Monday, April 7, 2008

Masterpiece's Sense and Sensibility Part 2

Last night the second half of Andrew Davies' Sense and Sensibility adaptation concluded the "Jane Austen season" on PBS. All in all, I'm afraid it was not what I had hoped for. The high point was the always superb 1995 Pride and Prejudice. None of the new adaptations (Persuasion, Northanger Abbey, Mansfield Park, Sense and Sensibility) really captured my heart. Miss Austen Regrets was well done but I am not likely to buy it as I can't really imagine watching it again. Emma was decent but I think the Gwyneth Paltrow version remains chief in my affections.

But what about Sense and Sensibility, you ask?

What I liked:

- Hattie Morahan as Elinor did grow on me. Loved the scene where she drinks the cordial Mrs. Jennings had brought Marianne!

- Edward is still Hugh Grant wannabe but I found him likable and charming; perhaps too charming for Edward, but that may be too critical. I think the Emma Thompson version did a better job of depicting the connection between Elinor and Edward but again, I may be feeling too critical this morning.

- Mrs. Dashwood. In this adaptation I felt Mrs. Dashwood's discomfort at being uprooted from her home and tossed into a new life. Gemma Jones, while an excellent actress, seemed a tad too comfortable in a cottage in the previous adaptation.

What I'm Indifferent About:

- Col. Brandon. I just don't have much of an opinion concerning him. I guess the way I can describe it is just "meh".

- The Palmers, The Middletons, The Miss Steeles. Although I will say that Lucy Steele didn't seem nearly catty enough.

What I Disliked:

- Charity Wakefield as Marianne. Didn't buy it. Didn't like her. Didn't much care what happened to her at the end of the movie. Kate Winslet must be a hard act to follow but still, give us something.

- Willoughby. Ditto everything I said about Marianne. And since when is Willoughby a hobbit? And I ask this as someone who likes hobbits. In summary: Not handsome, Not charming, Not interesting, Not Willoughby.

- Being hit over the head with the symbolism stick. Taming a horse, get it? Falcon flying and returning, get it? Did you get it? Elinor removing her drawing of her former home and putting up one of the cottage, did you get it? Ugh. Give the audience a little credit please.

So my rankings for all the new adaptations would probably look something like this:

1. Northanger Abbey: A- for effort. Liked the characters, disliked some elements of the story telling. I'm going to buy it and I will watch it again although I'm still waiting for someone to make a definitive version of this story that is faithful to the charm and wit of Jane Austen's original.

2. Sense and Sensibility: B- and that's a generous grade for all the reasons listed above and last week. Will probably still buy it and watch it again at least once. Worth seeing despite its flaws and you should fast forward the first scene. You won't miss anything, I assure you.

3. Persuasion: D. Too many unforgivable transgressions. Although Captain Wentworth is good. Will not buy it and will not watch it again (I've seen it twice and that's one time too many.)

4. Mansfield Park: F. No, no, no. Although Pug was good. Will not buy and further, will discourage everyone I know from watching it or buying it.

So what did you think?