Tuesday, October 4, 2011

Sense and Sensibility Review

Since I am Miss Dashwood and I greatly admire the Dashwood sisters, I think it's fitting that my first movie review be about Sense and Sensibility. The 1995 version with Emma Thompson and Kate Winslet, that is. It's the only version of S&S that I've ever seen or plan to see. The reasons for this are twofold.

1) It's amazing. Emma Thompson's brilliant screenplay, the perfect cast, the lovely music, the gorgeous scenery... I love this movie. Emma Thompson and Kate Winslet ARE Elinor and Marianne in my mind. I can't picture their faces any other way.

2) I'm not interested in seeing the 2008 miniseries because of the objectionable content. I usually prefer a miniseries to a regular 2-hour film, but in the case of S&S '08, the first scene is truly inappropriate (according to what I've heard). Now, of course, there is always such a thing as a fast-forward button, and I've utilized the ff at times when it's necessary. But if there's a perfectly good adaptation out there that doesn't need any fast forwarding, why bother watching the one that has an iffy part? Now don't get me wrong--I'm not saying the 2008 version is bad! I'm just saying I don't have an interest in seeing it. Plus, from what I've read, Andrew Davies stole a lot from the 1995 movie anyway. :P

Emma Thompson as Elinor Dashwood

So now that you know why I won't watch the 2008 version, we can get down to why I truly love the 1995 version.

As I said before, Emma Thompson and Kate Winslet were made for the roles of Elinor and Marianne. They even look like sisters. I know that Emma Thompson was a little old to be playing Elinor, but I thought she did an amazing job, and I don't think she took too much liberty with the text in making Elinor 27 instead of 19. The only real problem that Elinor's "advanced age" (haha) would create is that there would be a larger gap between Elinor and Marianne. So their closeness isn't quite as believable as it would be if there were only 2 years' difference in their ages. But all that aside, Emma Thompson does a lovely job of portraying Elinor's patience, reserve and discretion. Little things (like her facial expressions, esp. that little thing she does with the corner of her mouth) really brought Elinor alive. Likewise, Kate Winslet made a beautiful Marianne--exuberant, romantic, and at times frustrated with her little sister. :)

Kate Winslet and Emilie Francois as Marianne and Margaret Dashwood

I love Emilie Francois' portrayal of Margaret. In this movie, Margaret's character was developed far more than in the book, and I enjoyed that. Margaret is rather dull and flat in the book, existing only as a walking gossip column (she's the one who tells Elinor about Willoughby cutting off Marianne's curl, etc.). In the movie, she had a personality and flair of her own; she seemed much more real. "I like Mrs. Jennings. She talks about things. We NEVER talk about things."

Emilie Francois as Margaret Dashwood

Edward's character is also better developed in the movie than in the book--at least, in my humble opinion. I think that we get to know him best through his rapport with Margaret (at least at the beginning). The little things he does, such as pushing the atlas under the table with the toe of his boot, lending Elinor his handkerchief, sword-fighting with Margaret on the front lawn (cutest scene ever!) just serve to make him more endearing.

Hugh Grant and Harriet Walter as Edward Ferrars and Fanny Dashwood

And Edward's proposal is perhaps one of the best of period drama. The book's description of his feelings is wonderful and I love it, but who can resist, "My heart is--and ever will be--yours"? So sweet! This part was beyond doubt better than the book.

Hugh Grant as Edward Ferrars

Colonel Brandon, however, may very well be my favorite character in S&S. Alan Rickman acts the unlikely hero splendidly--yes, maybe he's a little older than 35, but that's okay. His devotion to Marianne is best expressed in that scene when she is ill at the Palmers': "Miss Dashwood, give me an occupation or I shall run mad." That's my mom's favorite scene in the movie (LOL), but my personal favorite is when he is reading to Marianne as she's recovering. Not much happens, but it's a lovely little vignette showing their developing romance.

Alan Rickman and Kate Winslet as Colonel Brandon and Marianne Dashwood

And we cannot possibly forget the hilariously funny characters--the ones who don't display sense or sensibility! Mrs. Jennings, Sir John Middleton, Charlotte Palmer and Mr. Palmer provide comic relief when it's most needed. Who can help laughing (even through a few tears) when Mrs. Jennings offers Marianne olives after Willoughby rejects her? Charlotte Palmer is a great example of "the acorn never falls far from the tree". :P

Elizabeth Spriggs and Imelda Staunton as Mrs. Jennings and Charlotte Palmer

And, of course, Mr. "If-only-you-would-stop" Palmer is humor itself. Why on earth did he marry an idiot like Charlotte? Probably her mother bribed him with olives. He seems like the kind of guy who would like olives.

Hugh Laurie as Mr. Palmer

And the wedding scene at the end... sigh. Patrick Doyle's lovely music, Colonel Brandon's handsome uniform (ah! regimentals!), Elinor and Edward's obvious happiness, Marianne's gorgeous wedding dress... second sigh. I need to watch it again.

Emma Thompson and Hugh Grant as Elinor and Edward Ferrars

What's your opinion of this lovely film? (I'm well aware of the fact that I didn't address Willoughby at all in this review--I'm saving him for a post of his own.)


Miss Elizabeth Bennet said...

This has to be one of my favorite movies. I've seen the 2008 miniseries and liked it (minus the opening scene that was unnecessary), but I like this version better. The miniseries was too dark for Sense and Sensibility. This version really captures the tone of Sense and Sensibility.

Great review! Can't wait for more!

Miss Dashwood said...

Miss Bennet,
Exactly! I love how this movie has the real feel of Sense and Sensibility. One reason why I didn't particularly like Mansfield Park (1983) was that though it was true to the book in one sense, it completely missed the spirit of the novel (IMHO). Anyway, I love how S&S 1995 blends light and dark--both visually and as regarding the plot.
Thanks for your sweet comment!

Melody said...

Good reading this! This is my third favorite JA movie, and definitely in my top 5 altogether.

LOVE the soundtrack. When I first came on your blog 'My Father's Favourite' was playing and it made me smile because I've been playing that song so much myself of late (except the timing is different than whoever played it).

However, I DO think the 2008 mini-series is worth watching. This one's my favorite, but only by a hair. For one simple reason: the mini-series has SO much more of the story, and is more accurate, etc. You must have noticed all the characters left out of this one - Anne Steele (she's HILARIOUS on the 2008 one), Mrs. Farrars, Lady Middleton, etc. Plus, I MUCH prefer Edward than in this one. Col. Brandon is okay, but I really didn't like Willoughby. Greg Wise is WAY better. haha.
Anyways, that was very irksome that they stuck the 'bad' scene in at the beginning...it was completely unnecessary. Not to make excuses for it, but there are lots of other mini-series (such as Little Dorrit, which Andrew Davies ALSO wrote) that have a lot more to fast-forward. In S&S it's "only" the first scene, and it's before the opening credits, so what I usually do is actually go to the second scene on the scene selection, then rewind it to when the credits start. Tada! haha
I liked Marianne pretty well, and Elinor was a little younger than Emma Thompson...but still too old.
Anyways, it's a little darker perhaps than this one, but I still think it's worth watching; and has a lot of things that aren't 'copied' from this one.

All that to say I really do like this one.

Wow I'm really enjoying your music! This is stuff that have been, at many points, on the 'favorites' list on my MP3 player! =D

I agree, I adore the ending. :)

Hey, you know, Miss Bennet and I did a comparison while we were guest posting on Charity's Austenitis earlier this year. In case you are interested:

I can tell I'm really going to like your blog! I can't wait to see reviews of P&P 1995 and Emma 2009. =)

Miss Dashwood said...

I must say, you apparently have EXCELLENT taste in music then! :)
I see your point about the 2008 miniseries bringing out more of the book. That's one of the (very few) complaints I have about the 1995--it's just not long enough! I wish they had been able to include minor characters like Anne Steele and Lady Middleton. Are Lady Middleton's dreadful children in the 2008 one?
I agree about Willoughby. My sister and I saw the promos for the '08 version, and she was horrified when she saw Dominic Cooper as Willoughby. He isn't dashing at all! Willoughby, like George Wickham, is supposed to have all the appearance of goodness. And what about David Morissey? I don't think he looks like Colonel Brandon at all... I'm not sure what it is, he just seems too blah.
Hmm... I personally think that Hugh Grant is the perfect Edward, but that may only be because I'm so used to picturing him in the role.
You have some good points there. Who knows? Maybe I'll change my mind and see it someday after all. :)
I'm currently working my way through the archives at Austenitis, so I'll be sure to read your and Miss Bennet's posts about S&S when I get to them!

Melody said...

Yes, the children are there, however they don't say anything. :P I loved Elinor's quote in the book: "I must confess, when I am at Barton Park, I never think of tame and quiet children with any abhorrence." ;-)

I must say, the promos for that S&S make it look even darker than it actually is. ;-)
Dominic Cooper is awful in that part. I don't understand how Marianne could go for him so easily! He wouldn't be at all to her taste! haha And you're not supposed to know right away that he's the villain.
Yes, 'blah' is pretty much what Col. Brandon on that one was. He was younger than Alan Rickman (he was almost 50; actually he wasn't even SUPPOSED to be 35 in the 1995 one). I liked the latter's acting better however.
About Edward...I didn't think about it at first, but I think Hugh Grant makes Edward too backwardly shy, and not quite the way he is in the book. I really can't picture the 1995 Edward teasing, and he does in the book. =)
Oh, I also like the 2008 Margaret better. Although she is quite funny in 1995! But they made up a lot about her.

I guess I'm one of those who likes to see all the versions (unless they are objectionable; there are a few JA movies I haven't seen or didn't finish watching) and comparing them. :-)

Ella said...

I love this movie!
I think it may be my favorite Jane Austen adaption.

Alexandra said...


S&S 95 is my favorite Jane Austen film! And I'm glad to see another who isn't crazy about the 08 version. Personally, I just hate to spoil the awesomeness of the 95 by watching the 08.

Plus, I mean, come on! No Kate Winslet's Marianne? Marianne is one of my favorite characters (I'm *totally* just like her...unfortunately sometimes :-)) and Kate was simply superb.

So maybe it's not 100% accurate, but it perfectly captures the feel of the story. Plus, I mean, the 08 doesn't have Greg Wise's Willoughby (Dominic Cooper is *horrid* for Willoughby...I mean, who didn't fall in love with Greg Wise's Willoughby the first time they saw the film???), no walk-in-the-rain to Willoughby's and that epic scene of her quoting Sonnet 116 in the rain, and for pity's sake, it doesn't have the ever-amazing Hugh Laurie and Imelda Stauton as Mr. and Mrs. Palmer. That last point alone is enough for me to skip the new version. :-)

Abby said...

I did enjoy and do prefer the 1995 version in some aspects - e.g Hugh Laurie as Mr Palmer! Hehe - but overall I like the 2008 version better. It's definitely worth a watch, minus the unnecessary first scene (which as Melody said, is very easy to skip past) Although I didn't like the casting of either Colonel Brandon or Willoughby, I thought the rest was done very well. For me, it captured more what Sense and Sensiblity is about, and what I love about it.

I really do recommend it...but that's just my opinion, of course! :)


AnnaKate said...

Ah, this movie! It's beautiful. It was my introduction to S&S, which is now my favorite Austen novel. =) But I have to say-- don't write off the 2008 miniseries, because it ROCKS. In a big, big way. This movie is fabulous, but really, when you have a long miniseries as opposed to a two hour movie, of *course* the miniseries is going to offer a better, fuller, richer experience that's much closer to Austen's beautiful novel.

As I said, I LOVE the movie... but I do prefer the miniseries. =) So I would recommend utilizing that FF and giving it a try! =)

Holly said...

oh gosh i really want to see this movie now! my mum said i can as soon as i read the book...SO, i should probably read the book. and according to the jane austen heroine quiz, i'm marianne dashwood, so i should find out a little more about her i think! :)

Anonymous said...

First off, I just want to say that I LOVE the 95 movie...it was suberbly acted, shot and scripted, with beautiful settings and music, and who couldn't love Kate Winslet's Marianne? In fact, I loved it so much I was determined never to watch another version of S+S, so as not to spoil this one.

That being said, I started to change my mind when I found out Dan Stevens from Downton Abbey played Edward, and I completely captiulated after watching the trailer 5 or 6 times in a row. It didn't take me 10 minutes to get into it once I started, and by the end I was sold.

One of the best things about the miniseries is Dan Stevens and Hattie Morahan. They made me fall in love with Edward and Elinor and have an instant attraction which is very evident and beautiful to watch. Hattie portrays Elinor's impassive control and deep emotions with aplomb and grace, while Dan perfectly conveys the angst and tragedy which befalls a man of honour trapped by circumstances beyond his power.

In the end, there are certain aspects which the movie did better, and others which belong to the miniseries. In my humble opinion, the miniseries captures everything I ever imagined the book to be, and I would definitely recommend it to anyone :)

victorianreader said...

I greatly enjoy the '95 version and the 2008, but am surprised no one has mentioned what they think of either the mini-series of 1971 or 1981. Both have great things going for them, and things against them. The '71 version has a terrible version of Marianne but I like the representation of the developing relationship between Marianne and Colonel Brandon at the end and many of the actors and actresses did quite well at portraying their characters. The '81 version is better than the '71, in my humble opinion. I loved Irene Richard as Elinor and Tracey Childs as Marianne. This version always ties for first place when deciding my favorite version of Sense and Sensibility. I would definitely recommend watching the '81 version, but think it a good idea to see all versions before deciding on a favorite.