Television review: 'Wuthering Heights'

     
 

By Erik Pedersen
LOS ANGELES (Hollywood Reporter) - There's one thing about MTV's contemporized "Wuthering Heights" that stays absolutely true to the book: The characters are mostly a miserable, unsympathetic lot.

But while Emily Bronte's revered Victorian novel delves into their emotional fragility, this fluffy telefilm simply plays to the modern-day teen's get-to-the-point sensibilities -- with a musical backdrop and lots of making out, of course.
It could resonate with the network's target young demo, but the question is whether the youth nation cares about a 19th century story, even if it's worthy of a soap opera or "Ricki Lake" episode. Add a meandering script, labored direction and by-the-book performances, and even the wannabe-older tween girls could lose interest.

The names have been changed to protect the uncool. Erika Christensen plays Cate, who lives an isolated life with her father (X man John Doe) and brother, Hendrix (Johnny Whitworth), in their lighthouse estate called the Heights. After a mysterious "stray" child named Heath (played later in adulthood by Mike Vogel) becomes part of the family, Dad has a new favorite, Hendrix is jealous, and Cate is smitten.

After a jarring fast-forward of about 10 years, Cate and Heath are inseparable lovers. He has become a scruffy, studly budding musician. She is devoted to him but is restless to experience life beyond the Heights. Big changes force Heath to hit the road.

Cate eventually settles for marrying the timid, serious Edward (Christopher Kennedy Masterson), whose rich-bitch sister Isabel (Katherine M. Heigl) has the hots for Heath. Despite their separation, Cate and Heath -- who has become a reluctant overnight rock star -- continue to pine for each other. After brief happiness, tragedy looms.
The time-honored themes of love found, lost, unrequited and doomed come into play, but the undisciplined script by Max Enscoe & Annie de Young takes huge, gratuitous liberties with the source material. Too many actions have no consequences, too much of the dialogue is just plain sappy, and the fast-moving plot is cut into bite-size chunks for the intended audience of short attention spans.

Suri Krishnamma directs "Heights" like a music video -- quick edits, arty dissolves, forced pacing -- and uses any excuse to put music in play, including having Christensen and Vogel sing. "Bat Out of Hell" composer Jim Steinman, who also exec produces, contributed songs to the project.

The acting is generic, with far too many lines whispered or shouted in an effort to hammer home emotions. Christensen's giddy-to-weepy Cate never engages us, and Vogel plays Heath like a hybrid of James Dean and Kurt Cobain, never nearing the charisma of either. The other characters never get enough attention, which is fine because we don't care much about them anyway.

The telepic's biggest asset is Claudio Chea's vibrant cinematography, which makes grand use of the Puerto Rico locations. Otherwise, it's a tiresome endeavor.

Warning to students: If your teacher assigns a book report on "Wuthering Heights," don't base it on this adaptation.

MTV Original TV Movies
Credits:
Executive producers: Jim Steinman, Paul Mason, Patricia Knopf
Producer: Donald L. West
Director: Suri Krishnamma
Writers: Max Enscoe, Annie de Young
Based on the novel by: Emily Bronte
Director of photography: Claudio Chea
Casting: Mary Jo Slater, Steve Brooksbank
Editor: Jeff Wishingrad
Costume designer: Rebecca Bentjen
Original score: Stephen Trask
Executive music producer/Concept by: Jim Steinman
Production designer: Bernt Amadeus-Capra
Music supervisor: Amy Rosen

Cast:
Cate: Erika Christensen
Heath: Mike Vogel
Edward: Christopher Kennedy Masterson
Hendrix: Johnny Whitworth
Isabel: Katherine M. Heigl
Earnshaw: John Doe
Raquelle: Aimee Osbourne
Young Cate: Katelin Petersen
Young Heath: Adam Taylor Gordon
Young Hendrix: Seth Adkins

 

 

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