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The Pursuit of Love

TV - pursuit-of-love

The BBC’s giddy adaptation of Nancy Mitford’s “most intoxicating novel” left me feeling a bit drunk myself, says Jessie Thompson in the Evening Standard. Our heroine is Linda Radlett (Lily James), “a romantic soul who smooches windows” and lusts after the first boy she meets (Freddie Fox). Her misadventures are narrated by her more practical best friend, Fanny (Emily Beecham). Adapted and directed with “mischievous Mitfordian spirit” by Emily Mortimer, The Pursuit of Love has it all: romance, secret meetings in cupboards, romps in the bath water, angry upper-class patriarchs and the “ridiculously perfect” Andrew Scott as Lord Merlin.

I had to check that the novel features nude sunbathing and quite so many references to being in the bath, says Anita Singh in the Telegraph. (It does.) And I’ll admit the soundtrack of New Order and T Rex “works pretty well”. Kudos, too, to the BBC for leaving in the politically incorrect pronouncements of Uncle Matthew, played by Dominic West, who has “a whale of a time” yelling about “Huns, dagos and wops”. But someone (maybe not West) should have cheered up Lily James. She can’t do funny, and lines that are a joy on the page here “carry all the sparkle of flat champagne”.

Mitfordians, please, just give it a chance, says Lucy Mangan in The Guardian. For anyone outside the select group “of purist fans”, each of its three episodes is an absolutely glorious hour. Mortimer gets under the hood of Mitford’s reputation as a light comic novelist by deftly digging into a distinct “throb of pain” – the book’s insights into thwarted female potential – behind all the gratuitous giggling.

It helps that she keeps many of the original lines, says Carol Midgley in The Times. Modern Brits will never not snigger at the line: “We must keep our end up, Fanny.” Mortimer, who appears as Fanny’s libidinous and unmaternal mother, “the Bolter”, has added some excellent one-liners of her own. She has Linda say: “I masturbate every time I think about Lady Jane Grey, and I think about her all the time.” It’s “a bit more Mitford for your money”, and where’s the harm in that?

The Pursuit of Love is on BBC1 and iPlayer. Watch the trailer here.

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TV - Mare of Easttown

Mare of Easttown 

I haven’t been able to stop thinking about Mare of Easttown since I watched it, says Sophie Gilbert in The Atlantic. Detective characters like Mare (Kate Winslet), broken but intimately connected to their community, “don’t come along often on American television”. The “subtle, textured” backwater setting for this grisly murder of a local teenager is practically a character in itself. You Brits get Happy Valley and Broadchurch, and now we have Delaware County, with its forbidding accents, screened-in porches and a woman “doing her imperfect and insufficient best to help”.

The most amazing thing is Winslet’s accent, says Meredith Blake in the Los Angeles Times. Barely 11 minutes in, she goes “where few actors have gone before” and says “wooder” – what “the good people of South Pennsylvania call water. “Accent nerd” Winslet nails the rounded Os, erratic As, dropped consonants and smushed syllables, rescuing “a beloved regional accent from pop-culture oblivion”. It only adds to the sense of mystery that abounds in this enigmatic swing state.

Winslet “owns this series, top to bottom”, says Deborah Ross in The Mail on Sunday. She’s transfixing, “whether she’s drinking a beer with feet on the table or having sex with the man she’s just met in a bar” (Guy Pearce), then telling him it’s a one-night stand, don’t bother calling me. She eats like a teenage boy, stuffing down pizzas and cheesesteaks, and even squeezing cheese out of a can. The missing woman is the daughter of an estranged friend – “everybody in Easttown knows everybody else and is entangled in some way” – so you know the show has legs. I only became more immersed in episode two. Winslet will have to make further room in her trophy cabinet, “or buy a second, or perhaps she’s already on her 10th by now”.

Rotten Tomatoes Tomatometer 92%

IMDB trivia Winslet was the only cast member confident enough to go back to her native accent in between takes, says the show’s director, Craig Zobel. Everyone else was too terrified to let it go. Witnessing Winslet’s nonchalant switches from Delco to her normal English accent was astonishing.

Mare of Easttown is on Sky Atlantic and Now TV. Watch the trailer here.