It's no definitive masterpiece but it's damn close.
As Good As It Gets
Excellent and certainly provocative... If nothing else, the film is a real conversation starter.
The film never slows down or bores, plunging from one harrowing sequence to the next.
The words 'magnificent, wonderful, superb' all tumble off one's tongue as one exclaims upon the excellence of this mini-series which is, frankly, a work of art. One of the things which makes it is its absolutely perfect casting. There is not even the hint of a false note anywhere. The film features what may be the most brilliant and moving performance by Michael Gambon of his entire career, and that is saying a lot, considering his body of work and that he is one of the finest actors ever produced by Britain. But the central jewel of the production is the lead performance by Justine Waddell, who represents everything in the round that she is meant to be, and is so far from being a cardboard character that she is positively four-dimensional and radiantly glowing with warmth and life. Rarely has a classic mini-series been so fortunate in the inspired casting of a young heroine. And the other two young women in the story are also brilliantly played by Rosamund Pike ('she who rises to the surface') and Keeley Hawes (who had just finished making a feature film with Gambon, THE LAST September). Waddell's father is played to perfection by Bill Paterson. Everyone is not only good but excellent, and that applies equally to Francesca Annis, who drives us all mad by playing one of the most irritating women imaginable (Waddell's step-mother) with such utter conviction, and with every tiny mannerism intact, that it is impossible to watch without wanting to wring her neck. (Was she attacked in the street by exasperated viewers after this mini-series aired, one wonders.) And although she only appears in the early part of the mini-series and then dies, we must not forget one of England's finest actresses, Penelope Wilton, as Gambon's wife, seen here once again at her recurrent best. And then there is Iain Glen as 'a passionate tiger' of a man prowling round and driving some women mad with all that sexual energy, who has been yet another victim of the inconstant Hawes, whose affections are as flitting as a moth's flight. And there is also good Tom Hollander, suffering admirably in his intolerable position of being secretly married but unable to tell his father. Elizabeth Gaskell's last novel is the basis of this mini-series, brilliantly scripted by that old hand at such things, Andrew Davies. The direction by Nicholas Renton is masterful and inspired. I am not at all well-read in 19th century English fiction but 'they say' that Mrs. Gaskell, as she is generally known, was most remarkable (the DVD has a half-hour extra about her) and 'better than Dickens and Jane Austen'. Well, I think there is no doubt she ranks with them in any case. This story is laden with deep emotion, loss, intrigue, tragedy, pathos, joy and happiness all thrown together, and you never know which will emerge moment by moment as the complex tale moves forward with its many characters, with Justine Waddell playing a young woman of excellent character, Miss Gibson, who is at the centre of it all. The story has a brief and dreamy preamble in which Miss Gibson as a child meets 'the grand people', and then the main story begins with the touching father-daughter friendship of Waddell and the her loving father, the widower Paterson, a village doctor, which is then interrupted by his precipitate decision to remarry a woman who seems charming but who suddenly turns into a nightmare (Annis). She won't even permit her husband to eat cheese, his favourite food, because its smell offends her, and her ludicrous social affectations are truly nauseating. This was an admirable opportunity for Mrs. Gaskell to throw her darts at social pretensions, and she never misses. The lives of the Gibsons are constantly intertwined with those of the Squire (Gambon) and his family, and hovering also just beyond the fringe of the main action are Lord and Lady Cumnor, 'the grand people of Cumnor Towers', a huge stately home with lots of marble and suffocating grandeur, who are to be decisive in the story eventually. The local inhabitants are called by them 'the townspeople', and all the townswomen curtsy to the Cumnors if they encounter them even in the street. So we see a portrait of a highly stratified society, but no servants enter into the story. (I almost said serfs!) This is not an upstairs/downstairs story at all. It is about the high and the low, but not about the lowly. To try to summarize the complicated story, which evolves majestically over 301 minutes, not one second of which is boring, would take, well, 301 minutes, so shall not be attempted here. Anyone with good sense who has not seen this yet will buy the DVD immediately. Failure to do so will result in the administration of 301 strokes of the ruler across the back of the hand, exile to the colonies, or being left alone in a room for an hour with Francesca Annis in character. But such fates are reserved only for those who fail to buy the DVD. Those who do have instead a most pleasant fate, that of being mesmerised for five hours of thrilling drama. Truly, this mini-series is sublime.
Where has this film been or where have I been concerning this film? I found it in passing in a library period film search and then got busy and almost didn't play it. So very glad I did. I understand the author is a lesser known for some reason, and there is a move to bring her works to the forefront. If this isn't the cream of her crop, it is likely close. This film stands up against the most popular period presentations of the last several decades. Excellently produced, spot-on casting and portrayals, overall even pace. The surpassing feature, however, is the emotional depth of the characters. These people come to life in full dimension. There's an even flow of them, without so much extreme bad or good. Along with that, characters embody weaknesses and vulnerabilities along with their strengths. It's an effective and affecting film experience.I ran into something on this one that happens with me from time to time on this type of film, and that is the variance between my taste in looks and beauty and those of the time. For example here, between the two son, Osbourne is said to be the handsomest and Roger to be plain in looks. I find it the opposite. Found this in "Pride & Prejudice" as well, preferring Elizabeth Bennett's looks over her sister, Jane, who is credited the beauty in the film.Regardless, this is a super outstanding period film I will be ready to share with all my friends who enjoy these and definitely add to my favorites. It conveys its characters and the story gently, but very effectively. There is much of interest and variety. It is realistic in showing flaws in persons and customs, who change in some respects, but do not undergo unbelievable transformations. I like it that the film demonstrates the reward of patience and endurance and the folly of self-indulgence and stubborn prejudice. There is wit, humor, depth and shallowness of character, joys and sorrows, generosity and self-centeredness, wisdom and frivolity.Dr. Gibson may well become one of my all-time favorite male characters from fiction. He is gratifying throughout, though tried and vexed, weighs in like gold in the punches. While open and accommodating to his new female household additions, he never compromises his tender watch care for his own beloved daughter. I love it when he tells the squire that she needs to come home now and receive some cosseting herself. He holds his own with the gentry along with the regular folk. He and his faithful girl are two of the most valued and respected denizens of their community. The new wife and step-mother is also a remarkable character, for a different reason, with her unrelenting zeal to tweak all about her. I love it that, though giving her proper place, the two girls do not allow her to "live in their place," but make their voices heard with spirit. She was entirely well played here, giving much interest throughout. Though we see her some mollified at the end by life's vicissitudes, we also sense she will definitely rise again. I really enjoyed the two girls hitting it off. Though light weight on steady character, Cynthia brings some playfulness and fun in needed relief to Molly's older-than-her-years intensity. However, there is a period of angst over Molly's being made use of to cover Cynthia's inconsistencies. I definitely want to read the book and will likely purchase both. Many of these characters have a classic quality about them, the kind that becomes a type of reference. I'll also be seeking out this author's other works and will likely find them keepers as well if they are anything like this marvel.
A treasure, really. I enjoy films portraying this period, but this is above all my favorite. The acting is incredibly touching. I was in awe with the portrayal of the story throughout its entirety.Waddell portrayed the character of Molly so well, it made me ache for her. Her obvious childishness throughout the movie makes her eventual development so much more satisfying. She is one of the best dynamic characters I have seen on film. Paterson is all at once likable, firm, loving to his daughter, annoying, and trustworthy. Truly a real characters, full of depth, intricacies, and idiosyncrasies.This movie reads like an excellent, cozy book. I highly recommend this to anyone who enjoys excellent acting and reading fine literature.
I have been a lover of period dramas for many years but I have to say that this is my all time favorite. Forget Pride and Prejudice, forget Sense and Sensibility, Wives and Daughters has to be the best one I have ever seen!I loved the cast, the story, the setting everything. The story of Molly Gibson was wonderful, and I've never enjoyed a period drama quite so much! Me and Molly fell in love with Rodger and Osbourn together, and the hellish step mother story was wonderful. Coupled with her loving father this drama really gives you that warm glow inside. It was a pleasure to watch when it first came out, and is still a pleasure to watch on video.