Let's talk about George Eliot for a minute. She was an incredibly cheesy, muckraking author who created decent characters, but moralized to the point of beating a dead horse. I'm drawing these conclusions on a reading of Silas Marner from high school. This novel is all about orphans and misers who learn lessons and opium addicted mothers. I pretty much threw up all over this novel when I read it. This is why I know I will never read Middlemarch. The miniseries version was saccharine enough, even with screenwriter Andrew "kind of makes 19th Century novels sexy" Davies throwing in some extra bits to chew on.
So, as far as I can tell from the miniseries (I was doing useful things like doing laundry and baking cookies during the proceedings), the story is all about a small town, Middlemarch, on the cusp of industrialization. There's lots of small town drama and of course young people hooking up all over the place--and by hooking up I mean making hasty marriages.
First you have Dorothea Brooke who is a nerdy girl who wears glasses and thinks for herself. For reasons I can only attribute to repressed Victorian sexuality, she marries a nerdy middle-aged confirmed bachelor (wink wink) who is dedicated a book about mythology. But instead of being cool and letting Dorothea help him write his book, he belittles her and ignores her in the bedroom, confirming my suspicion that this guy is totally gay.
So anyway, being married to her closeted husband is really boring and she slowly wastes away, but his cousin Will Ladislaw takes an interest in her. He's a passionate and accomplished young man, though indecisive to his career. Ladislaw and Dorothea have fun conversations in which they talk about ideas and get sassy with each other. Blah blah blah, Secret Homosexual hates his cousin and has screwed him over in regards to wealth just as the rest of his family has done in the past, blah blah blah, he dies and gives all his money to Dorothea with the condition that she not marry Ladislaw. But it turns out Ladislaw is in love with her! WHAT WILL HAPPEN NEXT? Not much. Their scenes together are rare.
And that right there is the most interesting story line.
Another involves some doctor who marries a kind of silly girl and then spends too much money on a house and other things while trying to start up a hospital where doctors actually do doctorly things and not sell ineffective tonics. Drama, gambling, and marital fighting happen.
And then there's the brother of the silly girl who just sucks at everything and has some since-childhood-girlfriend who is awesome and sassy and tells him to get a job he likes to earn a living.
And then there's random other stuff that was moralizing that had to do with pious people not really being that pious in their actions. And the common man getting the vote. And way too many characters and uncles to care about.
But I think the real take-away message here is that Rufus Sewell as Will Ladislaw in the 1994 production is dreamy. Why haven't I seen him as a romantic lead more often? I mean, I guess I've seen him in those roles on occasion, but this one is a more straight forward ROMANTIC LEAD. He gets to represent idealism and handsomeness instead of quirkiness, all while still darting his eyes around. If nothing else, Mr. Sewell is a welcome breath of fresh air to a miniseries that gets bogged down in...I don't even know, I was too busy eating cookie dough by the end.
In a smiliar spirit to my celebration of Terence Stamp in Far From the Madding Crowd, here's a gallery of poor quality images of Rufus Sewell I captured for your enjoyment. And, Spoiler alert:
Checking out Dorothea for the first time.
Emo-ly confessing his love without actually confessing his love because this is a 19th century novel, and they could never actually say anything in a straightforward manner. Also, Dorothea is wearing a hideous mourning bonnet/cap.