Rotten Tomatoes

Mildly Enthusiastic Review: The Lizzie Bennet Diaries

I talked a while ago about my soft spot for vlog adaptations of classic literature and I figured it was time to return to the one that started it all:

er-thelizziebennetdiariesThe Lizzie Bennet Diaries by Pemberton Digital

Category: Web series

Find it on: YouTube

What it is:
An adaptation of Jane Austen’s Pride and Prejudice in the form of vlogs recorded by Lizzie Bennet. Her sisters, particularly Lydia, and some other characters also star. Lizzie is a communications student who works on her diploma, Jane is a fashion designer and Lydia is… Lydia, of course. Bing Lee and William Darcy arrive and shenanigans ensue, all more or less as Ms. Austen had planned.

How I found it:
Do you know that I don’t even remember? When I came upon it for the first time, the series wasn’t even finished yet though it was already in its last, less interesting, stage. I remember watching it (like, regularly watching rather than just having it play in the background; good times) around Christmas and devouring it very fast.

Summary judgment:
It’s surprisingly good. It keeps the spirit of the story fresh while – mostly – successfully adapting it to new realities.

Best things about it:
It’s really well-acted. Lizzie and Lydia are pretty amazing: not only do they know how to act (which is less frequent in these things than you’d expect), they also interpret Bennet sisters for the modern age. It has drama, emotions and humor, all the while remaining faithful to the original.

Worst things about it:
Weeeell, okay, this is not my Darcy. And I’m saying this in the nicest possible way because the actor seems like a fun guy and this character is almost impossible to pull off (defnitely up there with Gatsby) and also costuming doesn’t do him any favors… but no, that’s not a believable Darcy.

Other pluses:
It’s quite entertaining and while it doesn’t exactly keep you surprised (the story is preeeeetty well-known) it certainly keeps you interested.
The actors have some fun with playing their characters pretending to be other characters (it makes sense if you watch it) and I’m a sucker for this (let’s talk Orphan Black when I catch up).
The romances mostly hold up but the aspect of sisterly relations is particularly well developed, perhaps more so than in the novel itself.

Other minuses:
Eh, this costume theater thing is a bit too cutesy for me. I get what it does and it gives the actors the chance to have fun (and the producers to save some money) but it becomes too celebrated within the narrative itself and then it irritates me even more.

How it enriched my life:
It opened my life to the rich world of vlog adaptations of literature, but we already talked about it, I think.

Fun fact:
I was once listening to a podcast about various adaptations of Pride and Prejudice and the author claimed The Lizzie Bennet Diaries to be the best adaptation out there. Well, it doesn’t beat the 1995 BBC one, in my opinion, but it really is pretty good.

Follow-up:
I’m sure more vlogs await though I don’t currently have a specific list.

Recommended for:
Jane Austen fans. People who like a good story with relatively low production values and don’t take their entertainment too seriously – and conventionally.

Enjoyment:
★ ★ ★ ★ ☆

Next time: Old Friends and New Fancies (yes, still Austen)

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Rotten Tomatoes

Mildly Enthusiastic Review: Nick Carraway Chronicles

Here’s something you probably didn’t know about me: I swallow adaptations of classic books in form of vlogs. Seriously, I go through them like wildfire because I watch them while I work. Or, you know, they play in the corner of the screen and I don’t really watch, just hear them and sometimes glance at the actors. They are often low quality and the acting is usually so-so so I don’t feel like I miss much by not staring at the film all the time. The one that recently kept me company during typesetting was

er-nickcarrawaychroniclesNick Carraway Chronicles

Category: Web series

Find it on: YouTube

What it is:
An adaptation of Fitzgerald’s Great Gatsby in the form of a vlog. If all this sounds weird to you, you must not have heard of the thing that is Lizzie Bennet Diaries and the trend that it inspired. Me, I like them all with mild enthusiasm and serious reservations.

How I found it:
When it comes to web series, I started with Lizzie Bennet Diaries and sort of went from there: YouTube or IMDb recommend me new things to watch.

Summary judgment:
I’ll be blunt: most of those web series are not great. But this one I liked despite its flaws (enough to actually write about it here).

Best things about it:
I really like the actor who portrayed Nick. It’s a difficult character to pull off, with his relative blandness that, nevertheless, makes him so relatable and I think he was the most interesting character in the show.
On a more general scale, the show captures some of the brilliancy of The Great Gatsby, which I would expect to be impossible with low budget and other constraints typical of web series. But hey, this book. It’s so brilliant. The naivete that these web stories have underscores some of the childishness of Gatsby characters. It was interesting to remember that they are, in fact, immature because I used to think of them as adults.

Worst things about it:
Well, not to be mean about it but a large part of the cast is not great: Tom, Daisy and Gatsby (who is, of course, almost impossible to pull off and only young Redford ever came even slightly close) were rather irritating.

Other pluses:
I found Jordan quite enticing in her interpretation: I liked how her part was expanded while staying true to the character.
There were some cute adaptational ideas, like transforming “the valley of ash” into “the valley of trash.” I also liked how close they managed to stay to the text of the novel, and didn’t mind even when it made the dialog a bit unnatural at times – probably because I’m such a fan of the book and know it quite well.
Oh, and the accents. It’s easy to forget how all the characters are from the south but it’s, you know, better to remember.

Other minuses:
I suppose the low production value and the acting from some characters might be discouraging to many people but I’m so used to this convention by now that I barely notice these things. With only 30 episodes the time investment is small enough not to be overly picky.

How it enriched my life:
It reminded me of many things I love about the novel and cast some new light into it with this, surprisingly close, interpretation.

Fun fact:
I read The Great Gatsby many times, more than once as obligatory reading, and I always loved its density and dream-like realism (it’s a thing). But the first time I read the book I didn’t know a thing about it: I got a copy as a gift from my cousin and was struck dumb with how amazing it was. This cousin and I don’t even talk now (long, sorry story) but I still have that copy and value the gift I got from her.

Follow-up:
I’m sure I will be watching more web series but I don’t think this particular team has produced anything else so far. Too bad.

Recommended for:
People who either can watch stuff while working, like me, or have too much time on their hands (really? anyone?) OR people who are so obsessed with all things Gatsby that they will watch any interpretation. Hey, it’s better than Luhrmann (don’t even start about that piece of crap with me).

Enjoyment:

★ ★ ★ ☆ ☆

Next time: Lego Batman

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