Northanger Abbey (review)

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If Northanger Abbey isn’t minor Austen, then you’d never guess it from this tepid adaptation, which hurries through moments of what should be dreamy fantasy and elides over all the tender romantic suspense that Austen is all about in the first place. This is the author’s parody of the gothic horror fiction that was all the rage in her era, as Catherine Morland (Felicity Jones) finds her introduction to proper society coming via an invitation to visit the medieval manor of the Tilney family, where her addiction to sensational novels leads her rather astray. Up-and-comer JJ Feild (Ruby in the Smoke) is appealing as Catherine’s would-be wooer, Henry Tilney, but he’s given little opportunity to spread his romantic-leading-man wings as this careless truncation of Austen’s intent to satirize lurid romance ends up too far in the other direction, bland and insipid… which offers poor Jones no good showcase, either. The ambitions of PBS and Britain’s ITV to bring new versions of Austen to the small screen are laudable — if only they had been content to trust that fans of Austen are happy to take their time with her stories and characters, and don’t need to be rushed through 90-minute Cliff’s Notes accounts of them. As with most PBS discs, no bonus material is included. [buy at Amazon]

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