Based on the book, “Northanger Abbey,” by Jane Austen
Version: 2007, starring Felicity Jones, Sylvestra Le Touzel, Carey Mulligan; directed by Andrew Davies
Genre: classic; romance
Plot Summary: Young, bookish Catherine Morland is invited by family friends to stay the season in the popular seaside city of Bath. Excited about the possibilities on the horizon, Catherine quickly meets friends (though which are healthy acquaintances for her to make and which are dangerous are for her to find out during the course of the story). When her fevered imagination gets her into trouble at an honored stay at a secret-filled abbey, she believes all her hopes for the future are dashed.
My Review: I remember this movie came out several years ago, but I patiently made myself wait until after I’d finished reading the book to watch it. I was happy to find that the movie is quite like the book, without many plot changes. The moral of the story was kept intact which, in essence, is that Catherine learns just how unhealthy her mind has become as a consequence of reading trashy romance stories. In today’s modern world where pornographic novels (Fifty Shades of Grey, etc.) rate as some of the most popular bestselling books, the message of “Northanger Abbey” rings loud and clear.
We see the effect these books have on Catherine’s friend Isabella (well played by Carey Mulligan). Hungrily consuming these stories prompts Isabella to act them out later when she becomes rather promiscuous. She sees it all as a fun lark, but in the end she is left feeling degraded and cheapened.
Catherine, on the other hand, begins to feel guilty over the stuff she’s been reading, especially when her dreams at night are affected by what she has been feeding her imagination during the day. When Henry’s sister Eleanor describes Catherine as being ‘pure in heart,’ Catherine admits she doesn’t think she is quite as much as she ought to be. In the end, she burns her books that have had such a bad influence on her, and admonishes her younger siblings to be careful what they read.
For all the morals of the story, the movie seems to have taken delight in these opportunities to portray a great deal sensuality. I knew going into it that other online reviews had warned of this as a downside, so I was somewhat prepared. Still I was surprised at just how much is implied. One could make a case that this is the extent of the effect Catherine’s unhealthy reading choices has had on her, but it does make this movie less family-friendly. Isabella displays quit a fair amount of cleavage, in one scene in particular.
I felt the cast was well-chosen. It was fun to have Sylvestra Le Touzel play Mrs. Allen. And JJ Feild looks and plays the part of Henry Tilney exactly as I had imagined him in the book!
I liked this movie, but I didn’t love it. I prefer other Jane Austen films to this, but I wouldn’t necessarily not recommend it. I guess this means I have mixed feelings about it. I would love to hear your thoughts on it!