Alternate Endings

A clip from the 2005 film adaptation of Pride and Prejudice showing Elizabeth Bennett and Mr. Darcy staring at each other at a dance.

Last night, I turned on the quintessential go-to Jane Austen adaptation, Pride and Prejudice, while I made dinner. I was looking for something mindless and British to watch while I cooked and it was recently added to Netflix for all of you romantics out there to fawn over, so I thought it would be the perfect choice. It wasn’t until I got a message from my friend exclaiming, “YouTube the last two minutes!” that I realized there even was two different endings, one for the UK and the rest of the world, and one for the dreamy, Darcy-obsessed Americans across the pond. (Side note: Darcy isn’t the be-all and end-all Austen man. There are others who are much more interesting! I promise.)

In the UK’s ending, after Mr. Darcy and Elizabeth Bennett realize they do actually like each other, despite all of the various reasons they should not, Mr. Bennett grants his permission for Lizzie to marry Darcy and the story ends. It’s all happy and good and the credits roll and no one has anything to say about it. In the US version, though, there is one last scene at Darcy’s home, Pemberley. In this scene, in order to satisfy American audiences, we see a romantic and intimate scene between Elizabeth and Darcy, and we see the only kiss in the film. Americans were happier as they thought it was more realistic that two lovers might actually kiss on screen, but the British found it to be downright silly. If you’ve ever read Pride and Prejudice, you know there was no kissing in the book. It didn’t fit with Jane Austen or the time she wrote in. So, while the UK ending might seem unfinished to us Americans, the US ending doesn’t feel right to the British, or to many of the people who have read the book.

So then what do you do when there are two endings, or as in the movie Clue, three? Do you watch one at random? Choose your favorite? Watch them all? What about when you were a kid choosing your own adventure in those awesome books with the multiple endings? Did you choose as you went like you were supposed to, or did you cheat and read a few alternate ways to go and then decide? Should the creators of Pride and Prejudice have given in to American needs for romance, or leave the movie as they had envisioned it when they first made and showed it in the UK? Should all endings be happy, romantic, and lovely, or is it okay to have something be sad, upsetting, or alternatively realistic?

There’s something about humans that makes us always want to get the best possible ending, but I don’t think we necessarily know what that ending looks like. It’s why college students change their majors over and over in the hope of having the perfect fit. It’s why I add more classes than I need to each semester so I can test them all out just in case I’d be missing out on something. It’s why when someone asks you what you want to do when you grow up the answer changes from astronaut, to veterinarian, to artist, to doctor, to actuarial scientist, and so on. It’s why I’m sitting here in front of my computer unsure how to end this post because I want it to be perfect so it doesn’t let anyone down. But, I don’t know what will let you down, dear reader. I have no idea. So instead of ending this in a finite way with some grand realization about how things should end in books and movies and life, I’d just like to bring up Jane Austen again. What a lady. She wrote six full books and influenced countless writers after her. And isn’t that the best ending after all—a lasting impression from the people who love you?

Remakes: Cultural Re-iterations for Make Benefit of America

With Baz Luhrman’s new adaption of The Great Gatsby due in May, I got to thinking about the notion of the filmic remake and why Hollywood seems to be so saturated with things of the past that it tries to polish and transform into things of the future.

If I am honest, most times I see that a film is being remade, I roll my eyes and ask why Hollywood didn’t just get it right the first time?

But the other day in my British Romantic Poetry class (which is a lot more intense than it sounds, believe or not), my professor told us that the role of the poet was not to invent new truth, but rather to create a new iteration of truth that resonates with modern cultures.

And isn’t that what a remake is?  A new, culturally resonant iteration of old truths?  As I sat in class, my former negative views towards remakes began to fade away.  Although many remakes fail to be half as good as the original, I thought I’d highlight some that in my opinion are better.

1. Ben Hur (1959)

While, in my opinion, any talkie is going to be better than its silent counterpart, this contribution by Cecile B. Demille highlights the best of the best in the Golden Age of Hollywood and especially Hollywood ‘Sword and Sandal’ films.

2. Ocean’s Eleven (2001)

After viewing several of his films, I would say that I have definitely acquired a taste for Steven Soderbergh.  If you haven’t seen any of his work (he’s also known for ‘J.Lo’ and most recently the surprisingly dark and gritty ‘Magic Mike’) the Ocean’s franchise is probably his most accessible to date.  Like many of his other films, it is very self-contained, non-meta, and visually seamless.

Okay, Soderbergh gushing over.  The reason I think this film improves upon the original, is that it creates its own self-contained team dynamic, whereas the original relied upon an extra-textual dynamic of the Rat Pack franchise.

3. Pride and Prejudice (The 1995 Version with Colin Firth in the best wet T-shirt scene in history)

Yes, this film was re-made ten years later with Keira Knightley (which seems waaaay too soon in terms of cultural updating.  Honestly, how much do British period films change in ten years?).  However, much like the upcoming Hobbit re-boot, this film is very, very long and its length does justice to its source material.  There is also a simplicity to this version that I find refreshing.  While I am a HUGE Keira Knightley fan (Is there a film that she doesn’t look stunningly gorgeous in?) I found that the story was second banana to the Keira Knightley brand, the great score, and the stunning visuals.  I was less focused on the story/characters and very aware of the fact that I was watching a film.

4. Romeo + Juliet (1996)

Talk about cultural relevance.  This film took something that I don’t think had been culturally updated for five hundred years and gave it Hawaiian shirts, love at first sight through the fish tank, and 9mm ‘broadswords’ that could do more damage than any stage weapon ever could.  Good move, Baz Luhrman.  I am looking forward to every film you ever make (and commercials too).

5. Hairspray (2007)

A vast improvement upon the original film (although the 2006 version was more of a Broadway-to-Cinema adaption.  In terms of directors, it moved from Jon Waters to Adam Shankman.  In other words, the story moved in terms of cultural appropriateness, from ‘Pink Flamingos’ to ‘A Walk to Remember’.  I think this was a turn in the right direction.

Did you know these were adapted?

1. O Brother Where Art Thou? (Homer’s Odyssey)

2. West Side Story (Shakespeare’s Romeo and Juliet)

3.  Clueless (Jane Austen’s Emma)

4. The Lion King (Shakespeare’s Hamlet)

5. Strange Brew (Shakespeare’s Macbeth)