Masterpiece Theatre's Northanger Abbey

Masterpiece Theatre's Northanger Abbey
"All houses have their secrets and Northanger is no exception."

Catherine Morland (Felicity Jones) was a plain child from a family of ten children. She preferred to participate in activities like cricket and baseball rather than socialize. If she wasn't being active then she was poring over romantic novels. In this film adaptation of Jane Austen's novel Northanger Abbey we follow Catherine on her journey into Bath society when her neighbours, Mr and Mrs Allen invite her to stay with them. She is suddenly thrust into a world of adventure; some real, some fantasy. Like most of Austen's main characters she is forced to choose between true love and money.

One of the first priorities on arriving in Bath is shopping. "Resign yourself Catherine. Shops must be visited. Money must be spent,' says Mrs. Allen. This turns out to be a much enjoyed activity by the modest Catherine. After shopping they make their way out into society where they run into the gentle and agreeable clergyman Mr. Tilney (JJ Field) whom she flirts, dances and has a grand ole time with while Mrs. Allen watches from the sidelines.

The next person Catherine meets is Isabella Thorpe and her sisters, who know Catherine's brother James through the girls' brother John. John is equally impressed with Catherine and comes on strong with his intentions giving poor Henry more of a challenge than he expected as both vie for her attentions. Henry and his sister Eleanor begin meeting with Catherine for walks in nature. While her meetings with the wild Isabelle surround the lurid details for Lord Bryon's latest shocking novel.

Catherine is quickly led astray by Isabella and John Thorpe and their underhanded ways of getting what they want. They are not above lying to a young girl unfamiliar with people of high society and in fact get much joy out of it.

Catherine's pleasing manner garners an invitation to Northanger Abbey which is owned by General Tilney, Henry and Eleanor's father. What Catherine doesn't know is that the only reason that the General allows her to socialize with his children is because he was told she was an heiress by the braggart John Thorpe. While at Northanger Catherine's experience with novels really plays havoc on her imagination and her fantasies run amuck with macabre. This leads to a few humiliating moments for poor Catherine. Like all Austen stories the ending is wrapped up in a neat little bow of love, happiness and marital bliss.

This UK film is the second film adaptation of Jane Austen sixth novel. The first was made in 1986 for the BBC. This romantic comedy is racier than the other Jane Austen novel adaptations I've seen; with the lead, Catherine Morland fantasizing at night because of the steamy books she reads during the day. She's an otherwise sensible girl who prefers the love of an honest and kind man over a man with station and money. I love every scene where Henry is teasing Catherine about her naivety. It's a definite chick flick and I had great fun watching it. I highly recommend viewing it.

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M. E. Wood lives in Eastern Ontario, Canada. If you are going to find this eclectic reader and writer anywhere it is probably at her computer. For more information visit her official website.

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