Monday, April 22, 2019

Scribegrrrl Reports: Gentleman Jack

Special Report: Well, kittens, you are in for quite the treat. We have a very special report from my new Surrenders East Coast Correspondent, Scribegrrrl. Yes, you remember Scribe. She of the definitive "The L Word" recaps. She of just being the most awesomely Scribe to have ever scribed, period. Well I managed to lure her out of blogging retirement with a trip to the New York premiere of "Gentleman Jack." And this is the glorious result. So please enjoy.

Scribegrrrl Reports: Gentleman Jack

As this very blog has shown -- to thrilling, breathtaking, and staggering effect -- there's something about a woman in a suit. And as of tonight, there's a new deity in the suited pantheon: Suranne Jones, star of HBO's "Gentleman Jack."


"Gentleman Jack" tells the criminally untold story of Anne Lister, a 19th-century English landowner with a big brain and a hungry heart. If you haven't heard of Lister, that's because she's mostly been left out of the history books. “Gentleman Jack” creator Sally Wainwright (more on her later) has been trying to bring Lister's story to the screen for two decades, and I’m so glad she didn't give up.

The show draws from Lister's diaries, which comprise more than four million (!) words. They were partly written in a secret code and were never published, but Wainwright is helping to digitize them and has also helped produce a “Gentleman Jack” tie-in book. Not that you're likely to need supplemental reading material: in Suranne Jones's hands, Anne Lister is fully realized. Jones expertly conveys Lister's lust for life, as well as her impatience with the repression of her day. But Jones doesn’t paint Lister as a legend or an archetype; she keeps her human. Magnetic and dazzling, yes, but also human.


Jones is something of a muse for Wainwright. Their past projects include a little show called "Scott and Bailey." I expected to see some similarities between Rachel Bailey and Anne Lister, but Jones is a much better actor than that. She seems like a pretty great person as well: in interviews, she respects the magnitude of Lister's story and acknowledges the importance of getting it right.

I still haven't forgiven Wainwright for killing off Kate in "Last Tango in Halifax," but “Gentleman Jack” might start to heal the rift. Some aspects of the show feel kind of off, especially an addressing-the-camera thing that comes out of nowhere and then takes too long to come back. But overall the show is absorbing, romantic, and funny. And Jones has considerable chemistry with Sophie Rundle, who plays her love interest. It's the kind of chemistry that would bring forth fanfic if this were subtext rather than main text -- but it's not! The real Anne Lister would be gobsmacked.


The show includes other Wainwright favorites, including a scene-stealing Amelia Bullmore. (The pool of across-the-pond actors seems *so* tiny!) The generally excellent cast holds its own against the stunning landscapes and sets; a lot of filming took place at the actual Shibden Hall, Lister's family estate that dates back to the 15th century.


And of course the costumes are key. (Never mind Anne's weird hair -- it's historically accurate.) Suranne Jones in a top hat, carrying a walking stick... well, SWOON.

14 comments:

Helena said...

Thank you for this excellent special report Scribegrrrl and thanks Dorothy for organising this. Have a good week.

Anonymous said...

Scribegrrrl, how I have missed you.

Carmen SanDiego said...

Scribegrrrl and Dorothy, together again! Wonderful
Thank you

Liza said...

This is a glorious reunion--Scribegrrrl how we have missed you--and it was indeed a most excellent first episode. Wainwright, Jones and the entire cast of the finest picks of the *tiny pool* have all gotten it just right.

linster said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
linster said...

Thanks, Snarker, for using your powers for good, and thanks, Scribe, for being a willing subject. Glad to know that my nostalgia for your writing is based in reality. I hope you enjoyed doing this enough that you will grace us again soon. Two word heroes on the same page makes my heart (and brain) happy.

P.S. I left a comment earlier that I had to delete and edit because I realized that you two would've asked for a rewrite, had I submitted it in advance.

Anonymous said...

I know I am in the minority but I walked away from the first episode with an immense dislike for Anne Lister.

Unknown said...

Thabks for this! What I am missing though is even a small mention of the 2010 BBC movie The Secret Diaries of Miss Ann Lister. It was quite good. So the series is not actually the first retelling of this fascinating story...

Anonymous said...

So great to have scribe back! Thank you both! Madcapper

Janneke said...

Regarding these great actors you mention, perhaps this is an interesting article for you... https://www.theguardian.com/tv-and-radio/2019/apr/24/how-coronation-street-screen-queens-conquered-television

Anonymous said...

Lister may have been left out of the history books but she has not been left out of television, I make this at least the 4th programme on her. So no idea why it took SW so long...


;) babs said...

There is also an Anne Lister movie with the great Maxine Peake!

Anonymous said...

I’ve watched the first two episode and I’m not sure I like it. When she talks to the camera they makes her look predatory. Almost as if she’s picked her prey and is intentionally trying to trick her love interest into to having romantic feelings towards her. (Something the right wingers are always accusing us of). If she wrote her diaries with that tone of commentary then okay I get it. But if not.. it makes her seem like a creep. That being said I’ll probably watch a couple more to see if I come around to it.

pecanpitt said...

This is a wonderful story and needs to be told .. The actors are excellent and perfectly cast. I rewatch it during the week to pick up comments I may have missed... My kind of show..I have no complaints.