The Online Slang Dictionary defines “My Happy Place” as “an envisioned calm place”. I would define “My Happy Place” as a favorite place – whether real or imagined- that I can return to again and again, that not only offers an escape from everyday stresses, but also brings the same kind of warm, contented satisfaction you get when with visiting old friends or a eating a big plate of mashed potatoes.
For me, this usually involves stepping into a story set in another era . My deep love of period pieces (especially British) began as a kid watching Masterpiece Theatre with my Mom. From there I began exploring my Dad’s collection of classic literature for books or plays that I’d seen dramatized on TV and in movies: Shakespeare, Dickens, Hardy and above all Jane Austen. A keen observer of human nature, Jane Austen wrote characters with humor, intelligence, wit and very human failings then set them against the formal, structure and manners of 19th Century English society. Add to this idyllic settings in London, Bath, and numerous country manors and estates and the result for me is pure bliss…
Jane Austen’s Pride and Prejudice has been a lifelong favorite: I have read the book more than 20 times, but I have watched the 1996 A&E/BBC miniseries Pride and Prejudice probably twice as many times! Celebrating its 20th anniversary this year (I can’t believe it’s been 20 years!), this series might be my ultimate “Happy Place” experience. There have been many adaptations of this book for film and TV, but this version starring Jennifer Ehle and Colin Firth was the first one I felt truly captured the essence of Austen’s writing.
When the series was first released, NY Times book critic Christopher Lehmann-Haupt wrote: “Plenty of bad movies have been made of good books, and a fair number of good movies have come from bad books. But a great movie of a great book?”. Everything came together in this one: casting, location, costume, score – and a script by Andrew Davies that is amazingly faithful to the original text in both word and spirit. Shot in some of the loveliest locations in the English countryside, this series is not only incredibly well acted (No one can top David Bamber as Mr. Collins…), it’s also breathtakingly beautiful to watch.
The main story lines center around two wayward couples: The first being: lively Elizabeth Bennet and wealthy, dignified, proud Fitzwilliam Darcy; and the second: Elizabeth’s sweet sister Jane and Darcy’s close personal friend Charles Bingley. Elizabeth and Jane are the eldest of five daughters, the other three being the plain, bookish Mary, and silly, boy-crazy Kitty and Lydia. Their father Mr. Bennet, who is described in the book as an “odd mixture of intelligence, sarcastic humour, reserve and caprice”, is a gentleman and the current occupant of Longborn, an estate that is “entailed” and can only inherited by his closest male relative. Because of this, the girls mother Mrs. Bennet (played in all her fluttery, high-strung glory by Alison Steadman), is determined to secure good marriages to men of wealth and high standing for all of her daughters. When rich, handsome, highly eligible Mr Bingley moves into to the neighborhood, Mrs. Bennet becomes convinced that he should marry one of her daughters. I won’t give away the rest of the plot, but many forces play a role in the thwarting of the two couples romantic interests: the arrival of Darcy’s nemesis George Wickham, the embarrassing behavior and snobbish opinions of various relatives, in addition to the excessive “pride” and a tendency toward “prejudice” that the title suggests.
Recently, I’ve been popping these DVD’s in and visiting with the families at Longbourn and Pemberly (the Darcy’s family estate) when I have other things to do (like housework, laundry etc), taking occasional breaks to enjoy the beautiful cinematography. I’m so familiar with the plot I can practically recite all the lines along with the actors so “watching” has become mental comfort food for me. There is something about the sweet politeness of the main characters and bowing and curtsying and courtly dances that makes me almost wistful for a time when society was a bit more formal and refined. I’m thinking the bow and curtsey may be due for a comeback… and when was the last time you met a Fitzwilliam? I’m thinking Fitzwilliam may be due for a comeback too…..
If you have not seen this mini-series, I highly recommend that you see it and please let us know what you think! And if you have similar kind of “Happy Place” be sure to tell us about it in the comments section below – we’d love to hear about it!