Kate BeckinsaleIt is rare for me to love a book and its film adaptation equally -- or almost equally, perhaps with a slight bias to the novel in question. I am very fond of Stella Gibbons' 1932 novel Cold Comfort Farm ... and the 1995 movie, which you can watch online for free, is very nearly as entertaining. Flora Poste, played by Kate Beckinsale, is a 1930s headstrong young woman obviously modeled on the heroines of Jane Austen, particularly Emma Woodhouse (whom Beckinsale later played in a BBC production). Flora is left nearly penniless when her parents die, and rather than live with her friend Mrs. Smiling (Joanna Lumley) in London and learn how to work for a living, decides to throw herself on the mercy of relatives. She ends up at Cold Comfort Farm in bleakest Sussex with her Starkadder cousins, and the chaotic state of their lives appalls her so much that she sets about instilling order and neatness everywhere.

John Schlesinger, whose films such as Midnight Cowboy and Marathon Man, worked with British TV writer Malcolm Bradbury on this faithful yet funny adaptation. It appears that Cold Comfort Farm was originally intended for British television, but Gramercy Pictures picked it up for theatrical distribution. The cast is absolutely perfect, and includes Ian McKellen as farmer-turned-preacher Amos Starkadder, Rufus Sewell (Dark City) as the incorrigible Seth, Miriam Margolyes (Prof. Sprout in the Harry Potter films) as practical housekeeper Mrs. Beetle, and Stephen Fry as London intellectual Mr. Mybug. The movie also features the best use of the Gone with the Wind theme music outside the film itself. You get an Austen-ish heroine, lovely Thirties hats, witty dialogue, and some of the best British character actors. So head over to SlashControl and take a look.

Watch Cold Comfort Farm at SlashControl.
categories Features, Cinematical