'Masterpiece: Howards End'
(Hayley Atwell, Matthew Macfadyen, Joe Bannister, Bessie Carter, Philippa Coulthard, et al / DVD / PG-13 / (2017) 2020 / PBS)
Overview: Often considered E.M. Forster's masterpiece, this is the story of two independent and unconventional sisters and the men in their lives seeking love and meaning as they navigate an ever-changing world.
Kenneth Lonergan brings a fresh take to this adaptation starring Hayley Atwell, Matthew Macfadyen, Julia Ormond, Philippa Coulthard, Joseph Quinn, Rosalind Eleazar, Alex Lawther and Tracey Ullman.
DVD Verdict: Personally, I loved the book, and EM Forster's other work, and the 1992 film is not only one of the best Forster adaptations it is a wonderful film in its own right.
The BBC have done a lot of very good to outstanding period drama adaptations and the cast are a talented lot, so a large part of me was really looking forward to their adaptation of 'Howard's End'.
Watching all four episodes, found myself finding a lot to like about 'Howard's End,' but feeling also it had its short-comings that stopped me from loving it.
Of this and the 1992 film, as unfair it would seem to compare, there is no question which is the better one of the two, with the 2017 adaptation lacking the nuanced depth, emotion and elegance of the film.
There is a lot to like about 'Howard's End'. It is impeccably made visually, with the period detail sumptuous and evocative, stylish costumes, beautiful photography and even more beautiful scenery/locations. The direction is admirably restrained without being pedestrian.
Indeed, 'Howard's End' is intelligent and controlled, doing a lovely job exploring Forster's many themes and insights that still hold relevance and provoke thought today (at least to me).
Appreciated the subtle, restrained approach to the storytelling, and on the most part keeps the many layers and characterization interesting.
Casting is also strong, with the standouts being Hayley Atwell, capturing Margaret's good intentions, spirit and emotional repression with ease, and a movingly poised Julia Ormond.
Matthew MacFadyen brings a suitable amount of charisma. A lot of talk has been made about the diversity, this didn't bother me at all and I am sure Forster himself wouldn't have been bothered by it. It didn't seem jarring and to me it seems to be something insignificant blown out of proportion.
On the other hand, as indicated, 'Howard's End' had its shortcomings. The first episode was something of a slow starter, it needed more zest and tighter pacing for an episode that felt more like set up than anything else.
Stick with it though, because the other three episodes improve on this when the story and characters become richer and deeper. Timeline changes could have been clearer, sometimes it did feel jumpy and one doesn't know how much time has passed.
For me, and quite a few others it seemed, the music was a bit too intrusive and the sound could have been toned down. While the cast were on the most part very impressive, Tracy Ullman overdoes it a bit, in my humble opinion, of course. This is a Widescreen Presentation (1.78:1) enhanced for 16x9 TVs.
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