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 4. Catch up with previous episodes here.
This is the opening still for this episode, and it says it all. Six naked people and a tousled, unhappy young man.
Compelling? Yes! Would I watch 20+ hours of a show suited to this theme? Yes!! Jane Austen in style? No!
Episode 4 begins with the Parker siblings meeting and walking with Charlotte. A letter from home for Charlotte and a letter for Miss Lambe. Mr. Hero is in London trying to get more credit for Mr. Parker and the town building.
Again, I comment on how adorable, happy, and correct the young Parkers look. Her hat is perfect — none of the weird, sheer hat brims flopping around. She has curls at the front of her hair and a perfectly high-waisted ensemble. Details to note — puffed sleeve at the shoulder with a very close-fitted arm to the wrist. I will ignore the gloves and say the fan is a nice detail. He is wearing his regular jacket, proper layers, and pants in the right color. These two actors have such joy that their scenes are the funniest and best. Plus in this short scene, we see Charlotte’s hair up!
In the next scene, though her hair is down and worse.
Checking in with our multiple plotlines, the dowager aunt continues to try to set up Miss Lambe and sends Clara to Denham Place to visit Snidely Whiplash and Esther.
Nice 1800s outfit on the left, with a 1700s on the right. So much conveyed in just the costume choice.
Charlotte learns that Young Stringer plans to train as an architect, while old Mr. Stringer insists that his son not try to rise past his station.
Charlotte and Mr. Stringer look great together. Put your hair up, Charlotte.
Miss Lambe and Charlotte lie to the governess. Look at the appropriate wallpaper, not a naked frolicking person to be found.
Georgianna Lambe is wearing the oddest blouse. It is clearly both 3 inches too wide on each side of the shoulder, but also has been stitched to the shoulder straps of the blue overgown in order to keep the gown straps in place. Strange overall — like they were in a hurry, using commercial patterns that didn’t fit well, etc. Nice try though — the gathered neckline of the dress and the overall silhouette are great.
Charlotte is wearing a fantastic velvet jacket that she could never afford and should have been worn by someone else. She will impress me so much if she has a good hat and appropriate hair when they go on their picnic. Which she doesn’t.
Corset and dress only. No shift on Ethel, when every person would have a shift/shirt as the most inside layer. WHY? There would be so much chafing, and it would be so uncomfortable!
Hold up — getting her brother to lace her up? That is even weirder than not wearing something underneath.
I love that the lacing here is a single spiral lacing and no metal grommets! But then … take a deep breath …
HOT SIBLING NECK KISSING!
There is no incest in Jane Austen. (!?!?!?!?) I have opinions about this plot choice. Many opinions.
And it was seen! The horror of it all. I am both outraged and a bit over it all, and we are only at episode 4.
The picnic is a secret love assignation! Miss Lambe is meeting a handsome young man, who she has clearly met before. They are smoochy-smoochy and picturesque together, but this was way beyond what Charlotte thought she was helping with. They are sweet, it is forbidden love, and the scene is flat-out gorgeous! Ignore the flare of his hat, look at the flowers instead, and how they coordinate with the couple perfectly.
The lover, Otis Molineaux, has been forbidden by Mr. Hero to see Miss Lambe. Charlotte does her best and stays with the couple during their secret picnic. “Tongue?” says Charlotte, as the couple leans in for a kiss. I think they were trying to be funny, but it was just odd.
Still, the couple is clearly in love, sitting in a field of bluebells and looking about as romantic as possible. Will this man be the wrongly accused man of virtue or a degenerate gambler? We will wait and see. He proposes for apparently not the first time and is reminded that Mr. Hero won’t allow it till Miss Lambe is of age. Of course, they are found out, and it gets Charlotte in trouble with Mr. Hero for not keeping Georgiana safe. Yeah yeah, Mr. Darcy Hero vs. spirited Charlotte.
We cut to the doctor addressing the ailments of the hypochondriac siblings. Sister tells the doctor that she has persistent swelling as “as yet invisible to the eye.” HA HA HA HA!!! deep breath HA HA HA HA HA! Love them.
The girl is diagnosed with hysteria and the brother of lack of exercise. Fortunately, they only seem to treat the lack of exercise. These characters are so fantastic and right out of the 11 original chapters written by Jane Austen, who wrote two sisters and the brother. They are so dang cute, happy, and fun to watch.
Lovely beach scene of two sets of siblings — the hypochondriac siblings are riding. Sort of. They are walking with a servant holding the reigns — him on a horse (blissfully), her on a donkey (thinking she will surely perish as her constitution isn’t suited for exercise). Young brother Parker does so much exercise (the 10-mile walk was a bit much) that he faints of sunstroke and promises the sister he won’t brave exercise again — driving the doctor to day-drink.
In contrast, the Denham siblings plan their life together as a couple after the Dowager’s passing. They will do as they like, travel, and be happy ever after. Ew. I don’t know which is worse — incestuous relations or the hot pink lipstick she is wearing with a brick red redingote and hat from 80 years in the future.
And now we learn just how bad Mr. Parker’s financial sense really is. He buys his wife a necklace worth a Sanditon fortune, when he hasn’t paid workers’ wages, and is trying to borrow more than he could afford to pay back.
The Dowager has drawn up a list of women that Mr. Handsomebutslimy should pursue in order of financial value, when she learns that Mr. Wonderful (Lord Babbington) is pursuing Ethel. This is utterly fantastic news to the Dowager who insists that Ethel invite him back at once. Would she feel the same if she knew of the siblings’ romantic connections together? Claire says that the two would marry each other if they could and that no two people share such intimacy. Oh, the drama of it all. Shall I swoon? I shall not because there is no incest in Jane Austen, and this whole plot line is so thoroughly out of character for her work. The rivalry of these two women is pretty intense, yup.
Now we get some background on Otis, who is a freed slave from Africa. He gives a nice bit of exposition of how the remnants of slavery are all around Charlotte (and the viewers of the show) in the sugar in their tea, the grand buildings surrounding them, etc. It isn’t subtle, but completely on point. Besides, I’d listen to that actor read me the phone book, his voice has a wonderful soft timbre. Georgiana tells Charlotte that Mr. Hero turned a blind-eye to slave trade in Antigua and made money on it. Bad Mr. Hero.
Mr. Hero then catches Charlotte doing an unflattering impression of him. Oops. Nowhere near the infraction of making money on slavery — but they yell at each other in the street.
Claire confronts Esther about having seen her with her brother. Esther says she needed help with her stays because they can’t afford a maid. Claire then says she understands how it is difficult to fend off a man when you are living under the same roof with them — in her case, it was an uncle. We now have had hand jobs, incest, and a sexually abusive uncle — none of which are in the least bit characteristic of a Jane Austen story. At all. This is Dynasty-level plotting folks, not an English literature classic.
Wait, there is a glimmer of hope! Esther and her brother are only siblings by marriage, not blood relations! Esther spills that if they did not share the same last name, they would be married, and Esther is in love with him. He is not so convinced, brushing away her attempt to run off with him.
Flash to Stringer and Charlotte walking on the beach with Charlotte showing us just why wearing your hair down on a windy day is a bad idea. The actress struggles to talk with so much hair in her face, and her poor hair looks hopelessly tangled. She is squinting, hair gets in her mouth as she says her lines, just a mess all around.
Stringer’s hat. Um, maybe? I have zero idea what is going on with his hat.
The episode ends with Charlotte sneaking a letter from Georgiana to Otis. Cheer with me folks — she is wearing her hair up under her bonnet! Finally!
Wanna bet that the crew couldn’t get the tangles out of her hair from the walk along the beach, and they had to put it up? I don’t care why. She looks so much better in the costume with her hair up.
Join me for episode 5, where Charlotte continues wearing her hair with as many tangles as possible and the melodrama continues.
In Jane Austen’s Sanditon Sir Denham is a comic figure and Miss Denham a routine gold digger, with the excuse that she really needs the money. Miss Lambe is totally unknown to the Parkers who are minor local gentry most unlikely to have west Indian property.
Mr. Molyneaux is gorgeous, charming and rather ostentatiously moral with his anti slavery stance. Frankly I’d happily marry him! If he were white it would be certain he has clay feet. I was uncertain they’d go there with a black character. As it turned out they did. Good for them.
And then there’s Stringer, a lovely young man and interesting character but totally un-Austen, who would never venture on characters outside her personal experience which an aspiring young working man surely was. A working man that Charlotte calls on un-chaperoned in his home! No wonder he develops hopes with her behaving so flagrantly.
Yosa, I’ve succumbed. I’ve requested Sandition from my library. It was a momentary weakness and I need absolution. (But I’ll probably watch it just so I can snark at the screen. I definitely need a guilty pleasure that’s healthy).
Seriously though is this Game of Thrones meets Sandition? The more photos I see and plot twists the writer uses to blaspheme Jane Austen, I am convinced he should not be allowed to adapt another Austen novel.
My next Austen adaptation choice is Persuasion although the Amanda Root and Ciaran Hinds version is brilliant. Still after 15 years is it ready for a new one?
If Sanditon wasn’t pretending to be Austen, nobody would complain of anything but Charlotte’s Sueishness and flagrant disregard for early 19th c. norms. But because they put Jane’s name on it everybody hoped for something rather better than melodrama.
I so agree with you. That being said, I tried to enjoy the rest of the show with the mindset that it’s more like Downton Abbey and not an Austen adaptation. Even through that lens, it still felt too much like a soap opera.
This adaptation has none of the wit and lyrical beauty of Austen.In eighth standard we had a simplified abridged version of Pride and Prejudice.I expected it to be some chick lit,but the characters were so interesting and the comedy so refreshing that one would wonder why some people dare to call Austen’s novels chick lit.Seriously when did period dramas came to be associated with cheap sexual plotlines forced in?Society is becoming liberal but in that era people would avoid acts that could lead them to the guillotine.I don’t find this teenage angst and plotting behind curtains drama relatable,stupid in fact.Forget about relatability when the lead character is a Mary Sue.
Yosa, thank for the photo of the matching Canadian Royal Mounties in your post. So appropriate for your comments! Really I am still laughing!
I’m the dourest, and I don’t care because Andrew Davies had a real chance at something awesome and…whiffed.
Here is where I assume that Clara Brereton had been majorly sexually abused (even raped). This is where Davies really starts to compare Miss Brereton (raped) and Miss Denham (groomed, but not yet raped). Throughout the rest of the show, he blames the victims and not really the abuser. He makes the victims compete. It’s gross.
Davies showed Miss Brereton to be desperate and not pro-social at a better life and that rings true. Miss Brereton recognizing abuse within Miss Denhams relationship is also normal, in my experience. Davies could have done so much at this point: Shown the two in denial, shown Mr Slimey to have more of an abuser’s mentality by being more aggressive with Charlotte (whose social class would never have brought his behavior to account).
The language “prick”, etc., I don’t have too much of a problem with because it’s apparent in Pepys and Fielding. I don’t think that Austen would have used those terms, though. I am sure that she had other coded language to show someone who had been harmed. The Georgian mind was a very different one to the Victorian one!
Thank you so much for these recaps!
Yes, I agree with everyone else here. The cavalier attitude toward sex, the vulgar language, the insinuations of incest…this just ISN’T Jane Austen. Nothing about this production is elegant, witty, restrained, or sly–all hallmarks of Jane Austen. This production committed many sins, but the BIGGEST sin was completely disregarding (or thumbing its nose at) the spirit of Jane Austen.
Loved this show and hope for another season.
I could not bear this, Austen or not. Made me sad as I look so forward to Brit costume drama.
It’s definitely not Austen.
I’m astonished at Andrew Davies. He has adapted classic novels for the screen, with great success, for many years, including the beloved 1995 Pride and Prejudice, and has rarely put a foot wrong. What the hell happened here? I’m so glad I gave my TV away years ago; with dross like this being passed off as Jane Austen, I don’t miss it in the slightest.
The sexual abuse is entirely Davies. In the fragment both Miss Brereton and Miss Denham are financially needy and dependent on Lady Denham’s good will, not a happy situation. Miss Denham rather ostentatiously sucks up to her Aunt disgusting Charlotte. Miss Brereton, whose case seems much more pitiable to Charlotte, acts content with her lot. Sir Edward is a comic character, a male Catherine Morland, who aspires to be a rake like the villains in sensational novels. Clara Brereton is to be his victim. What game Clara is playing is quite uncertain, does she aspire to be Lady Denham? Would such a marriage please or anger Lady Denham? No sexual abuse or incest to be seen.
Miss Lambe is a total stranger to the Parkers, obviously or there would have been none of the confusion regarding a West Indian family AND a school instead of a small school party including a West Indian heiress. She definitely is not Sidney Parker’s ward.
Charlotte Heywood seems a rather bland heroine for Austen, but she is well educated and perfectly proper NOT a Wild Child with loosely flowing hair, expert in accounting and architecture and egalitarian in attitude.
I really liked your comment–especially since it points us back to the novel. Thank you.
Davies really dropped the ball with how he depicted abuse. No one believes that the past was without abuse, and it could have been done better (Fingersmith comes to mind). Davies’s production disrespected both Austen and abuse survivors. He also wasted the storytelling potential from the abuse, so he disrespected talented and thoughtful writers, too. 3 strikes, Andrew Davies.
Have I mentioned that Charlotte’s loose hair makes me crazy? And Georgina’s hatlessness is beginning to affect me the same way.
I’d bet money that Miss Lambe’s light blue overdress-and-habit-shirt combo is channelling Princess Charlotte’s 1816-17 “Russian dress” (https://www.pinterest.co.uk/pin/572238696373529695/ and https://www.pinterest.co.uk/pin/396668679652635394/), with all the trimming removed.
So, a complete fantasy, but there are a number of problems with it —
As far as I can tell the Princess’s outfit was a complete one-off. It is an imitation of the traditional Russian sarafan, made for her to wear with and show off her newly-awarded Star of the Order of St Catherine. It is similar to outfits worn by noble Russian ladies at that time, but has no parallels with anything else I know of from Britain, whether fashion plates, caricatures, portraits or surviving dresses.
Stripped of all the original’s gold lace, buttons and fringe, and without any alternative detailing replacing that, it looks at best unfinished – even in Madame Recamier’s day, the height of the ‘plain white classical simplicity’ fad, nobody wore anything quite that blunt – and at worst like something run up hastily on a sewing machine for a fancy dress party. Also, silk was absolutely not a socially-correct fabric for informal morning wear in the Regency period – and not a practical fabric for country walks, let alone sitting around in patches of bluebells, in any period!
The habit-shirt I think is channelling the type of late 18th-century habit-shirt that was literally made to be worn under a riding habit, which had wide shoulders like a man’s shirt. When a Regency man took his coat off, you’d see the shoulder-seams of his shirt at just about that level, showing well below his waistcoat. https://www.pinterest.co.uk/pin/541909767652029068/ The trouble is that that kind of habit-shirt wasn’t meant to be worn under an over-gown.
Altogether, this is just another case of costumers going “Look, it existed back then! It’s authentic! Yay!” without considering who would have worn it, what other garments it would have been worn with, and on what occasions.
The Parkers’ beach ride: as Miss Lambe would put it, “dat ain’t no donkey!” Diana Parker’s mount is an Exmoor pony. A fairly unlikely breed to find in Regency Sussex, since Exmoor is in Devon, but there you go. Much more importantly, SHE’S RIDING ASTRIDE!!! – something that no respectable British woman would ever have done from the beginning of the 18th till the very end of the 19th century. (Englishwomen abroad were routinely shocked to find that Continental ladies sometimes did.) Ladies rode sidesaddle, or on a donkey sometimes in a sideways seat like this https://www.ebay.co.uk/i/182057769482?chn=ps&norover=1&mkevt=1&mkrid=710-134428-41853-0&mkcid=2&itemid=182057769482&targetid=877031938306&device=c&mktype=pla&googleloc=1006618&poi=&campaignid=9437836064&mkgroupid=94116221165&rlsatarget=pla-877031938306&abcId=1140486&merchantid=101766699&gclid=EAIaIQobChMIwNbSgrSu6AIVB4jVCh0V1gx8EAQYASABEgJEkPD_BwE, or pillion behind a man.
I wondered about that astride posture. There’s a drawing of the Duchess of Wellington riding a mule or pony, sitting way back on the crupper and aside.
So many YIKES in this episode, I don’t even know where to begin. It was such a trainwreck I couldn’t look away.