Wednesday, June 2, 2010

Review: Wuthering Heights 2003

A red flag goes up when I see that MTV produced a modern version of Wuthering Heights. Still, I'm no literary snob so I gave this film a try. After a viewing, I can say that my first instincts were correct.
Though the basics of the story still remain; a family takes in a homeless child who does not get along with their son, the father dies, etc. I think it was cavalier to call this piece Wuthering Heights, it would have been more accurate to choose an original title and say "inspired by."
There are several moments with shameless advertising for MTV itself, the character "Heath" makes his fortune by becoming a rock star thanks to Isabel (played by Katherine Heigl) posting his tracks on MTV's website. The musical performances by Mike Vogel in the role of Heath are not bad, I'd rather hear him sing than speak the awkward, stilted dialogue given to him by screenwriter Max Enscoe. Emily Bronte's lyrical and lush language is completely lost.
Many elements and changes didn't sit well with me. They portrayed "Cate", the Cathy character as a confused victim and Heath as a tortured artist. Both are brutal characters in the novel, selfish, and though you sympathize with them they aren't sainted. One reason you especially dislike Heathcliff in the novel is his treatment of Isabella and the subplot involving his schemes using the children of the family. In this movie Cate does have a baby (that is Heath's, not her peeping tom husband Edward), and in the end, after she dies we see Heath raising their daughter as a noble figure of a good father and Cate watches over them and Edward still watches Wuthering Heights through his telescope.
The movie dripped with teen angst and unnatural moments, though most of the actors did their best it was impossible to become emotionally invested in the senseless melodrama that emerged. I think most of the teens they were pandering to could probably grasp an accurate adaptation of the book. This version takes away the complex and morally challenging aspects of the novel and makes Heathcliff and Cathy "nice." I don't mean to sound unnecessarily brutal, but I literally laughed during the last 15 minutes of the movie. If you want a fresh version of Wuthering Heights that tries something new but respects the story and doesn't skirt around the characters' bad traits, try the 2009 version shown on Masterpiece Classic last year starring Tom Hardy and Charlotte Riley. A fantastic cast and script with many gripping scenes. Or for a very compelling modern story based off Bronte's novel, try Sparkhouse from a few years back, it makes changes and plays with gender roles in an unexpected way, and it didn't call itself "Wuthering Heights" because of that, though it has more of the book's spirit in it than this movie.
This is 3/4 for my All About the Brontes Challenge. I know, I've been neglecting my challenges lately, but I still have a month for my last entry in this one and the rest of the year for my "What's in a Name?" Challenge.

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