Monday, October 19, 2009

Top 10 Austen adaptations: #8

~No. 8 - Sense and Sensibility 2008~

Sense and Sensibility 2008
Edward Ferrars (Dan Stevens), Colonel Brandon (David Morrissey), John Willoughby (Dominic Cooper), Elinor Dashwood (Hattie Morahan), Marianne Dashwood (Charity Wakefield)

Believe it or not, before this year's Emma, the BBC had made only two Austen miniseries in the last 26 years. With the exception of the sublime Persuasion (which is actually a movie, not a TV series), I don't think that Austen is something that the BBC do particularly well - not in recent years, anyway - which is ironic, considering how much we tend to associate the BBC with Jane Austen. By far the majority of the recent Jane Austen movies have in fact come from Hollywood, and British TV network ITV.

Sense and Sensibility 2008
Willoughby and Marianne

Sense and Sensibility was the BBC's first attempt at Jane Austen for TV since P&P 1995. Expectations were running high, though S&S did get a little lost amidst all the other Austen adaptations that were aired in the same few months during 2007/08. The first time I saw it, I was frankly very disappointed! I think a lot of Janeites were. It took a while for this new S&S to "grow" on me - as documented here, where you can read my in-depth comparison of the two S&Ss - but after a few re-watches, I came to appreciate S&S 08 in its own right.

Sense and Sensibility 2008
Hattie Morahan is a luminous Elinor Dashwood

The great strength of this adaptation is the casting of Elinor and of Edward. Hattie Morahan in particular is wonderful as Elinor. But on the other hand, Dominic Cooper and Charity Wakefield were decidedly miscast as Willoughby and Marianne! Dominic Cooper wasn't so bad, though physically he doesn't look the part, but Charity Wakefield's performance really irritated me at times.

Sense and Sensibility 2008

The duplicitous Lucy Steele (Anna Madeley)

Perhaps in an attempt to make the show more "modern" and "accessible" *suppresses heavy groan*, she seemed to play Marianne as an angsty, immature teenage girl. Yes, Marianne is supposed to be a bit immature, but Charity just didn't seem to me to capture the depth and sweetness of Marianne's personality. :-/ Honestly though, her portrayal of Marianne wasn't terrible, certainly not bad enough to spoil the series for me. But it was the one thing that grated against me in this adaptation.

Sense and Sensibility 2008
Colonel Brandon

David Morrissey as Colonel Brandon was very good. The supporting cast were bit of a mixed bag. I thought the Ferrars, the Miss Steeles, and the John Dashwoods were very well done; but Mrs. Dashwood, Mrs. Jennings, and Sir John Middleton didn't seem quite right. Mr. Palmer was also disappointing - but then, nobody is ever going to come close to Hugh Laurie's hilarious Mr. Palmer in S&S 95. ;-)

Sense and Sensibility 2008
Willoughby just looks way too evil in this adaptation. . . you're not supposed to know he's the bad guy until the end!

The script is good, but not Andrew Davies' strongest. Most of the irony and wit of the novel is nowhere to be found. Some of the dialogue seemed a bit too clunky and "dumbed down".

Sense and Sensibility 2008
Elinor, Marianne, with Linda Bassett as Mrs. Jenning

The series is very pretty to look at, no doubt about that. The scenery is stunning, with a score to match by Martin Phipps. The costume department went for a subtle gothic look in many of Elinor's outfits, which are mostly very beautiful. I wasn't so keen on Marianne's gowns - too many pastel shades. . . I don't like pastels.

Sense and Sensibility 2008
"That" wood-chopping scene

Okay, I'd better stop rambling. In a nutshell, it's a refreshing new take on Sense and Sensibility - well worth watching and re-watching.

Sense and Sensibility 2008

Lucy Boynton was delightful as Margaret Dashwood


Charity said...

I loved this adaptation from the start. I feared it would be overshadowed by my adoration of the other version, but I much preferred this depiction of Elinor and Edward to the one in the Hollywood film. And I liked that we saw much more of Colonel Brandon -- although Alan Rickman shall be forever "my" Colonel Brandon. =)

Alexandra said...

I haven't gotten up the nerve to see the '08 S&S, for the good reason that the '95 version is not only my favorite Austen film, but one of my favorite films period.

Like I said, I haven't seen it yet, but from what I've seen of clips, pictures, and other's people's PO's I think I can make a valid observation on what I like more about the '95 S&S...

1. Kate Winslet as Marianne. Marianne is "my" character, according to the quiz, and Kate was so lovely as the character! Reminded me so much of myself (ok, I hope I'm a little more sensible than that! ;-)). I think that was part of my love for the film.

2. Hugh Laurie as Mr. Palmer. Of course, I'm a HUGE HL fan so anything he's in gets an extra 5 stars. ;-) The idea of no Hugh Laurie plummets the film down considerately. ("If only YOU would stop!" Love it...)

3. Greg Wise as Willoughby. As everyone has mentioned, Dominic Cooper is CREEPY. Greg comes riding up on his white horse and all the audience SIGHS!!! You know? He's a dashing, romantic hero that we all dream about (tall, dark, curling hair ;-)) and he's Marianne's dream come true. Dominic is...ugh!

4. Imelda Staunton as Mrs. Palmer and Elizabeth Spriggs as Mrs. Jennings-not only do they play off Hugh Laurie really well, but Mrs. Jennings is just soooooo annoying that you can really feel Elinor and Marianne's pain. And yet, you know she's trying to be helpful at the same time.

5. And last but not least, I really, really loved Emma Thompson's interpretation of Elinor. You really, really got to empathizing with her, and her strained facial expressions when she was keeping Lucy's secret were so tragic. I loved the scene when Marianne is "dying" because it's like she's been holding back so long. And although, yes, she's too old for the part, I thought it gave it some depth, with her quickly becoming an old maid and all.

Extras: Alan Rickman's Colonel Brandon was SOOOO sweet and SOOOO tragic. Fanny Dashwood was soooo nasty. I actually really liked Hugh Grant's Edward ("my heart is and always will be yours"), The scenery was lovely, and Patrick Doyle's soundtrack was divine.

I guess I'm just not quite a staunch enough Austen fan that I mind meddlings with the plot like that. Good grief, one of my very favorite scenes in the film is when Marianne walks in the rain to Willoughby's, and that's not even in the book!

Also, from the clips I watched...some of the stuff looked like it was lifted from the 95 film. The scene where Willoughby brings Marianne home in the rain looked almost identical to the 95 scene.

Ok, enough on that. Long and short of it is, I'm still trying to get myself to watch a S&S without Kate Winslet or Hugh Laurie. Oh, the pain!!! ;-)

Marian said...

I, too, liked Edward and Elinor a lot better in this version! But Greg Wise is a much better Willoughby. Morrissey (unforgettable as Mr Headstone!) was pretty good as Colonel Brandon, but I didn't like the way his character was written in this version--he seemed too intimidating, or something.

Livi said...

And re-watching, and re-watching, and re-watching!! I think this would be one of my very favourite Austen adaptions, but then I haven't seen all of "Emma" 2009 yet :)

The Editrix said...

Alexandra. . . ditto, ditto, and ditto!! :P I heartily agree with pretty much everything you said in your comment! However, I would recommend that you watch the 2008 version sometime. As others have said, Elinor's and Edward's relationship is really well done here.

Marian - that's interesting about Colonel Brandon being "intimidating" - now that I think about it, you've got a point. Alan Rickman was a very gentle, soft-spoken Colonel - whereas in the 08 version, Colonel Brandon is more. . . yeah, I understand what you mean. Just different interpretations of the character.

Anonymous said...

Agree with you on Charity Wakefield--Kate Winslet's so much better in the role. I want to see this one again, as I know it's one of those films that gets better the more times you watch it. And yeah, the supporting cast wasn't as great as the '95 version's. But do you like Janet McTeer (Mrs. Dashwood)? She's a really good actress (and a really tall one, too!).


The Editrix said...

Janet McTeer. . . yes, I thought she was lovely as Mrs. Dashwood. However, I think she seemed too intelligent and sensible. . . not as impulsive or romantic as Mrs. Dashwood is supposed to be. I enjoyed Janet McTeer's performance, but I think Gemma Jones' portrayal (S&S95) is closer to the book.