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Thursday, January 22, 2009

Wuthering, Wuthering, Wuthering Heights

[Just imagine this post's title sung by Kate Bush and the repetition will make sense]

So this is my long-awaited (by me, anyway) review of Part I of ITV/Masterpiece Classic's Wuthering Heights starring Tom Hardy, Charlotte Riley, and the dude who played Guppy from Bleak House. First I'll go over things I liked and didn't like, and then--like Heathcliff in the graveyard--I'll dig a wee bit deeper.

Aspects that I appreciated:

  • The sets and filming. The Grange and Heights were 90-95% entirely as I imagined them. I thought they evoked what they were supposed to evoke quite well.
  • The accents--I loved the clipped roll of the characters' Northern English accents and they reminded me of North and South, which is definitely a good thing.
  • The sex--fornication on the moors can never be wrong, if the love is true.
  • Tom Hardy--he was a hot, fascinating, mess of a Heathcliff. Interesting to look at, almost sympathetic in my mind, despite his endless quest for vengeance. AND let's get to the crux of things: he banged his head on the wall BEFORE CATHY EVEN DIED. Now that's devotion. Are we going to get another episode of frenzied head-banging against a treetrunk when the sad event occurs? These are the questions that keep me up at night, readers.
  • Isabella Linton--This Isabella has a sass-mouth, and I like it.
  • Necrophilia--Stop judging. He didn't want to sleep with her corpse, he just wanted to cuddle.
  • Linton Heathcliff--The frail, consumptive Linton Heathcliff reimagined as a whiny emo dude. I can dig it.
Aspects about which I was less passionate:

  • Mumbling--There was a bit too much of it. E. Bronte's characters shouldn't mumble, they're too melodramatic. THEY SHOULD EN-UN-CI-ATE THEIR BUR-NING DE-SIRES AND RAGE.
  • The moors-- good, but too sunny. Wither were the clouds? The snowstorms? The external manifestations of our sundered lovers' turmoil?
  • The sex-- I am all about the passion between H and C, but I take issue with how quickly it started in this version. There's a certain air of chastity to the characers' early union that is I think vital to Bronte's meaning. H and C are supposed to flee to the grange because Hindley's canoodling session makes them uncomfortable. And Hindley's canoodling makes them uncomfortable because the threat of sexuality between them is the first hint of their impending separation. I think this aspect was somewhat included in this film--in the sense that after they "lay" together they had this big break and Cathy started "entertaining" Edgar-- but still. The make-outs started too early, is all I'm saying.
  • Cathy's looks--The part was very well-acted, but to me, Cathy's weird outfits and her face both felt kind of modern. I feel like Charlotte Riley belongs in a pair of jeans or a power suit, and also, it was hard to stomach her in those cleavage get-ups post-sojourn at Thrushcross Grange without laughing at the excessive boobage.

Overall Verdict

It appears that audiences are quite divided on their views of this production (this is based on my persual of the blogsophere.) In fact, even my family is torn; My mom thoroughly enjoyed it, my grandmother thought it was a piece of crap. Well folks, I'm coming down on mom's side: sorry grandma!

I don't think this is the definitive version by any means, (I wonder if there can be a definitive version of such a slippery novel) but I felt that it had a lot going for it. This "WH" was more than watchable, it touched on almost all the crucial themes, moods and characters, and made the book feel relevant. Most importantly, the emotions I felt while watching the film recalled the emotions I felt when I first really learned to appreciate the book: horror and grief at Heathcliff's unfair lot as a child and young man, anger at Cathy's betrayal, sickening regret mixed with perverse fascination as Heathcliff embarks on his campaign of revenge, and a weird mix of hope and disinterest in the fate of the younger generation, who fall so much under the shadows of their larger-than-life parents. It made me go back to my lit crit and think about the book in contemporary contexts, and for that I am thankful. Also, there was a lot of sex, which I may have mentioned.

All in all, well done to the folks at ITV.*

*Now I hear from the intertubes that there's some approaching blasphemy in the second part that may discomfit me/rob me of the good vibes I'm getting from this adaptation. I say, bring it on! Why, you ask? Because no literary-adaptation sin could be worse than the "snog" at the end of 2005's "Love, Actually, and Pride and Prejudice." So unless this miniseries ends with Heathcliff wearing stupid knee-breeches and showing off his calves while he strokes Cathy's decaying skeleton (who wants him, incidentally, to call her the 'goddess divine') and murmurs "Mrs. Heathcliff, Mrs. Heathcliff, Mrs. Heathcliff" in front of the giant reflecting pool that they have built in front of Wuthering Heights' stables, then I am not afraid.**

**I may eat my words.


  1. Dear Fellow-ette,
    I saw Bleak House and I love the dude who played Guppy!
    The first time I have read your blog was about the satire in four acts, Un-becoming Jane. Lovely,
    even when I could not know the exact meaning of the words!

  2. Hahaha, this is a very entertaining review (particularly the snide remarks about the 2005 P&P; I agree). I'll have to rent this when it's available on DVD.

    Also, GUPPY! That is all.

  3. K, you can watch it online through this weekend. I believe.

  4. I enjoyed your critique very much, and I agree with most of it, especially the bit about all those cleavage dresses... ugh. That wasn't even the fashion during the time when WH is meant to take place! It seems they updated the whole production to most Jane Austen-like period, because the original text takes place between the 1750s and the early 19th century, and empire waists weren't the thing yet. It made me kind of irritated.

    Anyway, about the moors being too "sunny" - I thought the same when I watched, but you can find "Behind The Scenes" footage on the Masterpiece Theatre website, and they talk in depth about how uncooperative the weather was. When they needed sun, they got rain and vice versa. But I can appreciate that this was the first version to actually film on location on the moors of Yorkshire, so the sun doesn't irk me as much knowing that!

    Thanks for the great blog post!

  5. ROFLOL'd over your necrophila line. Blogged and Twittered it... with credit/link.

    By the way, I've watched Part 1 three times, and Tom Hardy had that I-know-this-guy-but-can't-quite-place-him look about him. I finally found out that he also played the role of Shinzon in Star Trek Nemesis!

    Somehow, that seems so very appropriate.

  6. Hello there...

    Just wanted to share the correct link to "Wuthering Heights" online:

    Now, if I can somehow find a quiet moment in this insanity-stricken household, so I can watch it! :)

  7. Thanks for the online links, everyone, I will check it out as soon as I find some time.