E.M. Forster‘s classic 1910 novel “Howards End” was most famously adapted into a 1992 Merchant Ivory film starring Anthony Hopkins and Emma Thompson. It earned nine Oscar nominations including Best Picture and Best Director (James Ivory), and it won three including Best Actress for Thompson. That’s a tough act to follow, but now, 26 years after that film, Forster’s novel has now been adapted into a four-part limited series on Starz that is garnering its own rave reviews. It’s rated 89% fresh on Rotten Tomatoes and has scored 89 on MetaCritic, indicating near-universal acclaim. So now it has the potential to be as big a hit at the Emmys as the film was at the Oscars.
The series stars Hayley Atwell in the role that won Thompson the Oscar. She plays Margaret Schlegel, who seeks love and purpose in turn-of-the-century England. It’s directed by Hettie Macdonald, a BAFTA TV Award winner for Best Single Drama for “White Girl” in 2009; she’s also known for working on episodes of “Agatha Christie’s Poirot” and “Doctor Who,” among numerous other British productions. And it was adapted for the screen, perhaps surprisingly, by Kenneth Lonergan, better known for his scripts about New England than about England. He recently won the Best Original Screenplay Oscar for “Manchester by the Sea” (2016), and he also received noms for writing original scripts for “You Can Count on Me” (2000) and “Gangs of New York” (2002).
Longergan’s adaptation of Forster’s novel is “brisk” and “faithful,” “fun” and “lean.” His writing is “crisp, clever, and even the chatter reveals important character traits and dynamics.” The series is “gorgeously” directed by Macdonald and anchored by the “Emmy-worthy,” “lived-in” performance by Atwell, who is “fluid and natural.”
Will they be nominated for Emmys? The Starz network has earned two previous nominations for Best Limited Series, for “The Pillars of the Earth” (2011), which also starred Atwell, and “The White Queen” (2014). Additionally, the network’s “Dancing on the Edge” earned a 2014 nomination for Best Movie/Mini Actor for Chiwetel Ejiofor. Atwell, Lonergan, and Macdonald have never been nominated for Emmys themselves, but the Emmys have shown an affinity for literary adaptations that could give them all a boost. Consider past Limited Series champs “Gulliver’s Travels” (1996), “Hornblower” (1999), and “Little Dorrit” (2009).
How do you think the miniseries will be greeted by the TV academy? Check out some of the reviews below, and join the discussion with your fellow TV fans in our forums.
Ben Travers (IndieWire): “‘Howards End’ is fun. It’s lean. It illustrates from the get-go that the Oscar-winning writer behind one of the biggest cinematic downers in recent memory (‘Manchester By the Sea’) can write ‘heartwarming’ as well as he writes ‘heart-wrenching.'”
Kristen Baldwin (Entertainment Weekly): “This brisk, faithful adaptation of E.M. Forster’s classic (scripted by Kenneth Lonergan) is anchored by Atwell’s lived-in performance. Trussed up in flowing Edwardian-era skirts and wide-brimmed hats, Atwell is fluid and natural as Meg, a woman whose keen sense of humanity and curiosity about her fellow man sometimes lead her into trouble.”
Matt Roush (TV Guide Magazine): “A literate and visually sumptuous feast, it will tantalize the ‘Downton Abbey’ devotee … In the role that won Emma Thompson a bushel of awards, including a 1992 Oscar for the acclaimed Merchant-Ivory film treatment, the Emmy-worthy Atwell is especially impressive among this first-rate cast.”
Allison Keene (Collider): “Kenneth Lonergan’s script (an adaptation of E.M. Forster’s novel) is delightful. The words are crisp, clever, and even the chatter reveals important character traits and dynamics. Nothing is wasted in this series, which is gorgeously directed in full by Hettie MacDonald.”
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