Tuesday, April 08, 2008

Sense & Sensibility

Did anyone else catch the new adaptation of Sense & Sensibility on Masterpiece Theatre this last week? It was the end of Jane Austen Season, which makes me sad, but we still have a new adaptation of A Room With a View to look forward to next week. Hopefully, the people who made it chose not to reincarnate Helena Bonham Carter's wild 80s hair. I always found her hairstyle in that movie so distracting. In 20 years, will people be saying the same thing about, say, Pride & Prejudice (either recent version)? I mean, if it's a period drama, it should be period hairstyles, right? And thus not influenced by the decade in which the film is made? Maybe groundbreaking new research about late 18th- and early 19th-century hairstyles was completed around the time P&P came out, and that's why we haven't seemed to have that problem since travesties like A Room With a View and that freaky 80s version of Northanger Abbey.

Anyway, I really liked this new version of S&S. Miniseries adaptations of novels always have at least one advantage over any existing Hollywood version - increased length. There's just so much more you can do with an extra 30 - 60 minutes, so in some ways it isn't a fair comparison.

But I'll make a few comparisons anyway, with the 1995 Emma Thompson version. I had a bit of a roller coaster relationship with that movie. I saw it when it first came out and loved it - the Sheriff of Nottingham played a good guy, a young woman got lost on a beautiful hill in the rain after a tragic breakup, the soundtrack was gorgeous, etc. What's not to like?

A few years later in college, I saw it again and decided I didn't like it after all. Everything suddenly seemed so...understated. And Hugh Grant bugged the heck out of me. Why was the power of simple speech so beyond him?!?

And then, sometime after we moved to Tucson, I saw it again. And loved it again, but for different reasons than the first time. For all its faults of reduced attention to certain plots and still having to deal with a bumbling Hugh Grant, I decided it was a wonderful movie. Yes, it was still understated, but it was essentially true to the original story in theme and feel.

I was surprised by and loved many things in this new version. Some of them are an improvement over the 1995 version; others are compliments that stand alone without comparison to its predecessor.

- I absolutely loved the new portrayal of Colonel Brandon and Marianne's relationship. It had so much more feeling and nuance, and we really saw how Marianne "grew up" in the process.

- This version of Lucy Steele was much more devious than the original. In the 1995 version, you could probably argue that she was just a sweet girl who was innocently sharing everything with Elinor. But this one made it clear that she is every bit as conniving, manipulative, and spiteful as we've been suspecting all along.

- The scenery was gorgeous, but maybe I'm just partial to rugged ocean beaches.

- The scene where Marianne faints after seeing Willoughby, and is caught by Colonel Brandon, and then Colonel Brandon gives Willoughby a look that says, "Someday I think you and I are going to have a serious disagreement. " - I loved that scene.

- I loved Emma Thompson's Elinor, but I loved this one, too. She took a while to get used to, but her performance really was admirable. Especially in that awkward scene involving Edward, Lucy, and herself.

- Lucy Steele's sister was hilarious, even if I'm pretty sure the accent she used was completely anachronistic.

- The new Marianne-in-the-rain scene was quite good, which is amazing since the original one was so fantastic. But I thought they gave it a new enough angle that it was still very moving.

Did you watch it? What did you like/dislike about it?


Suzanne Bubnash said...

Loved it. Could hardly wait for Sunday 9 p.m. to arrive. The characterization was mostly right on--Elinor's mother was a dignified widow, John a good-intentioned but weak brother, Edward handsome but not without faults (played ten times better than HG), a vivacious and later humbled and wiser Marianne. The actress playing Elinor hit some particular high points--first, when she was anticipating a proposal from Edward the expectation in her face & entire body almost caused me to hold my breath--second, in the awkward scene w/ Edward & Lucy in the same room--third, when Edward pays a visit and she finds out he's not married, all of her love, pain, anticipation, disappointment, etc come flooding out.

Crys said...

Haha! This is how unconnected I've become. I watched this and didn't even realize that it was sense and sensibility. I mean I was thinking Jane Austen but I was so out of it...really Crystal. I loved the kid playing Edward. He was so wholesome looking, a little dense, but wholesome. Ah and the slip up of the upcoming wedding. Well that was lovely. Especially when Lucy says, "What did you do." And as for Elinor I loved the part where she is sitting at her sisters side and for a second it seems like she's dies, and the tears start to flow and Elinor is trying to wipe them away. It was so true to life...at least the way I cry :) I'm glad you clarified for me what I was watching...oh what a ditz :)

Craig said...

I confess--I'm a guy and I loved this series. I thought Elinor and her mother were exceptionally acted. Even knowing the ending I still gasped with Elinor when Edward clarified his unmarried status. The only character I didn't care for was Lucy's sister--just too much over the top and I thought it detracted greatly from the production. Is she really like that in the book?

Beautifully filmed.

Somehow I liked part 1 better than part 2. Great anticipation all week in between.

How about the parallel between Elinor hitting the carpet and Edward chopping the wood.

Both mothers in P&P and S&S are anxious to marry off their daughters well, though one of them is much more dignified.

Bridget said...

I didn't notice the Edward chopping wood/Elinor falling down. Interesting.

I did notice the juxtaposition of Colonel Brandon with his sword at Willoughby's neck and Marianne dropping thick, red, melted wax on to a letter addressed to him.

One more thing I liked - they did a good job of making Willoughby hateable. In the 1995 version you never really want to blame him, but this one was allowed to be a scoundrel.

Katie, Scotty and Cora said...

Saw it and loved it! Two thumbs up for sure. I loved the extra time to really build the characters. Everyone was cast perfectly, especially Elinor and Marianne. I admit, I totally forgot the ending and cried right along with Elinor when she found out Edward wasn't married. I also loved how Marianne would speak her mind to her sister-in-law and her mother. She said what everyone is thinking, but doesn't dare utter. Great film!

P.S. Bridget, Elinor is literally hitting the carpet, not falling down! :) It's in the first scene when she meets Edward.


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