sensing a return to the austen challenge

Wednesday, August 5, 2009 |
I haven’t been doing anything with the Everything Austen Challenge (put on by Stephanie’s Written Word) recently, but since Netflix is clamoring to have my latest DVDs back, I’ve been obliged to watch, and now review, a couple of films that are past due. For this entry I’ll talk about the 2008 BBC television mini-series production of Sense and Sensibility.

Emmy Award-winning writer Andrew Davies (Pride and Prejudice) stylishly interprets Jane Austen's beloved novel for this acclaimed BBC production. Formerly privileged sisters Elinor and Marianne can avoid poverty by attracting suitable husbands -- but will they also find true love? Filmed on location in the English countryside, the lavish miniseries stars some of the U.K.'s greatest actors and takes a more sensual approach than other adaptations.

It’s still quite possible that someone who hasn’t read the book or seen the 1995 movie adaptation may come upon this review, so I’m not going to include any spoilers. I’ll do a (very) brief introduction only. The scene: the second wife and three daughters of Mr. Dashwood, Sr. are left destitute after his death, when the oldest son (born of the first wife) inherits. They remove to a cottage some ways away, and the story follows the foibles and feelings of the two elder Misses Dashwood as they go about finding love and themselves. As always, chaos, bad manners, misleading characters and true love follow.

What I liked: Although in some ways it’s very unfair to compare two different film adaptations of the same novel, I’m going to do it anyway. I really do like Hattie Monrahan better than Emma Thompson in the role of Elinor. That’s nothing against Emma at all – she’s amazing. I simply felt that in the 1995 version she was rather advanced in years to play a convincing Elinor. This adaptation somehow captures the essential youth of the two heroines perfectly. I also liked Dan Stevens, the actor playing Edward Ferrars, and thought that the girl playing Meg, young Lucy Boynton, was quite good (and got a lot of well-deserved screen time). As a fun aside, I recognized Mark Williams, who plays Sir John Middleton, as Mr. Weasley in the Harry Potter films, and Billy the Goat in Stardust, another favorite.

What I Didn’t Like: The Palmers, who are so deliciously insufferable in the 1995 film version, barely make an appearance in this production. I felt that their characters could have been eliminated, as they added so little to the overall story and quality. And my only other complaint is that Lucy Steele didn’t get enough character development.

Though it was a bit long to view in one sitting (three one-hour segments), I thought the mini-series was beautiful and superbly cast, directed and produced. The gorgeous settings and cinematography set off delightful acting and a tight script. Although it’s billed as a more ‘sensual’ Austen adaptation, I found it simple, lovely, and not in the least bit vulgar. The film stays true to the essentials in the Austen original, and though it keeps tension high and the characters’ feelings open, it is all done in very good taste. I’d recommend this to Austen aficionados, and anyone who likes a good romantic tale. A-.

11 comments:

Mandy said...

Your review makes me want to join the Austen challenge. I haven't actually read any Austen or seen any movies or miniseries based on her books! Maybe it's time for my schoolin'!

vvb32 reads said...

oh yeah, me too. i've got this from netflix last month and it has been sitting on my shelf waiting to be watched. the 3-hours is what is causing the delay. need to set aside some time to enjoy it. maybe this weekend - with popcorn and raisinets.

La Coccinelle said...

I love this adaptation; it's one of my favourite films. While the Emma Thompson version is good, I have to agree with you: she was just a bit too old to play Elinor. Essentially, Sense and Sensibility is a story about teenagers, so I thought the casting in this new version made more sense. And as much as I like Hugh Grant... well, Dan Stevens isn't bad to have to look at for 3 hours, either.

Lit and Life said...

I did not know you could get BBC stuff on Netflix! Maybe it's time to switch to that.

hmsgofita said...

I loved this version as well! Both versions have so many wonderful things in them! Thanks for your review!

Michelle Magill said...

I haven't got this version yet - not released in Australia - but can't wait to see it - I collect Austen adaptations. Now you've made me very impatient. Glad you are back on the challenge. have fun ;-)

The Clothes Horse said...

I'm looking forward to this. BBC should probably move on to some new material at some point though...

Melanie said...

I've yet to read Sense and Sensibility although I've been meaning to for some time. I have watche the 1995 version. That was a couple years ago, and I don't remember all the particulars. Once I read it, though, I'll definitely be looking out for this. It looks like a really good adaptation!

Care said...

oh! I just wanted the 1995 version with Emma Thompson yesterday! such a great story. Altho I don't think they made out Willoughby to be as much as the scoundrel that they should have. They seemed not to be shocked enough at his poor manners (yikes?) and I had to go look up how old ET was compared to Hugh Grant (I'm sorry - you are talking about this mini-series show and I'm hogging all talk about the 'other' version) - and they are almost the very same age but Hugh seems younger. why is that?

Care said...

oops - I mean I just WATCHED it yesterday. it's too early in the am.

Kristen said...

I thought about the Austen challenge.. but I wimped out! Sounds like you're having a lot of fun with it!

I have an award for you over at my blog:
http://www.bookworminginthe21stcentury.com/2009/08/more-awards.html

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