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?

2 comments:

  1. I actually loved this Sense and Sensibility, mostly because Hattie Morahan made Elinor not only likeable, but loveable to me. Complex, passionate, but intensely restrained and kind.
    My rankings:
    1. Sense and Sensibility: A. The equal of the 1995-1996 heyday of Austen films, mostly because of Elinor, and little bits which came from the book (like Elinor drinking Marianne's wine, and Anne Steele).
    2. Northanger Abbey: A. Not quite as good as the best Austen films (I would consider these the 1995 Pride and Prejudice and the 1995 Persuasion), but they really captured the characters. Plus, both Northanger Abbey and Sense and Sensibility caused me to reread the novels and raise my estimation of them.
    3. Persuasion: C. Just average. The leads were nice, if a bit one-note, but the secondary cast (except for Anthony Head as Sir Walter) were just sub-par.
    4. Mansfield Park: F as well. I love Fanny Price, and am furious that they allowed Maggie Wadey, who has called her some very impolite names online, to write her story.
    I actually also really love the 1996 Emma with Kate Beckinsale, not because of the filming, which was fairly mediocre, but because I really enjoy the take on the characters, and again little details from the book (like the drawing of Harriet, and the costuming).

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  2. On a scale of 1 to 10, I give this new version of S&S a 6. Elinor, Mrs. Dashwood, and Margaret were good, Lady Middleton and Fanny were great. Was enjoyable, but strayed a little too far from the book. And I didn't like Marianne, either. Kate Winslet could make her endearing, but this gal couldn't. (I hadn't liked Marianne when I first read the book; but after watching Winslet, I give the poor girl a little more slack--at least she's not nasty, like Fanny Dashwood.) All in all, I prefer that wonderful Emma Thompson version.

    As for the other new Austen adaptions, I give

    Mansfield Park: 1. For the pug. As you said, madam, pug was good. Pug was the best part! The rest was awful.

    Persuasion: 2. Never make me sit through that crazy marathon again. Jane's heroines *never* go chasing helter-skelter after the men. Only non-heroines like Lydia Bennet do that. And don't even get me started about what happened after the marathon was over.

    Northanger Abbey: Uh, 4. Liked Catherine, liked Isabella Thorpe, loved Mrs. Allen. (Oh, goody, it's sweet, excellent Fanny! Fanny Price, that is.) Did not like the liberties taken with the book.

    Miss Austen Regrets: -5. Depressing beyond expression. Couldn't believe it was about Jane Austen. It didn't do her justice. It was the way they wanted Jane, not the way she really was. Enough said. If you felt the same way, wanting to learn more about Jane's life and enjoy it, read Presenting Miss Jane Austen. I loved that book. Here's one of my favorite parts:

    "George Henry Lewe had just advised her [Charlotte Bronte] to calm down her own tendency to melodrama and held up Miss Austen as an author who could be one of the greatest artists without it--indeed, even without poetry. That was no advice to give to the stormy heart of the author of Jane Eyre and it brought a stormy reply. 'Why do you like Jane Austen so very much?' she wrote. 'I am puzzled on that point...I should hardly like to live with her laides and gentlemen in their elegant but confined houses.' Some of us now would hardly like to live for any length of time with Mr. Rochester's mad wife, confined on the top floor of Mr. Rochester's house."

    ROFL! Isn't that a scream?

    Sorry for taking up so much space.

    -Christine from Arizona

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