‘Picnic at Hanging Rock’ Review: Overlong and Overplotted, Amazon’s Gorgeous Adaptation Can’t Recapture the Magic

Joan Lindsay’s novel “Picnic at Hanging Rock” was a mere 212 pages when first printed in 1967. Peter Weir’s 1975 movie of the same name clocked in under two hours (115 minutes). Both have been praised for their mysterious takes on the story of four women who disappear in the Australian bush — the novel for framing the events as a true story (it wasn’t) and the film for its challenging, open-ended conclusion, among other attributes for both.

The new TV adaptation builds on many of these same traits, but a funny thing happens when you try to elongate a surreal horror story by providing explicit details: It gets boring. In extending the length to a six-hour limited series, Amazon’s 2018 version loses much of the original works’ imaginative appeal even while providing added agency to its characters. Each of the key students at Mrs. Hester Appleyard’s (Natalie Dormer) school (as
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