‘Sanditon’ Review: A Modern Take on Jane Austen

by Jeremy Spirogis
Charlotte Heywood in Sanditon

Jane Austen solely accomplished six full-length novels earlier than she died at age 41 in 1817. Despite her comparatively small output, variations of her tales of romance among the many British gentry hold coming, together with a brand new movie model of Emma, due out in February. 

Faced with a scarcity of fabric, some have turned to Austen’s unfinished and lesser-known works for inspiration, like Whit Stillman, who turned her novella Lady Susan into the acclaimed 2016 film Love & Friendship. Now, there’s Sanditon, an eight-part sequence airing on PBS starting Jan. 12. Based on an unfinished novel, this new adaptation affords a extra trendy tackle Austen, which decidedly blended outcomes. (First 4 episodes screened for evaluate.)

‘Sanditon’ is predicated on Jane Austen’s final work

Charlotte Heywood in Sanditon
Rose Wiliams as Charlotte Heywood | Courtesy of © Red Planet Pictures / ITV 2019

Austen started Sanditon a couple of months earlier than her dying, however solely accomplished the ebook’s first 11 chapters. It tells the story of Charlotte Heywood, a younger lady who travels to Sanditon, a small seaside city, to stick with Parker household. Tom Parker, together with the rich Lady Denham, is trying to show the quiet fishing village into a modern resort, with blended outcomes. 

While Austen’s ebook offers the setting and a few particulars of the main characters, it doesn’t provide a lot in the best way of plot. So screenwriter Andrew Davies (who additionally penned the much-loved 1995 adaptation of Pride & Prejudice) has stuffed within the gaps, including some social and political commentary and greater than a splash of intercourse. 

A distinct type of interval drama

Theo James as Sidney Parker in SanditonTheo James as Sidney Parker in Sanditon
Theo James as Sidney Parker | Courtesy of © Red Planet Pictures / ITV 2019

We can inform it is a totally different type of Austen adaptation from the primary moments of the primary episode, once we meet our heroine Charlotte (Rose Williams) crouched within the grass with a rifle, taking purpose at a rabbit. (Lizzie Bennett might need been spirited, however she by no means dealt with firearms.) A dramatic carriage crash seconds later throws her into the trail of the Parkers, who sweep her off to Sanditon, regardless of her father’s reservations. “These seaside resorts can be odd places,” he warns her. 

The spunky-but-naive Charlotte brushes off her father’s issues. But as soon as she arrives in Sanditon, she’s confronted with a extra sophisticated world than the one she’s used to. She’s unsettled by the sexual innuendoes she hears from sleazy Sir Edward Denham (Jack Fox), who speaks to her concerning the newly trendy pastime of sea bathing, describing “the bracing shock of the first plunge … the gentle play of the currents over your naked limbs.” When she witnesses a furtive encounter between Sir Edward and a younger lady within the woods, it solely provides to her confusion. 

Tom Parker’s good-looking however standoffish brother Sidney (Theo James) insults her once they meet by mistaking her for his sister-in-law’s maid, then berates her at a ball after he baits her into sharing her unvarnished opinion his household. His nasty diatribe makes us really feel unhealthy for Charlotte, who has the boldness of a beloved Austen character like Elizabeth Bennett. But her snap judgments and youthful ignorance make her appear extra like a petulant teen than a romantic heroine. 

‘Sanditon’ is a mish-mash of different Austen works  

Austen followers will discover clear echoes of the creator’s different work in Sanditon. Charlotte’s go to to Sanditon recollects Catherine Morland’s time in Bath in Northanger Abbey. The imposing, meddling Lady Denham is a lighter model of the insufferably snobbish Lady Catherine de Bourgh from Pride & Prejudice. Sidney is clearly alleged to be the story’s Mr. Darcy, however he comes off extra like Jane Eyre’s Mr. Rochester, full with the problematic ties to sugar plantations in Antigua. 

One space the place Sanditon does differ from the usual Austen adaptation (and plenty of different interval dramas) is by that includes a outstanding character of coloration. Georgiana Lambe (Crystal Clark) is an heiress from the West Indies. The character, who’s included in Austen’s authentic work, is price an astonishing $100,000 kilos. Miss Lambe’s fortune makes her an object of pursuit, whilst her race units her other than these round her. But the present’s dealing with of race isn’t significantly delicate, as when one character has to clarify to Charlotte that slavery nonetheless exists.  

And then there are Sir Edward and Esther Denham (Charlotte Spencer). These two stepsiblings live in genteel poverty and desperately scheming to get their palms on their rich aunt’s fortune. In a Game of Thrones–worthy plot twist, they’re additionally engaged in a quasi-incestuous, probably abusive relationship. Austen wasn’t averse to hinting at a little bit of intercourse in books — see Wickham and Lydia’s elopement in Pride & Prejudice — however this may be an excessive amount of for some viewers.  

Is ‘Sandition’ price watching?

Sanditon does have a sure allure, particularly for followers of interval drama. There are bonnets and Empire-waist robes aplenty, and a few amusing scenes, particularly these involving Tom and Sidney’s good-natured hypochondriac brother Arthur (Turlough Convery). And the setting — a city within the midst of speedy social change — is an fascinating one. But that is probably not sufficient to maintain viewers on this considerably muddled sequence.   

The first two episodes of Sanditon air again to again on Jan. 12 at 9/8c. 

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