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-.