Sense and Sensibility

I don’t know whether it makes, um, sense to say anything about the new Sense and Sensibility when we’ve only seen half of it, especially since for the life of me I can’t think of anything original or witty to say about it. But I shan’t let little things like that stop me!

The first thing to strike us–after the sex scene at the beginning–was how very like the 1995 Ang Lee/Emma Thompson version it was. A quick look about the more Janely neighbourhoods of the web confirmed that we were hardly alone in noticing. Given the talent involved in this production I had really expected something more original. Besides the skin, I mean. Not that following the older version is entirely a bad thing–it was, after all, very well done.

Some specifics. Dan Stevens as Edward Ferrars looked rather like Hugh Grant: certainly neither quite fit the description of Edward as “not handsome.” Perhaps that’s because “not handsome” doesn’t really work for leading men in movies and on television. Similarly neither’s manners would seem to “require intimacy to make them pleasing,” but again that might not work particularly well on television. I’ll reserve further comment on Edward until I see more of him next week.

Little Margaret also seems to be treated much as she was in the 1995 film, down to her hiding in the library. I’m not sure I could tell the two Fannys apart. The very first (non-sex) scene, Fanny talking John out of supporting his stepmother and sisters, seemed lifted directly from the older one, although I suppose that in that case they both stay fairly close to the book.

Where I disagree with some of the other comments I’ve seen (and with my wife) is about Hattie Morahan’s Elinor. I did not think she was noticably aping Emma Thompson–she can hardly help having an alto voice and acting, well, sensible. Indeed I thought she was quite perfect in the role. Not to mention closer to the proper age than Ms. Thompson was (Ang Lee is said to have told her not to look “so old.”).

I haven’t been able to get used to David Morrissey’s Colonel Brandon. He’s just too darned manly and heroic for what I think of as a rather sad character. Have I been overly influenced by Alan Rickman’s melancholy Brandon? Probably. I also might feel differently if I were a woman. Or gay.

Conversely I thought Dominic Cooper’s Wickham was a bit wimpy, but that might be appropriate to the sort of (apparent) swoony romantic Marianne likes.

One jarring aspect of many of these latter-day adaptations is the massive romantic over-dramatization of the incidentals. The beautiful and craggy seascapes, the pounding hooves in breakneck carriage rides, the dramatic and anachronistic incidental music–these things don’t say “Jane Austen” to me. To quote the New Yorker‘s review of Pride and Prejudice, “Jane Austen has been Brontëfied.” Although it’s not just Jane; I found the scene transitions in Bleak House fairly unbearable (my only complaint with that production).

Although I just quibbled about the anachronistic incidental music, I was greatly pleased with the, I’m not sure what to call it, maybe “non-incidental music?” What Marianne played on the piano (and it sounded like a period spinet, not a modern piano!), I mean. I’ll have to figure out what those pieces were.

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