille and Thomas are in a room together – suddenly, Sir Thomas seems a little bit less affable and charming.

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I love this yellow dress so much!

The best thing about Crimson Peak were all the technical things, which I expected since Guillermo Del Toro is the director.  The Victorian era costumes are gorgeous.  Edith wears bright colors – golden yellow, cream, and white.  The clothes she brings to Allerdale Hall, a manor that’s decaying, give her a youthful, fresh appearance.  She’s like the ray of light that everyone is drawn to.  Lucille’s costumes are darker and more dramatic.  Her heavy gowns are dark blue, crimson, and black.  Lucille’s old gowns are from the 1880s in contrast to the much more practical, wearable outfits that a modern early 20th century woman like Edith wears.

The color palette of the film is beautiful.  New York is bathed in golden light, while Allerdale Hall, the Sharpe residence in England, is overwhelmed by the three basic colors of a fairy tale – black, white, and red.  The set design for the old house is the standout of the film.  Allerdale is striking, gorgeous in its ugliness.  It’s a rotting maze of rooms and winding staircases.  A hole in the roof lets in cold wind and snow falls through the manor.  Allerdale is sinking into the red clay beneath, and the house creaks and groans under the weight of its own past.   The set was built specifically for the film and the long, dark corridors, almost sagging ceiling, and oversized furniture make look like the walls are closing in.

crimson-peak-tom-hiddlestonThe problem I had with Crimson Peak is that it’s predictable and not very subtle.  When Edith writes a ghost story, she tells the editor reading it, that the ghost represents the past.  On another occasion Edith spends time with the Sharpes in the park and Lucille talks about the beautiful yellow butterflies in New York that are so different from the formidable black moths in England that thrive on cold darkness.  None of this is subtle.  There also aren’t very many surprises in the film, though that might have been my own modern expectation.  Crimson Peak is a throwback to old fashioned gothic romances so it isn’t meant to subvert anything, but I still can’t help feeling like something is missing.

Crimson Peak is more a dark, twisted fairy tale than a horror movie.  It’s slightly campy and the last act is melodramatic.  However, if you’re squeamish or like me, detest horror films, you might end up loving its gothic, romantic elements.  I’d give it a B-.

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Poldark recap: season 2, episode 1

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I originally planned on writing a moment to moment recap, but I’d rather just write my thoughts about where each character is and discuss where I think they’re headed this season.

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(C) Adrian Rogers/Mammoth Screen for BBC and MASTERPIECE

Ross

At the end of last season, Ross Poldark (Aidan Turner ) was arrested for wrecking and murder.  This season picks up right after.  The murder charge is dropped because George Warleggan’s (Jack Farthing) uncle talks him out of it.  But Ross is still going to be charged with plunder, smuggling, and wrecking a wrecked ship.  Before his trial, Ross writes up a will leaving Demelza everything, though he doesn’t really have much to leave her.  He spends a lot of time agonizing over poor Demelza’s fate if he’s found guilty and hanged.  Of course, Ross being a gorgeous twit, doesn’t agonize over it enough to actually try to please the court by acting contrite.  Instead he’s his usual arrogant self on the witness stand.  Despite this, Ross is amazingly acquitted by the end of the episode.

But he’s still in financial trouble.  He has no income aside from being chief shareholder of Wheal Leisure.  His tenants frequently default on their rents, his house is mortgaged, and he’s in serious debt.  To make matters worse, the miners are starving and there’s talk of revolution just like in France.  But when he’s writing his will, Ross also mentions owning Wheal Grace, another derelict mine.  Which makes me wonder if there’s some financial salvation on the horizon.

Francis

I’m including a trigger warning for suicide since there are a lot of heavy things to discuss about Francis (Kyle Soller).  Oh Francis.  What else is there to say?  Ross still blames him for his daughter’s death last season, though he doesn’t seem to place the same blame on Elizabeth.  Go figure.  Anyway Francis is in pretty dire straights.  He gambled his mine away in season 1 and owes horrid George money.  He’s jealous of Ross because everyone loves him, and even if they don’t, he’s important enough for George to want him hanged.   Through his misery he does manage to confront George and tell him off for distributing slanderous pamphlets about Ross.  I suspect he does this in part because he’s planning to end it all.   Soon after this confrontation, Francis attempts suicides but thankfully his pistol misfires.

The events in the first episode make me wonder – will Francis try to commit suicide again, or will he find a way to turn his life around?  And surely his family will find out about the suicide attempt eventually.  He has confessed it to Dr. Dwight Enys and written a suicide note to Elizabeth so I doubt any of this has been resolved.

Elizabeth

Elizabeth tries to save Ross more than once.  She begs George to help him, and she wants to heal the rift between the Poldarks.  Francis notices Elizabeth’s feelings (“Which of us does not secretly adore him?”  Francis pointedly asks her.)  Aunt Agatha notices too.  Elizabeth does respect Demelza so I have no idea how the simmering tension between Elizabeth and Ross will resolved, or if it will even be resolved at all.  But since I’m Team Demelza, I’m over Elizabeth and Ross.  I am curious about how things will pan out with her and Francis, plus I really want to know just what George wants from her.

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Caroline and Dwight

New character Caroline Penvenen (Gabriella Wilde), is the niece and ward of Ray Penvenen (John Nettles).  She’s an heiress obviously spoiled rotten.  She’s also the intended of the rather annoying Unwin Trevaunance (Hugh Skinner) who is running for parliament.  Unwin is clearly out of his depth.  Caroline meets Dr. Dwight Enys (Luke Norris) when she summons him to treat her pug dog Horace.  Apparently, Horace was cleverly used to hide actress Gabriella Wilde’s pregnancy and he’s so cute!  Enys isn’t happy about wasting his talents on a dog, but he eventually decides to help by prescribing opium for Horace, which I thought was pretty wild.

Anyway, I think Enys is much more suitable for her because he respects her and there’s actual chemistry between them.  BUT he also had an affair in with a married woman in season 1 which resulted in her death, so you’d think Enys would learn his lesson since Caroline is kind of already attached.  I’m curious about what happens between them especially since Caroline is promised to a much more respectable man and Enys doesn’t have the best reputation at the moment.  I want to see where their relationship ends up, but I’d rather deal with them in small doses because Caroline is kind of a try-hard and Enys is pompous.

George

Throughout the first episode, George makes a public show of trying to help Ross, just so he can get into Elizabeth’s good graces.  But he actually works to get Ross hanged.  He pays for pamphlets slandering Ross and tries to thwart Demelza’s efforts to save her husband.  But, Ross – who would literally rather die than accept George’s help – is acquitted.  George is so arrogant and focused on his indignant rage that his slimy lawyer has to remind him of the danger he might be in now that Ross is free.  George has spent a lot of time and money trying to get Ross hanged and he planned on taking Wheal Leisure away from a widowed Demelza once Ross was hanged.  But Ross is alive and George is probably going to be in big trouble.  It would be nice if just once – George got what was coming to him.

Demelza

Demelza spends most of the first episode heroically trying to save Ross.  By the time the trial starts she knows she’s pregnant again and she confides in Elizabeth.  Ross however, has no idea.  Once Ross is acquitted and they finally have a moment to themselves Ross tells her he wants to wait before they try having more children.  Demelza then decides not to tell him she’s pregnant which is terrible idea, but Ross and Demelza are often full of terrible ideas so what’s one more?  My biggest questions are – how is Ross going to find out?  And when he does, how is he going to react?

So, what do you think of the season so far?

Quick note – I might not be around for a while because there’s a hurricane headed our way 😨.  I do hope things will get back to normal in days rather than weeks so fingers crossed!

Actress of the Month: Holliday Grainger

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Holliday Grainger has done a ton of period pieces so I won’t be able to focus on all of them.  But, a few do stand out and they’re the ones she’s best known for.  There will be MAJOR SPOILERS in this post so don’t read any further if you don’t want to be spoiled.

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The Borgias

The Borgias is the first thing I ever saw Holliday in.  It wasn’t the best show ever.  Okay, it was trash, but I still miss it.  I loved Holliday’s performance as Lucrezia Borgia.  What I really struck me was that Holliday brought a lot of understated personality to the character.  Lucrezia could have come across as either a bland pawn without any agency, or she could have been flat out conniving and two-dimensional.  But Holliday managed to strike a very good balance.  Lucrezia seemed very sweet and innocent, but there was a lot going on beneath the surface.  People – men especially – underestimated her and she used that to her advantage.    Lucrezia was my favorite character on The Borgias and even though I wasn’t crazy about the whole incestuous story line with her brother Cesare (played by François Arnaud) I probably would have stuck it out.  Plus, I loved Lucrezia’s costumes and Holliday seriously looked like a Renaissance painting on the show – she was perfectly cast.  It’s a shame it didn’t get another season.

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Bonnie & Clyde

I saw the Bonnie & Clyde (2013) miniseries on TV several years ago.  I wasn’t crazy about the older Bonnie and Clyde movie (1967) but I did at least enjoy the performances.  This miniseries was a thousand times worse and the only thing that kept me going was Holliday as Bonnie Parker.  The writing was lackluster, the plot was a mess.  The only memorable thing were the costumes and Holliday.  And that’s not saying much because Clyde Barrow (Emile Hirsch) disappeared into the background.  I guess it’s fitting.  I remember images of Bonnie, not Clyde.  I remember Holliday in this, not Emile Hirsch.  Worse, I watched a Bonnie and Clyde documentary at around the same time and it was far more interesting than the historically inaccurate mess of a miniseries the audience ended up with.

 

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Cinderella

I have to admit, when Holliday was first cast as one of the ugly stepsisters in Disney’s live-action redo of Cinderella, I was confused.  I thought it made more sense to cast her in the title role, not as an inconsequential stepsister.  When I eventually saw the movie nothing changed my mind.  I like Lily James a lot, but she was disappointing as Cinderella.  It’s not that her performance was bad, it just felt like Ella had no personality.  Ella was nice, wonderful, and totally bland.  Most onscreen fairy tale princesses have no personalities and I think the problem comes down to writing and casting.  Holliday can do a lot with bland writing – I suspect she did a lot with material on The Borgias because it really wasn’t the best written show.   She’s the kind of actress who can make something out of nothing, and casting her as the ugly stepsister was a waste of her talent.  It’s such a shame – she would have made the perfect fairy tale princess.

 

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I haven’t seen Holliday in Lady Chatterley’s Lover yet but it sounds like my catnip.  Early 20th century, romance (kinda?), Richard Madden and James Norton.  Anyway I’ll hopefully get a chance to see it and then give it a review.

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TV review: War and Peace (2016)

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The new adaptation of War and Peace aired earlier this year, and I’ve been meaning to review it.  I’ve never read the book by Leo Tolstoy, but I think even without reading it, the miniseries is a good primer for anyone who might want an introduction to Russian history in that era.  There are minor spoilers in this review.

The miniseries starts in 1805 and is focused on the lives and loves of five noble families.  I’m not sure if the novel reads like this, but the miniseries feels like a family saga of sorts.  The focuses is mostly on three young protagonists – Pierre Bezukhov (Paul Dano) who is the illegitimate son of a rich count, and Pierre’s closest friends: Prince Andrei Bolkonsky (James Norton), and Countess Natasha Rostova (Lily James).  While Pierre, Andrei, and Natasha try to find meaning in their lives and discover who they are, the Napoleonic Wars rage on, with Russia increasingly at odds with France.

Russia might be on the brink of war, but the young nobles spend a lot of their time drinking, gossiping, and plotting their way higher up the social ladder.  Pierre wants do to something extraordinary with his life, but he isn’t sure what that is.  He’s full of idealism, but he’s easily distracted.  So he drinks, gambles, and pines over Princess Hélène Kuragina (Tuppence Middleton), a beautiful, scheming heartbreaker who at first doesn’t pay Pierre any attention.  Andrei is so stifled by aristocratic life he’s willing to leave his pregnant wife with his father and sister so he can join the army.  He wants to go to war not because he hates Napoleon, but because he’s sick of balls, gossip, and aristocratic life.  Natasha is kindhearted, impulsive, and as she gains more and more admirers she yearns to find the type of true love her brother Nikolai (Jack Lowden) and her cousin Sonya Rostova (Aisling Loftus) have found.

What I liked about this adaptation was that you can tell they’re trying to make it relatable to younger viewers.  Sometimes this is cheesy but I liked how each character was portrayed.  They all have hopes and dreams.  But, their flaws keep happiness out of their reach.  It’s interesting to watch how each character faces the horrors of war, while also navigating their own internal struggles.

Unfortunately, what I like most about War and Peace is kind of its biggest problem.  The character flaws sometimes get annoying.  I get that they’re supposed to be young, but some of the characters are hopelessly naïve.  I forgive that somewhat with the female characters because they’re kept very sheltered while the more worldly male characters can party, drink, and have sex with far fewer consequences.  But some of the male characters are TSTL.  Pierre especially.  He can’t see how money grubber people around him are.  It’s like, dude – these people are obviously gold-diggers, use your brain.  Grow a back bone!  I get that he wants to do something for his fellow man, but that doesn’t mean he has to trust obviously horrid people.  I really liked how sweet and innocent Pierre is, but I also wanted to shake him.  A lot.

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If you haven’t seen Tom in The Musketeers go watch it!

Full confession here: I decided to watch War and Peace because of Tom Burke.  If you’re a Tom Burke fan you’re going to be disappointed because he isn’t in it that much.  Though I really liked his performance.  He’s kind of a jerkface, but he was also kind of sexy.  I should feel ashamed, but it’s Tom Burke, so whatever 😛

The other problem is that there are lots of characters to keep track, and it gets confusing trying to remember who is who and how they’re connected.  It took me a while to figure out Andrei and the very pious but persecuted Princess Marya Bolonskaya (Jessie Buckley) are brother and sister.  Both were among my favorite characters but it took me ages to figure out how they were connected.  Maybe it was my own concentration issues, but I wouldn’t be surprised if other viewers had this problem too.

tuppence-middleton-war-and-peaceThe technical details were a bit of a mixed bag. War and Peace was partially shot in St Petersburg and there are beautiful shots of The Winter Palace and Catherine Palace which gives the show a sense of place and grandeur.  The costumes were hit or miss though.  Some of them seemed pretty period accurate while some of them just go off the rails – backless gowns, one shoulder gowns, gowns that look more like bathrobes.  People with a much better eye for costume detail are probably going to cringe through a lot of this so you’ve been warned.

 

All in all, I think War and Peace is a worthwhile commitment.  There are some disturbing battle scenes.  But it’s very emotional and though slow and confusing in parts, it really hits its stride about halfway through.  I’d give this one a B-.

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Link Roundup: Black History News

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John Legend and Tika Sumpter are developing a TV series about the affluent, early 20th century black community in Oklahoma, also known as Black Wall Street.

Timewasters, a six episode TV show about a London jazz band time traveling to the 1920s is coming to ITV2.

Aisha Hinds has been cast as Harriet Tubman in the upcoming season of Underground.

The trailer for A United Kingdom is here!  The movie is about the true life interracial romance of Seretse Khama, Botswana’s first President and Ruth Williams, the First Lady of Botswana.  A United Kingdom opens in the UK on November 25, 2016.