Frock Flicks note:This is a guest post by our friend Yosa Addiss. After pursuing a degree in costume design, she created one of the first websites for custom-made costume gowns. Yosa has moved on to a career in marketing but remains a lifelong fan of historical costume. Find her at yosa.com.
Welcome to my oh-so-spoilery review of Sanditon (2019), episode 2. Catch up with episode 1 here.
Episode 2 opens with Charlotte and Sidney (Mr. Hero) passing in the street. He clearly and obviously snubs her. Rude! He is wearing an overcoat that looks great, but the collar isn’t big enough still. And are those pants leather? A fancy waxed cotton, maybe? They do have a certain shine to them. Looking at Charlotte, she looks far more like a maid here than anything else. With the knit sweater and hair down, she looks more like a servant than previously.
Then Sanditon goes to church. Even the sermon has extra sex in it with talk of the ladies of the town as beautiful lilies of the field ready to be plucked. Still, look at the lovely people together. The younger brother continues along a light comedy route stating that he could be a lily in the field, to stand in the sun and be admired. It is all very jolly. Props to the direction here, the characters are clearly happy, generally optimistic people. The gowns here are lovely, even with their choice of Little House on the Prairie hats.
Then you see in contrast the Snidely Whiplash faces of Mr. #handsomebutslimy and his sister. They are playing the part completely, all scowls and bad intentions.
I love her hair here, too bad it is from 70 years or so later. Either she can see into the future, or well, I dunno. She does look wonderfully in the style with a high neckline with frills, empire-waisted dress, and fur-trimmed velvet coat. These two wear darker, broodier clothes and sit in a dark, broody room.
Then look at their house. Look at this marvelously odd set design. It has naked people frolicking together all over the walls in what looks like repeated panels. How this room got to be part of their house, we may never know, but it is clearly there to imply lots of sexy times. I don’t think 12 matching frolicking nudes on the walls are what Jane Austen would have had in mind for her story. (Understatement!!!) But there they are. Another hat tip to the lighting teams here. We can see each actor and naked muse perfectly in this otherwise very very dark room.
It is dark and brooding, which reflects the character’s need to either get the Dowager’s inheritance or marry money. I can’t get past the nymphs through — so many! Identical! The production designer, Grant Montgomery, says Denham Place’s gothic element is a reference to Austen’s Northanger Abbey.
Here is when his sister discovers that the ladyMr. #handsomebutslimy was to ruin (rape) preempted him. “She took me in hand, and quite undid me.” Ugh. There are no hand jobs in Jane Austen. Seriously.
Moving on, Lady Denham is telling them that she is hosting a formal luncheon in honor of Miss Lambe, the heiress. Mr. #handsomebutslimy is firmly instructed to make a match with Miss Lambe, and his sister wears the strangest, baggy house dress ever.
I have no idea what era this was designed for, but it is not Austen’s. I am extra amused by the hair and makeup on both actresses, as it is the peak of late 20th century, with hot rollers and pastel eyeshadow. Not in the slightest hint is it appropriate for 1817.
The Dowager has also gotten the memo for modern makeup here. Observe the sculpted, darkened eyebrows, the heavy blush, and lipstick and the Disney grandmother hairstyle.
OK, fine, this is the lady from The Aristocats, but you know what I mean. Upswept, fluffy, teased curls in a wide updo from around 1905 — 88 years ahead of our story.
Here is a more accurate look at what a wealthy dowager could like at the time.
Compare with a portrait — see the high neckline for day, the softly curled (not teased) and parted hair, the delicate cap, and black lace veil. This lady has wealth and dignity to spare, and no smokey eyeshadow or brown lipstick.
Moving on, we have our Charlotte in the first of many “Mary Sue” moments in the story. Here she manages to be spectacular but offering to get the paperwork for the management of the entire town in order. She also apparently does this instantly, as she manages to keep up with her busy social calendar. The work is not mentioned ever again. Look at the use of light here — it is gorgeous!
She then displays her advanced knowledge of architectural theory and practice when looking at the model of the future buildings and taking a tour of the construction progress. Observe this absolutely gorgeous scene. The light, furnishings, and costumes are all spectacular.
She is also far better dressed here than she was in the first scene of the episode. There is no mention of where all the new clothes are coming from or who is paying for them. Do you wish her hair was up? I do.
Here we are introduced to Leo Suter as Young Stringer (his father is also in scenes), who is about as handsome and worthy as humanly possible. Seriously, look at him. Why on earth isn’t he the hero of this story? He has the look of the time, a warm smile and voice, and, in my opinionated opinion, the actor and character are far preferable to Mr. Hero, who generally looks like he just got back from a backpacking trip in 2019.
On the costumes — the men look great here. They have appropriate layers, and the contrast between the working man and the gentleman are clear without needing to say a word. Her bonnet and hair are a hot mess, but we just have to accept the pain of it if we are going to watch the show.
Meanwhile, in the naked nymphs room, we have the sourpuss siblings bemoaning their penniless fate. Breaking the mood is the marvelous Lord Babbington.
He is simply wonderful and not a part of the original novel. He is genuine, dedicated himself to her, and here is his first try to get her attention. Look at the body language here. He is focused, attentive, and keeping his hands to himself. Presenting yourself to a young lady isn’t easy, and Lord Babbington is self-assured without being pompous. Love him!
Hate that she looks like she is part of the cast of Dynasty.
At least Joan Collins has bangs!
Back to Mr. Hero. Here he is in an unexpected fight. No real lead-in, we are now just watching some sort of organized fight in a bar in the middle of the day. Presumably drinking and fighting in Sanditon is Mr. Hero’s way of convincing his friends to stay in town a few more days. Whatever, bar fights are not my thing. It was also a choice to have him fight a man of color. Why.
And with that, we reach the focal point of the episode — the luncheon party for Miss Lambe.
We start with a really beautiful 1770s gown on our dowager and a Regency-meets-Victorian combo for hairstyles (what’s 70 years on either side of our story between friends? 140 years.)
And … here we are back to our sex scandal with a completely non-Jane Austen bitch-fest between the two young ladies vying for both the estate money and involved with Mr. #Handsomebutslimy. This lovely set of ladies, who at least have their hair up, are talking again about sexual abuse and hand jobs. Come on writers, this isn’t why we watch these shows.
They look great. The dialogue is not.
And here we get to witness the biting wit of Miss Lambe.
She is battered by our Dowager, making as many references to her mother being a slave as possible. Miss Lambe holds her dignity. Bravo to her, but waaaay to modern an approach. I’ve heard that Miss Lambe in the unfinished novel was a quiet person. It is a difficult scene for a modern audience. I am not well-versed in the racial tensions of 1817 England, but it is certainly rude and awkward.
There is a whole thing about a pineapple, that is vaguely amusing.
Negress, slave slave slave. Dowager is cruel, and the rest of the table is shocked and angry with her.
“Without love and affection, marriage can become a kind of slavery.” Strong, opinionated Charlotte skips forward a hundred years to find her opinions, but I like them.
The Dowager’s response of “Am I not allowed to speak my opinions? And those girls, they far too outspoken.” LOL. At least the idea that the Dowager gets to speak her mind and no-one else does seems accurate enough.
The character continues being terrible, and the actress continues to rock the totally out-of-date gowns. Now it’s obvious that she’s not even wearing the correct undergarments with them!
Why on earth is she not wearing the hip padding/panniers and petticoats that should be part of this gown? They are clearly showing us a beautiful robe à la française with the back draping of her dress, kindly pointing out how very, very out of style she is.
I think of this next section “the adventures of a terrible hat.”
The brim of this hat is a hot mess. I can find no reference for a halo shape brim. It is built with a wire edge on a layer of sheer lace fabric in gold color. Was it to look like a golden halo? Is it to look like a brimmed hat? I don’t know, and they pretty clearly didn’t know either.
It is a pity because the flap flap flap of her hat going back and forth in the wind takes away from the scene. Miss Lambe is openly mocked by the townspeople and coachman when she tries to return to London. Yes, she has been a bit pompous, but the way they jeer at her is both cruel and dangerous. The casualness of the jeering says a lot about her situation. Her life in England would be filled with overt racism and casual public insults. Both are terrible and she is understandably distraught.
Clearly, as a comparison, we are shown two really nice gentlemen.
Here is Lord Babington, describing why he finds Esther Denham appealing. She is independent, challenging, and knows her mind. What they assume you know is that he has a title, money, and dozens of shy heiresses thrown at him everywhere he goes. The red-haired Esther is clearly a breath of fresh air for this guy. Swoon!
Charlotte uses the power of plot manipulation to find and comfort Miss Lambe. Flappy gold halo hat is flappy.
This is another new outfit for Charlotte, and she is dressed in tones that are lighter (whiter?) than Miss Lambe, but clearly complimentary. The costume designer did right by Regency here — excellent sleeves and trimwork on Charlotte, who is clearly wearing a more up-to-date style now with the slightly longer bodice and fuller sleeves than her companion. Compare to walking dress for women of the time to see how nicely they got the dress silhouette and how badly they did with hats and hair.
They encounter Young Stringer. Once again Stringer is gracious, charming, and decent. He is clearly a townsperson, showing that not all of Sanditon is terrible. He is also a very appropriate and handsome match for the “farmgirl who reads” Charlotte. I hope they have a long and happy life together.
What, is Miss Lambe a milkmaid? Really, that hat needs to be taken out back and burned.
We close out the episode by changing channels to see Daniel Craig as James Bond walk confidently out of the ocean in Casino Royale.
Oh, no. It is Mr. Hero. I laughed all the way through the credits.
What did you think of the second ep of Sanditon?