Wednesday, December 12, 2007

I've joined the Crusade!

Sigh, ugh! Tootie won Top Model. I think I'm hung up on her Tootie hair. She would've been so much prettier with, say, a flattering cut. Anyhoo, it was a pretty boring season (excuse me, cycle) altogether. At least I have Project Runway to keep me going. And perhaps, someday, The Office will be back.

Given the lack of appealing tv viewing, I was keen to hop on board the North & South train. If you've been by Ramblings on Romance or Sula's Space, you may have noticed a lot of posts devoted to this 2004 BBC miniseries. No, it's not the one with Patrick Swayze and Lesley-Anne Warren, as I first suspected. This is an adaption of Elizabeth Gaskell's 1855 novel about the industrialization of England. As soon as I read a little bit, I knew I had to watch it. I lurve BBC miniseries. There is nothing like beautiful people in beautiful costume swanning about lavish settings. Plus there is always restrained, yet smoldering passion. Good times, good times. One of the best things about becoming involved with blogging was finding like-minded souls. People who become obssessed with things like this or The Anne of Green Gables/Avonlea miniseries etc.

Okay, the show. North and South centers on Margaret Hale, the daughter of a country vicar who uproots his family to Milton, an industrial city in northern England. The dark, dingy city full of mills is nothing short of complete culture shock, and Margaret's low opinion of the area and its people is cemented when she meets John Thornton, a local mill owner. Thornton happens to be disciplining one of his employees for smoking. By beating the shit out of him. John Thornton is a self-made man who saved his family from poverty. Although he is wealthy, there is a great social divide between the two. Their deepening and changing feelings for each other are challenged by a union strike which tests the city and everyone's way of life.

North & South not only thrilled the romantic in me, but also the English major. This is a very interesting portrayal of a changing society. Margaret represents the traditional aristocratic way of life. Even though her family is not wealthy, she obviously has family and social connections, and she has that air of superiority. Her way of life is the best, and she assumes that those "in trade" lack the sensitivity that she has. John Thornton represents the more modern way. He had to work for money and position, and doesn't hesitate to hold on to what he has with whatever means at his disposal. He is honest and blunt, and basically kind, but he lacks the eloquence and refinement that seem important to Margaret. It's idealism vs. pragmatism, naivete vs. cold-hard experience, the ivory tower vs. down in the trenches. Margaret seemed overly harsh and kind of bratty at first, but she's definitely a product of her upbringing. And there is a third force here, personified by Nicholas Higgins, which is threatening to both of their ways of life. We see the beginnings of the working class attempting to take some power for themselves,through unionization and striking. Such actions are serious challenges to Thornton's wealth and power and to Margaret's assumptions about herself, Thornton and the workers.

But opposites attract, and oh the romance is hot! These are two people who do not want to be attracted to be attracted to each other. But they are, and they fight it, and it's fascinating to watch. The casting and acting was wonderful. Richard Armitage as John Thornton cuts quite the distinguished profile (he is extremely hot). He is fabulous too. You can see all of his conflicted emotions and his struggle to contain them. Daniela Denby-Ashe (as Margaret) is grave, pretty and luminous. She stands out among the dingy surroundings. She is intelligent and blunt and it's easy to see the attraction for Thornton. And the ending! The "train scene." It's anachronistic and unrealistic, but ohmygod they're finally kissing and yay! I re-watched it five or six times.

This was great entertainment. A sexy, sweeping romance set against a fascinating historical background. I've got to give props to the rest of the cast, particularly Sinead Cusack as Thornton's steely mother. I have to re-watch before it has to go back to the library, and I think I must buy it for myself. Count me as a new devotee.


Kristie (J) said...

Most excellent summary!! *g* And I think most people thought this was another version of the American version. I know I did for the longest time when I first heard about it. Not so at all. The story itself is excellent and I think the casting and the acting is perfect. Because it's so well done, it's like they draw you right into the story - just like a very well written book can do. I think that's what I find so compelling about it. Of course there is the gorgeousness that is Richard Armitage - but if it was just that, it wouldn't have grabbed the way it has. It's the WHOLE package that does it.

Kristie (J) said...

Me again! Should you be able to wait, and I COMPLETELY understand if you can't *g*, there is a copy to be won. For me, the ending, oh the train station scene *moment of silence* just could have done with a teenie, tiny bit more. So if you feel like writing it, there's a contest to win your own copy.

Kristie (J) said...

Darn - I really need to gather my thoughts all at the same time!! I forgot to say you're already entered to win one of three copies of the book

sula said...

Wonderful write-up. I enjoyed reading it very much. Particularly your observations about the clash between cultures and the worldviews of Margaret (old aristocracy), Thornton (self-made man and nouveau riche), and Higgins (working class). The interplay between the different currents of change as represented by these main characters is really what elevates the film, imho, to more than just a meeting/courtship/marriage story. When I posted the other day about using the metaphors of organizational behaviour to examine the film, I was doing it only halfway in jest. In fact, the complicated and dynamic social and industrial conditions of the setting are really fascinating. Of course the development of the romance between Thornton and Margaret and the ever-so-satisfying conclusion are what just puts the whole thing over the top into the stellar "keeper" category. In my opinion, this should be a star-making role for Richard Armitage. He gave the performance of a lifetime, and it's absolutely a revelation and bloody brilliant. Hotness aside, the man can convey so much emotion without even saying a word. Wow.

~ames~ said...

I preferred Saleisha to win - over anyone else. I was originally hooting for Heather. And I agree, it was a slightly boring cycle. I mean, where were the kooky girls like Jade and Jaele? LOL

I'm hopping on the band wagon, I'm going to order North & South.

Dev said...

Great post, Devon! I loved reading what you had to say ~ it made me feel like I was watching N&S all over again.

You did the same thing I did. I got my copy from the library, but after watching it twice I decided I *must* own my own, so I went straight to and ordered it.

KT Grant said...

Welcome to our crusade! I always enjoyed your posts in the past and another great one. :)
And everyone must mention the "Train Scene" :)
Richard's neck is so sexy without his cravat in that scene!

Kristie (J) said...

Ames: You SO wont' be sorry that you watch it. It' very rare I that I go on and on about something - well romance as a whole I do, but I mean something specific! This series is one of those rare times.
And of course there is the fact that Richard Armitage is a fine actor to imagine as Derek Craven!!

Devon said...

Hi all!

KristieJ--Maybe I'll give it a go. My attempt may be quite scary though.

Sula--I read your post about the organizational stuff, and it was very interesting. Although this was a great romance, the historical context is really fascinating, especially when you think about all of the changes today due to the explosion of technology.

Dev--There's no way you could watch this just once!

Katiebabs--I just love his smiling in the train scene. It's so different from the rest of the series.

Ames--You'll really enjoy it. I had no clear favorite this round of ANTM. If anything, it was Heather. They showed pics of Tootie at the end, and I thought she looked awesome w/o the haircut. I knew she would win, though.

Devon said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Mollie said...

Isn't it fabulous?! I watched it over a month ago but haven't had time to review it. I checked it out from the library again ;). If I don't get it for Christmas I'm getting it for myself!

Jennie said...

Kristie got me too! I rented it last weekend and had to watch it twice. And I've ordered it for Twin for christmas (shhh, it's a secret), because she loved it too. (Plus that way I'll get to watch it whenever I want to too!)

And yes, when John Thornton finally smiles--OMG he's lovely. ;)