Wednesday, August 7, 2013

Movie Review - George Eliot's Middlemarch

I just watched the 1994 adaption of George Eliot's Middlemarch, and although I do not usually review new movies that I have seen, I liked this one so much, and I have heard next so little about it, that I decided to write my own review.

The story takes place in Middlemarch (shocker!), an English town surrounded by landed estates.  Like many period dramas, there are many small plots and side stories, so it can be a bit confusing.  The movie is actually a miniseries containing one hour and twenty minute episode and five fifty minute episodes.  I watched it over the course of two days.

The main characters include Dr. Lydgate (and his flighty, flaky wife, Rosamond), wannabe philanthropist Dorothea Brooke/Casaubon, young author and rising politician Will Ladislaw, banker and do-gooder Mr. Bulstrode, shiftless Fred Vincy, hardworking Mary Garth, creepy and crabby religious scholar Reverend Casaubon, and the unpaid preacher Mr. Farebrother.

I think a plot summary will be hard to do for this story simply because there are so many subplots, but the story revolves, for the most part, around Dorothea Brooke, who is a young and idealistic.  She is also the nieceand ward of wannabe politician Mr. Brooke, who does not subscribe to her ideas for improvements on the servants' and tenants' cottages.  She ends up marrying Rev. Casaubon, who is much older than she is, because she enjoys listening to his intellectual talk and thinks that she loves him.  In fact, their marriage turns out to be pretty unhappy.  She keeps on trying to help him, but he thinks that women should keep their place.  She becomes friends with his younger cousin, Will Ladislaw, who during the course of their friendship decides to become an author.  He also falls in love with Dorothea, but he is too honorable to say anything to her, and she does not realize that he looks on her as anything more than a cousin.

Meanwhile, Dr. Lydgate comes to Middlemarch and, after a brief courtship, marries Rosamond Vincy, a blonde in every sense of the word.  Their marriage is based on romance and nothing else, so it falls apart pretty quickly after Rosamond begins piling up debt for her husband.  Fred Vincy, Rosamond's brother, is interested in Mary Garth, but she will not have him because she knows that he is being forced into his profession of a preacher by his family, and she wants a man who will be strong enough to think for himself.  Mr. Farebrother, however, gets a real position as a preacher after spending years as an unpaid chaplain at a charity hospital, and he also pays suite to Mary Garth.  She tells him that she likes Fred, though, and will never marry anyone else, even if she cannot marry him.  When Mr. Farebrother tells that to Fred, he (Fred) goes to her (Mary's) father and asks him for a job, even though he knows that he will disappoint his own father.

Fred Vincy and Mary Garth
(By the way, Fred Vincy is played by Colin Firth's brother.  I didn't even know he had a brother.)

During this whole drama thingy, Mr. Bulstrode is being blackmailed by a mysterious and slovenly man who keeps showing up in Middlemarch.

Finally, old Casaubon dies, but in his will he says that if Dorothea marries Ladislaw, she forfeits her right to his money, which means that he suspected something.  Of course, Dorothea is horrified, but when Ladislaw finds out, he gets angry and leaves town.

I am reluctant to tell you any more, because if you have not seen the movie you might be annoyed with me for all the spoilers.

I was struck by the different looks at marriage in the story.  Dr. Lydgate and Rosamond have an unhappy marriage because they based everything on romance and feeling, but Dorothea and Rev. Casaubon have an unhappy marriage because they based it on only intellectualism.  Fred and Mary are much happier, because they waited and based their marriage on both character and love.

Favorite character:  This is a toss-up between Will Ladislaw and Mary Garth.  I am definitely leaning toward Mary, just because she was so sweet and nice and normal!

Least favorite character:  Definitely Dr. Lydgate.  He was pretty annoying, even more so than his wife, and he had no control over his wife, and all of his character was a veneer.

Would I watch it again?  Oh, yes!  I give this movie five stars.  But before I watch it again I want to read the book.  If you have never seen it, you should definitely give it a shot.  If you like period dramas even a little, than this is a movie for you.

Thanks for reading, and God bless,


  1. Well, now I s'pose we must add this to our to-watch list. I've never been much impressed with George Elliot stories, but I'm willing to give this one a try if you enjoyed it. :)

    Colin Firth's brother? Hmm... I must say, I thought the guy in the picture looked very similar to him. Small world, eh?

    By the way, lovely review, m'dear. You should do more. Of course, I'm one to talk... I've done all of what... half a dozen reviews in 17 months? *sheepish grin* Actually, I have two more in the works, but never find the time to sit down and write them.

  2. Fun and very good review, Kathryn!!

    I've been wanting to see Middlemarch for the past few weeks, ever since I saw that Netflix had it. I've not read the book but I knew this adaption stars Rufus Sewell, who was fantastic in Amazing Grace, Jonathan Firth, as you said (I've seen him in Luther, where he plays a villain), and Caroline Harker, sister to the 1995 'Jane Bennet'- Susannah Harker. And the screenplay was written by Andrew Davies. So, it had much to recommend itself to me. Then I signed on to Blogger today and saw the title of this post and went, "Wow! Coincidence!"

    Your review cemented my resolution to watch it. So, thank you. :)

  3. Here I was, thinking I'd heard of all the period dramas, this one is new though.

    I didn't know Colin Firth had a brother either. I don't suppose anyone looked into it too much, being they were just so busy learning more about HIM himself. *Grin*

  4. I'm glad this review was so helpful! I had a good time both watching the movie and writing the post.

  5. By the way, I forgot to mention this in the review, but there are a couple of scenes with Dr. Lydgate and Rosamond that we fast-forwarded. Just be warned! I don't want you to go and watch the movie and think "WOW! She condones that????" So, yeah, be careful!


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