Picnic at Hanging Rock 🤔 TV Show Review


Written by Thelonia

Picnic at Hanging Rock was on one of the first films I think I ever saw that truly bewildered me. The 1975 Peter Weir directed film took the plot from the 1967 book by Joan Lindsay and transformed it into a visually stunning and strange film which has no answers for any of the many questions the viewer has.

The 2018 Amazon Prime Miniseries re-imagining however, has a lot of answers to questions you may not even have wanted to have answered in the first place.

The plot to all three versions of Picnic at Hanging Rock is deceivingly simple: on an excursion to Hanging Rock for St. Valentine's Day in 1900, three schoolgirls go missing, leading to a mystery that raises more questions than it answers. Framed by all three as a true story, the whole story is fictional but raises issues in the real world as to Australia's history when it came to women, its natural landscape, and its connection to Aboriginal culture (the latter of which is particularly true in a real world context, with the fictional story overshadowing the long historical significance of the rocks).

Regardless of which version you watch, I hope you like long lingering shots of girls in white dresses walking.

The new Miniseries takes the bone structure of the original story, and expands upon it to make it a 6-hour series, and while some changes and additions help the overall product (giving the girls backgrounds helps you care about them when they go missing on a broader scale than just being confused by the disappearance), and some hurting it (several scenes have no significance on the whole of the series, seemingly just added to have some aesthetically interesting shots and to pad the run time).

The series also pushes the 'sexy' aspect of the girls a lot more than the other versions, implying that all three are on a certain level in love with each other, and adding explicitly Lesbian characters in Miss McCraw and the third girl, Marion, who is half Aboriginal in the series. There are also several slow-mo scenes of the girls undressing and lying together which do little to further the plot and are more added so you understand their relationship and to further the mood of the show.

The main thing to know going in to this new series is that you'll enjoy it a lot more if you're not incredibly attached to the original film. Just sitting my Dad down to describe the show to him caused him to have several paroxysms about how it was different. I, however, am not that attached to the film, so did fine with this adaptation. Similarly, I think it helps to not think of this as a replacement but as supplemental material then it might hurt less to see things like: let's explore Miranda's home life! Witness  Mrs. Appleyard (played probably by the person having the most fun, Natalie Dormer) and her tragic backstory as a Dickensian orphan/scammer! Watch as Michael clumsily tries to hit on an increasingly confused Albert! It's all pretty fun, and if nothing else, the visuals are absolutely gorgeous (so much so that they replay a good amount of footage in every episode, which might have worked better had this not been a binge-release show).

Though I wouldn't necessarily suggest a re-watch of the movie right before watching the series, if you view the two as separate entities there's plenty to enjoy in each. Just accept that there will still be questions that won't be answered, boatloads of Edwardian dresses, and just relax and enjoy the ride.

Picnic at Hanging Rock is available for streaming on Amazon Prime.


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