Part I: Sense and Sensibility, cont’d

Alas, we are at the last installment of Sense and Sensibility.  As I said when this first started, S&S has never been my favorite Austen novel.  But spending the past 2 months immersed in things S&S has made me appreciate it so much more than I have in the past.  It’s still not my favorite (and it never will be), but I look forward to reading it many more times in the years to come.

S&S08 is, without question, my favorite adaptation of the book.  For years, I loved S&S95, but several readings of the novel have taken that adaptation down a few notches in my estimation.  It is still an outstanding film, but it is far from being an outstanding adaptation.  S&S08 is, however, that elusive “outstanding adaptation.”  The adapter is Andrew Davies, and the fact that I love this adaptation is rather surprising, given that I am not a big fan of Davies’ work.  His Pride and Prejudice is fun, but it is not as faithful to the text as its fans would have one believe, his Northanger Abbey is not as good as it could have been, his Emma (Beckinsale/Strong) leaves me cold and his The Way We Live Now is, in my far-from-humble opinion, an abomination.  But I really do think that S&S08 is terrific.

The actors are well cast and are, for the most part, closer to their characters’ ages than we have seen in the past.  Hattie Morahan’s Elinor is truly a wonder.  There are some who say she is channeling Emma Thompson’s portrayal and, at first, I could see their point, but after my 3rd or 4th viewing of the series, I honestly don’t see it anymore.  Charity Wakefield bears more than a passing resemblance to Kate Winslet, but she really does make the role her own. David Morrissey is an excellent Brandon, and Dan Stevens makes Edward Ferrars flat-out sexy.  OK, so Edward probably shouldn’t  be quite this sexy, but I really do think Stevens does a good job with the part.   He is very good at making the viewer see just how honorable and decent a man Edward is.  Mr. & Mrs. John Dashwood are wonderfully awful, and I just love that little Henry is shown scarfing down sweets all the time while his mother watches fondly.  Jean Marsh is a very intimidating Mrs. Ferrars, and Janet McTeer’s Mrs. Dashwood is sufficiently flighty to need a steadying hand from her eldest daughter.  Nancy Steele is delightfully vulgar, and Lucy is just as twisted and manipulative as she should be.  I liked Mrs. Jennings too (although not as much as Patricia Routledge) and, while this Margaret is more prominent here than she should be, she is not nearly as prominent as was the Margaret in S&S95, and that’s just fine with me.

I think my favorite scene in the entire production is when Elinor tells Edward that Brandon wants to give him the living at Delaford so that he and Lucy may marry.  We see Elinor and Edward standing rather far apart in Mrs. Jennings’ house, and it’s obvious that they are telling each other how much they love each other, but without actually coming right out and saying it.  It’s just beautifully done, and I get all teary-eyed just thinking about it.  The scene at the end, where Elinor and Edward are at home at the Delaford parsonage is also very sweet and it never fails to make me smile.

The only things I really dislike about this adaptation concern Willoughby.  I think the opening scene, where we see the seduction of young Eliza by Willoughby, is completely inappropriate, and Dominic Cooper is simply not as drop-dead handsome and charming as the character is supposed to be. Davies does include the scene at Cleveland where Willoughby tells Elinor everything, but it’s not as well done here as I would have liked (I think he still comes off as a more sympathetic character than he should).  There are a couple of other quibbles I have with the production, but these are relatively minor and not worth going into in detail.  Davies does seem to have taken several scenes directly from S&S95, but they work for me, so I’m not going to complain.

All in all, this is a wonderful adaptation that really captures the spirit of the novel.  I cannot recommend it enough.

I’m just about ready to start reading Pride and Prejudice, and the next edition of our Jane Austen Odyssey will begin as soon as I’ve finished.  There are a whole lot of P&P adaptations/tributes just waiting to be watched, so I’m going to have to hurry up in order to get this done by the end of May.  Wish me luck!

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