Monday, February 1, 2010

Wuthering Heights (1998)

Year: 1998
Rated: NR
Run Time: 1 hour, 53 minutes

First Viewing - February, 2008 on DVD.

Adaptation Accuracy/Dialogue - Maybe it's my favoritism for 90's era film making, but WH '98 seems so quickly paced in comparison to other versions without cutting any of the important scenes. In normal fashion, Lockwood shows up lost and is introduced to the odd inhabitants of the Heights. He is treated to the vision of Cathy at the window, and then we are inexplicably cast back 30 years in the past. (Why is the use of Nelly telling the story so infrequent?)

In this version, we have a definite focus on Cathy and Heathcliff, until her death and then, surprisingly, we get a decent amount of time of Catherine and Hareton. The dialogue is fairly accurate, however many scenes are omitted, shortened or otherwise changed for not explicable reason. Other scenes where the dialogue is uncertain (such as Heathcliff and Cathy out on the wily windy Moors and Heathcliff romancing Isabella) are particularly fanciful, but enjoyable.

Heathcliff -(Robert Cavanah, age 33) He looks odd to me. There's just something about him that doesn't sit right as Heathcliff. He doesn't evolve any and his transitions from stable boy to gentleman to manipulator to madman are too smooth and rather non-existent. It's almost as if Cavanah was going to do what he wanted with the character regardless of the director's wishes...I'm surmising of course.

Cathy Earnshaw - (Orla Brady, age 37) Way. Too. Old. 37? 37? Really? You would have me believe that there were no brunette, British actresses between the ages of 18-25 available in London around the filming of this movie? Ugh. All right, now that my ageist rant is out of the way, Orla Brady doesn't do a bad job. I like her more than other Cathys but am still disappointed that she portrays the character as a woman vs. a teenage girl. Luckily, she is only in half the movie.

Edgar Linton -(Crispen Bonham-Carter, age 29) I like this Edgar, particularly in the second half. Edgar is just much more likable as a father. Although not the most sympathetic overall, I think he does the best he can with the material given.

Isabella Linton - (Flora Montgomery, age 24) This Isabella is rather strong willed and temperamental compared to what she is supposed to be. However, it gains a different kind of  sympathy for her character knowing how unhappy she is being a single woman and watching her brother as a happily married man. Because of these character changes, you think perhaps she and Heathcliff might make a good match...but that is not how the story should go.

Hindley Earnshaw -(Ian Shaw, age 29) Well...drunken Hindley. Is there anything more to say? No more different, no more special than any other portrayal of him.

Frances Earnshaw - (Catherine Cheshire, age unknown) You can tell that this Frances loves her Hindley. It's a subtle performance and she's ever present in the background witnessing the events. You can see why Hindley goes off his rocker when he loses her, because she actually has a personality.

Nelly Dean - (Polly Hemingway, age 52) You know how I feel about old Nellys.

Hareton Earnshaw -(Matthew Macfayden, age 24) You might recognize this actor from 2005's Pride and Prejudice where he played Mr. D'Arcy. But I prefer him as Hareton. Most of his performance is in his face. He is quiet as Hareton should be, but he conveys all the right emotions. Plus, I love his deep, low voice. It adds to his supposed "dumbness" but does not make him seem too dumb.

Catherine Linton -(Sarah Smart, age 21) Hands down, my favorite Catherine. This little blurb will never give Sarah Smart the justice she deserves. I just love how much passion she puts into her performance and she doesn't take any of Heathcliff's shit. I believe her in everything she says and does and I'm so sad the movie didn't take more time with the Catherine/Hareton side of things.

Linton Heathcliff -(William Mannering, age 21) Meh. He is small and sickly looking, that's pretty much all that is needed with Linton.

Joseph -(Tom Georgeson) He says very little and I enjoy that!

Lockwood -(Peter Davison) Lockwood shows up and then very promptly disappears like in nearly every version. He is fine. No complaints here.

Costumes/Character Appearances - Despite the generations having drastically different costume silhouettes, the clothing for the 1780's is used throughout. Although this would normally bother me, it is unlikely that the people of Northern Yorkshire were up on the latest fashions. The fact that young Catherine doesn't have an empire waisted gown is the least of her worries.

Age is the underlying issue. Edgar should be blonder. And Hareton should be darker. Catherine's blonde curly wig is a bit much at times, but I like it, even as unlikely as it is for it too look that nice all the time. I really like the the Christmas dinner scene with the very dark Catherine, the very blonde Isabella, and with Frances in between. It was very visually interesting.

Sets/Filming Locations - Uh, they're fine.

Music - Pretty damn good, actually. However, it's a little too sweet and not dark enough.

Overall Likes - Dual generations; Introduction to Catherine and Hareton; Cathy and Heathcliff as children; Frances; Heathcliff feeling up Cathy in the barn; Isabella's strength; Cathy informs Heathcliff of her pregnancy; Crazy Cathy; Pregnant Isabella; 2nd generation Edgar; Sarah Smart's Catherine; Catherine and Hareton's romantic development; Hareton pulling Catherine away as Heathcliff screams for Cathy; Basically all scenes of Hareton and Catherine; "I will not."; The first kiss.

Overall Dislikes - Old Nelly; The spittle on the kiss...ew; Lapwings...yes I know it happens in the book; Rushed "I am Heathcliff."; Heathcliff and Isabella's wedding night; No "Then you won't be my friend?" scene;

Final Thoughts - My favorite part of Wuthering Heights (1998) is Hareton and Catherine. Their love story is so often downplayed that I loved to see a version where it is given the attention it deserves. However, there were a few scenes cut that I would have loved to have seen these actors do. Such as their first meeting, or when  Cathy asks Hareton to read his own name, and the scene where Catherine offers to teach him to read as a peace offering. Oh well. Even where there are movies with these scenes, they do not have the depth and chemistry present between these two actors.


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