...Or, as this post might more appropriately be titled, "Railroads, Hoopskirts and Extreme Emotional Trauma (2009) Review."
I hardly know how to begin with a review of Return to Cranford. The writing of it might be an easier task if I knew what my conclusions were-- as I do not, I'm rather at a loss what to say. Did I hate it? No, indeed! Did I love it? Eh... no, I didn't.
I think, really, I must invoke both Henry Tilney's and Edmund Sparkler's disapproval and say that it was a very nice movie, but it had a great deal of nonsense about it. It was Cranford... and yet it wasn't quite the Cranford of the first movie. And since I didn't think much of the original novel trilogy (Dr. Harrison's Confessions, Cranford and My Lady Ludlow) I can't say that the book was better, but I can say that the first movie was better.
Yet there was so much to love in RTC that I couldn't help enjoying it tremendously--yet I was so annoyed by certain plot twists that I was ready to throw an orange at someone. Oh, dear, now my head's in a muddle. I suppose the best way to proceed would be in my usual rambling fashion. I shall endeavor to tell you what I liked and didn't like, and since I don't like to begin or end on a sour note, the Likes will come first, followed by the Dislikes, then more Likes in conclusion.
(Warning: this post is written with the presupposition that all you readers have seen RTC. If you have not, you may wish to skip this review, for it will be absolutely studded with spoilers.)
What I Liked About Return to Cranford
~Miss Matty, bless her heart, had not changed in the two or three years that passed between films. Not much, anyhow. (I'll get to that.) She's still as sweet and caring as ever, still unpretentious and down-to-earth. I loved her relationship with Tilly and how she supported Peter in pretty much anything he wanted to do, and I applauded her when she put her foot down and refused to have that horrid feathered parroty creature in her house. Go, Miss Matty!
~Peggy Bell is an absolute doll. She was sweet and kind and caring, reminding me a little of Amy Dorrit in her familial situation (I came this close to slapping Mrs. Bell right through the screen on multiple occasions, and as for Edward--let's just say that I may or may not have squeaked, "Ding, dong, the wicked witch is dead!" at some time or another during the course of the film. Ahem.) and her timidity. However, she definitely had some backbone to her and I admired that (not that Amy Dorrit doesn't, but I think Peggy had more.) I loved how she kept coming and coming to see William even when his horrid father wouldn't let her in, and how she took command when Edward got into trouble... et cetera and so forth.
William and Peggy's relationship, too, was sweetness itself. I actually ended up liking them better than Dr. Harrison and Sophy--who, though cute, just weren't as interesting as William and Peggy. Couples who have to go through some trouble together before they can have their happily ever after rarely fail to endear themselves to me. Plus, they're just so perfect for each other. *blissful sigh*
~Miss Galindo was back! She quickly became almost my favorite character in this film (can't decide who was my ultimate favorite) and I liked her even better than in the first one. In the first one I had been worrying in the beginning that she was one of those corset-burning soapboxers, but she turned out to be an absolute duck and I like her immensely. Especially when she bawled out Lord Septimus. Yessssssssss.
~Harry Gregson quickly became one of my favorite characters (replacing Mr. Carter, in a way) this time around, though he frustrated me no end at times. (Hmm, this is a good way to segue into What I Didn't Like About RTC. Consider everything after these parentheses to be Dislikes until we get to the Happy Ending. I'll let you know when that comes around.)
What I Did Not Like About Return to Cranford
~Harry seemed to have changed. Okay, so obviously he'd grown up a bit in two years, and I hadn't expected him to be the same naive little boy who had gone off to school in the first movie, but I did not like how he suddenly had become indifferent to all Mr. Carter's wishes for him and so set on doing things his own way. I realize that being at his horrible school made a difference and all that, but I do not like it when I spend half the movie joining with my sisters in shrieking at the screen, "NO HARRY STOP IT DON'T BE AN IDIOT!"
Especially in the running-away-and-jumping-on-top-of-the-train scene. Can I get an amen? Not to mention making everyone think he was dead (and causing me to vow never to watch this horrible movie again) and then coming back to life with a sort of "LOL just kidding."
Um, not funny. NOT. FUNNY.
~Mary Smith was a huge disappointment. I was quite happy to see her reappearance... at first. The lack of Jack Marshland was quite a let-down (I still think they should have ended up together) but the fact that Mary suddenly became the corset-burning soapboxer was incredibly trying. Hey, I have no problem whatsoever with her Articles of Writing ("is it a recipe?") but the way she went about it, with her "I don't need a man and a family to tie me down because I must Follow The Star Within Me And Be True To My Inner Freedom (Whatever That Means)" seemed quite inconsistent with her character. Ugh.
~Though the shunning of Mrs. Jamieson after the advent of Lady Glenmire was a rather hilarious fiasco (good word, fiasco) it just didn't seem like something the Cranford ladies would do. Now, Mrs. Jamieson's rudeness about not letting the other ladies socialize with her sister-in-law (or was she her cousin) wasn't too out of character (I never much cared for Mrs. Jamieson), but the idea of Miss Matty refusing to speak to anyone is pretty much laughable. And Miss Pole staying home from a part just to sulk in silence? Ridiculous. I was sure up until the last minute that she'd cave. But she didn't. And I didn't like that. The ladies of Cranford may get their danders up every so often, but they are good souls on the whole and don't hold grudges of that sort. Sure, everything was sorted out in the end, but it still fidgeted me.
~Mr. Carter was dead. GRRRRR. Miss Deborah was dead. DOUBLE GRRRRRRRR.
~Mr. Buxton was a piece of work. "No, I will not let you marry my son, sweet and lovely young woman, because you are way far beneath him. Get out of my sight instantly. But wait, let me do everything in my power to help your deadbeat brother who just stole money from his employer. Please applaus me now for being such a reasonable human being."
~The ending, though deliciously happy, seemed a bit too perfect in one or two spots. Jem and Tilly randomly popping out of the magician's wardrobe thing? Really?
~The whole cow-on-the-line thing appeared to be stolen straight from the archives of Thomas the Tank Engine. 'Fess up, BBC. Are you really THAT desperate for storylines???
~Lady Ludlow died. Sniffle. Martha died. Sob. Edward Bell died. Party time!
Okay, back to the good stuff.
What I Liked About the Ending of Return to Cranford
~The magician was HILARIOUS. Here was another character taken from the book, and I was so pleased to see him. The little scene with Miss Pole was one of the most hilarious in the whole movie.
"I suppose this is a variation on the classical trick with the hat being A and the dove being... B."
"Naoooow. Eeet eess maaaaaaaaageec."
~Good old Captain Brown got a happy ending. I defy you not to smile and perhaps even clap a little for him and Lady Glenmire.
~That ending scene was just cuteness. Especially the waltzing. I couldn't make up my mind as to whether the whole lady's-hands-on-the-man's-shoulder was something Peggy invented because William's left arm was out for repairs, or if that was actually the fashion back then. Everyone else seemed to be dancing that way too, but the people of Cranford have a habit of doing little things like that so that no one will feel awkward. Now THAT is typical Cranford-ness. None of the petty shunning or staying home from parties. These are the ladies who gave up their candles, remember.
~Miss Matty finally got her turban. And it actually looked quite sweet. Who would have imagined?
Final rating... undecided. There were so many aspects to this movie, with good being A and bad being B (well, duh)... what did you think?