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12 October 2008 @ 12:29 am
'Secret Smile' and 'Mansfield Park'  
So, I'm beginning to go through my scads of Billie Piper, David Tennant, Christopher Eccleston and Catherine Tate filmographies. I've already discussed (ad nauseum) Secret Diary of a Call Girl and, no doubt, will continue to do so, but here are some older projects, one with Billie, the other with David. (I've got Second Coming with Chris Eccleston, and Starter for Ten with Catherine Tate next.) Anyhoo, on with my thoughts on both productions below, obviously spoilers (especially for the plot/ending of SS.)

Secret Smile - I was oddly really looking forward to this; I wanted to watch David playing some twisted, sick psycho. And, erm, I guess I got that? But, honestly, I didn't think this was very good. And I found myself quite annoyed at the end because the damn movie made me actually feel sorry for the twisted, sick psycho and that was just wrong. And, no, it had nothing to do with David being, well, David. (Okay, maybe a little bit, because he looked very, very pretty in this and he was using his natural Scottish accent, but, seriously, mostly, no.) It was because while Brendon Block may have been a fraud, a stalker, abusive and a rapist, he was NOT a murderer. I don't know, maybe if either lead had been better at offering subtext, layers there, I might not have felt that way, but ... didn't happen.

Kate Ashfield as Miranda was good, but there was no depth or layering to her portrayal. She just hit the beats of what was expected by the script and offered nothing further. So when the script didn't give me a reason to buy that Miranda would have taken such an extreme action (forget setting up a man for murder, but letting her parents and sister believe she was brutally murdered for at least six months?), I certainly didn't get it from Ashfield. I just didn't buy it. As for David Tennant, yes, he did good, but like Ashfield -- but better -- he just played the beats of the script and didn't add any subtext or layering. So I didn't get the sense that he truly was this evil person, just a thoroughly messed up individual who had never gotten the therapeutic help he needed and thus committed these acts because he'd never learned to control his desire and/or anger. I imagine that I was supposed to believe that he pushed both Troy and Laura to their deaths, but nothing in his performance offered any subtext to support that. So again, yeah, he was a fraud, a rapist, abusive and a stalker ... but he should have gone to jail for THOSE crimes, not for murder. And, then, the final shot of him, looking all emo and wronged against the prison wall made me feel sorry for him. And I shouldn't have.

I believe that David Tennant is capable of delivering amazing, jaw-dropping performances (because I've seen them), but I think he needs a great script or a great director. Without either, he doesn't give that extra oomph instinctively. However, he was good, and did a great job playing what was in the scene, he just didn't delve in between the lines enough for me to support the denouement. He sure did look and sound pretty, though. {{Sigh}} As for Kate Ashfield, I've never seen her anything else, and based on this, I have no desire to see her anything else. So overall, yeah, Secret Smile was a big disappointment.

Like Secret Smile, the script and direction for Billie's version of Mansfield Park left a lot to be desired. And it certainly didn't help that she was pretty much awful casting for the role of Fanny Price. Pale, sickly-looking and frail? No, not Billie Piper. She fairly bursts with irrepressible spirit and robust health, and that is not Fanny. Added to that, the script didn't help, having her run around, play badminton, etc. Still, Billie certainly did her best to act like the character of Fanny, she played her quiet, reserved and tamped down her spirit except for those moments when it was supposed to come forth. So she did the best job she could have with an off-script and director who clearly did not get it.

As for the rest of the cast, some worked, some didn't. The biggest problem (aside from Billie's casting as Fanny) was the truncated nature of this version. Things moved so quickly, the passage of time not coming across as such at all. It was just not well done. At all. But at the end of it, I didn't consider it a complete loss because of what Billie managed to wring out of the role because even miscast, and in a truncated version, badly adapted and directed, from arguably, Jane Austen's least popular work, she still managed to bring some of her very considerable awesome. Because she is that awesome.
(Deleted comment)
Arabian: Billie Piper_01arabian on October 12th, 2008 02:19 pm (UTC)
And, Billie is awesome. Always a good reason. She owns all, so therefore, her awesomeness makes up for the non-awesomeness of the film. And yes, at least, we got a happy ending.
Kat: tv. dw |  what sort of date are you?takethewords on October 12th, 2008 02:22 pm (UTC)
The Second Coming was really interesting, I loved Chris in it. I can't wait to see how you liked it :)
Arabian: Dr Who (9)arabian on October 12th, 2008 03:44 pm (UTC)
Well, I am really looking forward to that one for a couple of reasons.

1. I just watched another Nine episode for my review-rewatches, and I do love the Eccleston so.

2. Russell T. Davies wrote it; I truly <3 Russell T. Davies.

Edited at 2008-10-12 03:45 pm (UTC)
Velvet Rain Drops: Ten: Doomsdayadriana_is on October 12th, 2008 04:38 pm (UTC)
Secret Smile was cheesy, IMO. The whole movie was just blah. I mean come on, change your locks, Miranda (DUH!). And, while DT was a smarmy stalker, I wound up, like you, feeling kinda sorry for the guy but mostly just pissed off at how stupid all of these women were.
Arabian: David Tennant_01arabian on October 12th, 2008 05:22 pm (UTC)
Yes. Seriously, just yes. We shouldn't have felt sorry for him at the end, for goodness' sake!
jedi_of_urth: kittyjedi_of_urth on October 13th, 2008 06:42 am (UTC)
Still haven't gotten to Secret Smile myself, not high on my priority list. And I only watch Mansfield Park once because I just couldn't get into it that much. I've never read the book, have seen the recentish movie and while I'm sure neither of them is a really faithful adaptation I liked the movie better than the BP version, in spite of the Billie Piper factor.

"The Second Coming" is probably my favorite other RTD project I've watched, followed by "Bob and Rose" (it doesn't hurt that it's basically Doctor/Rose mark I). I think maybe I should rewatch Casanova at some point because I don't remember liking it as much but I can't remember exactly why. DT is however very pretty in it in spite of the contacts, I remember that much. So I'll be interested in seeing your continued reactions to things.
Arabian: David Tennant_01arabian on October 13th, 2008 12:38 pm (UTC)
Really? Don't worry about getting to Secret Smile, it's not even evilly, sexily psychotic enough to make it worthwhile. Sigh. I've yet to see a MP adaptation I like. Oh well.

I need to look up RTD's stuff on IMDB so I watch his other stuff. Obviously, I've got SC coming, and I do also have Casanova sitting on my computer. I'm looking forward to both.