Free to air
THE 1990s saw a sudden boom in Jane Austen adaptations. A successful television serial of Pride and Prejudice was followed by two notable films — Roger Michell’s Persuasion and a sumptuous version of Sense and Sensibility (Sunday, 3.45pm, 7Two) from Taiwanese director Ang Lee (who gave us the recent Life of Pi). To Hollywood’s great surprise, Sense and Sensibility came close to being a blockbuster hit. Emma Thompson, who plays the heroine, Elinor Dashwood, also wrote the screenplay and won an Oscar for her adaptation.
She invented new scenes, ditched superfluous characters (Lady Middleton) and promoted minor characters to centre stage. And if the result is more like a superior soap it nevertheless has great charm. One of the film’s most appealing scenes — the encounter between Edward (Hugh Grant) and the child hiding under the table in the library — we owe to Emma rather than Jane.
Pretty Woman (Friday, 9pm, Seven), Garry Marshall’s street-smart version of Pygmalion, is bound to look more predictable and formularised in retrospect, but it was the making of Julia Roberts’s career and she’s pretty much irresistible. Richard Gere, you’ll remember, is the free-spending corporate takeover specialist eager to transform Roberts’s goofy Hollywood hooker into a classy dame — at least for a few days. A better bet is is Juan Jose Campanella’s Argentine crime thriller The Secret in Their Eyes (Saturday, 10.30pm, SBS Two), in which a federal agent (Ricardo Darin) investigates the rape and murder of a married woman. This strange, intricate story of detection and psychological intrigue won the Oscar for best foreign language film in 2010.
I don’t as a rule mention made-for-TV movies, especially ones I haven’t seen, but viewers should be cautioned that Flight 93 (Friday, noon, Seven) is not United 93, the excellent film by Paul Greengrass about the last of the four planes hijacked by 9/11 terrorists and that crashed in a field in Pennsylvania. Flight 93, directed by Peter Markle, also released in 2006, is worth mentioning because of the well-publicised controversy it provoked in the US. No one really knows what happened on Flight 93, since all on board were killed, but there is enough evidence from mobile phone calls and cockpit recordings to support a theory that passengers and crew put up a heroic resistance to the hijackers and diverted the plane from its deadly course.
But Markle’s film, by all accounts, goes far beyond anything deemed credible by the US commission of inquiry in its depiction of onboard fights and thrills. The whole subject is bedevilled by conspiracy theories, including a well-publicised suspicion that the plane was downed by a US rocket.
Make of it what you will.
(PG) ★★★ Sunday, 3.45pm, 7Two
(M) ★★★ Saturday, 10.30pm, SBS Two
(PG) ★★★✩✩ Friday, 9pm, Seven