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Posts Tagged ‘Sense & Sensibility 2008’

We continue our revisit with Sense and Sensibility and visual review of Part 2 of the movie (click here for Part 1) wherein Mrs. Ferrars is suitably creepy and mean, and Marianne’s tear ducts gush more water than the fountains at Chatsworth House. While many details in Jane’s novel were changed in this production, the film’s length was satisfying. Strangely I found many echoes of Emma Thompson’s and Ang Lee’s excellent 1995 film in this adaptation as well.

Margaret hiding in the library is a scene taken from the 1995 film.

Margaret hiding in the library is a scene taken from the 1995 film.

Lucy and Anne Steele had different accents. While Lucy seemed more refined, Anne stole the show.

Lucy and Anne Steele spoke in different accents. While Lucy seemed more refined, Anne was comedic.

Henry Dashwood, much older than in Jane's novel, seems a bit embarassed wearing those curls and collar.

Henry Dashwood, much older than in Jane's novel, seems a bit embarrassed wearing long curls and a frilly collar.

Edward chopping wood in the rain.

Working off his frustration, Edward chops wood in the rain.

Elinor talks to Edward in the rain.

Elinor, confused with Edward's behavior, talks to him in the rain.

In fact most of the outdoor shots were filmed in the rain.

In fact most of the outdoor shots were filmed in the rain.

In London Marianne looks for Willoughby in vain.

Newly arrived in London, Marianne looks for Willoughby in vain.

Lucy and Anne ogle the nasty beasts at the assembly.

Lucy and Anne ogle the nasty beasts, as Anne describes the men at the ball.

When she finds him she is seriously displeased.

When Marianne sees Willoughby she overcome.

Marianne finally receives a letter from Willoughby.

Marianne finally receives a tepid letter of explanation from Willoughby.

Edward awkwardly offers his arm to his betrothed in front of Elinor.

Edward awkwardly offers his arm to his betrothed in front of Elinor.

Elinor confesses to Marianne how unhappy she has been.

Elinor confesses to Marianne how unhappy she has been.

Mrs. Ferrars is seriously displeased with Edward when he confesses his engagement to Lucy.

Mrs. Ferrars is seriously displeased with Edward when he confesses his engagement to Lucy.

Fanny Dashwood, equally upset, holds onto her husband's hand.

Fanny Dashwood, equally upset with the news, clenches her husband's hand.

Marianne wants to leave London.

Marianne cannot wait to leave London for home.

Walking to Willoughby's house, Marianne is refreshed by the rain.

She walks to Willoughby's house in the rain and catches a lung infection, more reminiscent of the 1995 film than Jane's novel.

The colonel is beside himself with worry.

The colonel is beside himself with worry.

Charity Wakefield, looking suitably wan, properly thanks Colonel Brandon.

Marianne looked suitably wan in bed, but very pretty when she thanks the colonel.

An anguished Willoughby tries to convince Elinor that he truly cared for Marianne.

An anguished Willoughby tries to convince Elinor that he truly cared for Marianne.

The film ends on a happy and romantic note in a scene that is eerily similar to 1995's Sense and Sensibility.

The film ends on a happy and romantic note in a scene that is eerily similar to 1995's Sense and Sensibility.

The colonel carries his bride across the threshold.

The colonel carries his bride across the threshold.

My other Sense and Sensibility posts sit here, including Sense and Sensibility Soaked.

Post script: Where was Janet McTeer/Mrs. Dashwood? A fine actress, she wasn’t given much camera time except for reaction shots.

Think I'll add a few more Mrs. Dashwood lines in the script. Wonder if anyone will notice?

Think I'll add a few more Mrs. Dashwood lines in the script. Wonder if anyone will notice?

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Sense and Sensibility will have its second airing on PBS Masterpiece Classic tonight at 9 PM EST. For those who prefer not to watch the Super Bowl, this film provides a fine alternative viewing. Click here for my review, Sense and Sensibility Makes Sense for the Most Part. Click below to view the trailer for Part One:

I have since added more images from this adaptation to my collection.

The opening scene was a bit confusing. Who was making love and why?

The opening scene was a bit confusing. Who was making love and why? Does not this actress resemble Hattie Morahan?

The Dashwoods lived in a grand house when Mr. Dashwood unexpectedly died.

The Dashwoods lived in a grand house when Mr. Dashwood unexpectedly died.

Poor Mrs. Dashwood, Elinor and Marianne were still in deep mourning

Poor Mrs. Dashwood, Elinor and Marianne were still in deep mourning when ...

Fanny Dashwood was suitably creepy and mean

. . . John and Fanny Dashwood (who was suitably creepy and mean), showed up with very little notice.

She deserved to eat this unappetizing fish

Fanny deserved to eat this unappetizing fish ...

and to wear this terrible hairdo

... and to wear this terrible hairdo.

Edward was handsomer than expected

Edward was handsomer than expected ...

and so was Colonel Brandon

and so was Colonel Brandon.

In fact, both were more attractive than Willoughby, which is not what Jane Austen intended.

In fact, both were more attractive than Willoughby, which is not what Jane Austen intended.

Sir John Middleton ...

Sir John Middleton ...

... had quite a handsome family. We see them in so few movie adaptations.

... had quite a handsome family. We see them in so few movie adaptations.

Mrs. Jennings was vulgar and effusive as ever.

Mrs. Jennings was as vulgar and effusive as ever.

Barton Cottage was quite a comedown from Norland Park.

Barton Cottage was quite a comedown from Norland Park.

But they managed to make the best of the situation.

But the Dashwood ladies managed to make the best of the situation.

Stay tuned for more images next week … at this link.

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Have you noticed how dark the new adaptation of Sense and Sensibility seems? Every time I took a screen shot, I needed to use photoshop to lighten the scene, as with these images of Barton Cottage before and after. It rained almost the entire time that the production crew filmed the movie. “We were filming in Devon for a fortnight and filming was plagued by constant rain storms,” recalls Charity [Wakefield.]“That’s fine for the days when we needed it to rain, but I learned that normal rain doesn’t show up on screen. So, even though it was raining, we still had to have these massive rain machines. We were drenched. By the end of the day, you’ve been out in the rain for so long you’re soaked through and exhausted.” The two photographs show the actresses wearing rain hats and thick coats in between scenes. Brrrr.

It also rained throughout the scene in which Dan Stevens as Edward chopped wood. I got chilled merely thinking about how cold Hattie Morahan must have felt wearing only a dress and holding a shawl over her head. At least Dan had the opportunity to warm himself up through the exertion of chopping wood. However, I found nothing romantic about these scenes, which made me shiver despite our own early warm spring weather.

Whoever said that film making was glamorous, evidently never shot a movie on location during a rainy spell in Devon!

Read more here about the film and locations:

NEW! Click here to read Kaye Dacus’s comparison between Sense and Sensibility 2008 and S&S 1995!

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Watching the new adaptation of Sense and Sensibility, I realize I have a love/hate relationship with screenwriter Andrew Davies. I love him because he wrote the scripts for several of my favorite Jane Austen film adaptations and his movies are exciting to watch. I dislike his work because he tinkers with Jane’s intent and plot. He cannot leave well enough alone, and yet his movies of Jane’s novels attract huge ratings. Take this latest film adaptation, for example. I’m amazed by how much I like it, despite Andrew’s heavy hand in making the heroes seem more real and inserting scenes that Jane never intended. In fact, Mr. Davies’ name seems to be displayed as prominently in the credits as Jane Austen’s. Food for thought.
So what did I like and what didn’t I like about the film that caused me to continue my love/hate relationship with Mr. Davies? I’ll vent first, and discuss …

… A Few Pesky, Bothersome Moments

1) A Very Un-Janelike Sex Scene Opens the Film
There had been such a ruckus over the movie’s sexy opening sequence, that when I finally saw it my only thought was, “Meh, is that all?” The scene starts the film off on a wrong note, however, which takes away from the dramatic tension later on. Barbara Larochelle, the Sense and Sensibility discussion moderator on The Republic of Pemberley , explains in Sensibility Crashing Against Sense how the opening sequence dilutes the impact of the viewers’ dawning awareness that Willoughby is a cad and nothing like a romantic hero.

After the turgid opening scene, we are treated to the true beginning of Sense and Sensibility: the death of Mr. Dashwood and John’s promise to take care of his stepmother and stepsisters.

2) Making Fun of a Chubby Child
The plot quickens when Fanny Dashwood, with husband and child in tow, hastens to Norland Park the Monday after the funeral to assume her duties as its mistress. Her strong hold over John, as Davies implies as she blows out the candle, are her talents in bed. Fanny, played with just the right amount of snaky oiliness by Claire Skinner, firmly puts the kabosh on her husband’s plans to support his step mother and half sisters. Young Henry, or Harry, is depicted as a chubby child. Morgan Overton, the young actor who portrays him is forced to wear a frightful wig (or hairstyle), spectacles, and skeleton suit with frilly collared shirt. He is seen chomping on food almost the entire time he is on screen, except in this image. This stereotypical portrayal of an overweight child was obvious and unnecessary. Sorry Andrew, fat is not funny. Ever. Besides, Jane would not have taken such cheap pot shots.

3) Where are the Palmers and Lucy Steele?
Fast forward to life at Barton Cottage: Mrs. Dashwood now must live on a pitiful income of 500 pounds per year. This means serious economizing and downsizing for the ladies Dashwood. Frequent meals at Barton Park help to defray some expenses. We meet Sir John Middleton and his brood, and his mother-in-law, Mrs. Jennings. The Palmers were practically non-existent, however. A new viewer would have no concept of Mr. Palmer’s rudeness, for example, or of Mrs. Palmer’s irritating gaiety. Lucy Steele, who came across as sweet and ditzy rather than manipulative, was given so little screen time that her marriage to Robert Ferrars must have come as a complete surprise to those who had not read the novel. However, to be fair to Andrew Davies, we are treated to a fine characterization of Miss Anne Steele, who as played by Daisy Haggard, nearly steals the show.

4) Marianne is Gentled Like a Horse

After her illness, Marianne is “gentled” by Colonel Brandon. In fact, her mother and sister look on approvingly as they watch the Colonel use a classic horse training technique of turning his back to Marianne to pique her interest. (“Nine times out of ten a wild horse would follow”, as Elinor remarked, watching the Colonel in action). In Mr. Davies quest to show Jane’s heroes in a more manly setting, we also see the Colonel tenderly handle a hawk. As Marianne looks on with stars in her eyes, Colonel Brandon commands softly, “Come here.” How subtle was that message? Excuse me, Mr. Davies, but women are not chattel and I was a bit put off by these scenes. As Mr. Knightley would say, “That was very badly done.”

However, I Liked this Film Adaptation Overall …

… and the aforementioned concerns did not ruin my enjoyment of the movie. Of the four new adaptations based on Jane’s novels shown this season, it is the best one. The film’s three-hour length allowed for a more leisurely exploration of Marianne’s infatuation with Willoughby (Dominic Cooper). We also see more of Colonel Brandon (David Morrissey), who is given as much screen time as Willoughby. We meet Mrs. Ferrars (Jean Marsh), a character as formidable and steely-eyed as Lady Catherine de Bourgh, and, as mentioned before, Lucy Steele’s vulgar sister, Anne, makes an unforgettable appearance. However, other characters are hardly given the time of day, which makes me wish that all Jane Austen adaptations are required to be six hours in length, like A&E’s Pride and Prejudice.

I loved Hattie Morahan’s performance as Elinor Dashwood. Her Elinor is stoic, restrained, and vulnerable. We can feel her internal pain and struggle over Edward’s engagement to Lucy Steele, and at Marianne’s side during her illness. In fact, I will no longer be able to read S&S in the future without seeing Hattie as Elinor.

If you have seen my avatar, you must have guessed how much I admire Kate Winslet’s robust performance as Marianne. In addition, my Jane Austen character quiz profile is Marianne, so I am particularly fond of this 17-year-old heroine. While I adore Kate’s interpretation, I found Charity Wakefield’s Marianne equally compelling, though in a sweeter, quieter way. She is young enough to play the part of a teenager, and her large expressive eyes lent a piquant touch to her character’s mixture of recklessness, immaturity, and innocence. In this adaptation Marianne is so heedless of convention, she is shown visiting Allenham with Willoughby, not merely speeding through town in a phaeton as in the 1996 adaptation.

I also thought that Marianne’s illness in the 2008 film adaptation, while not strictly accurate, was closer to Jane’s original intent. In the 1996 movie version, Marianne walked for miles in the rain to view Willoughby’s estate, and the sickroom scenes were so overwrought with emotion, that I thought, “Enough!” In this film’s more restrained sick room scenes, Colonel Brandon’s concern over Marianne’s condition is stressed as much as Elinor’s. His visit to her sick bed sets the stage for Marriane’s developing relationship with the Colonel and her interest in him as a suitor.

David Morrissey plays the Colonel heroically, and in my mind his interpretation of the character surpasses Alan Rickman’s. One explanation for this is that the Colonel’s scenes are fleshed out in S&S 2008, and we get to know him as a man as well as a long-suffering hero. Mr. Morrissey is also much handsomer than Jane describes, which places Dominic Cooper in a difficult position. His Willoughby is not quite good looking enough to play the role of a man who is described as surpassingly handsome. In fact, Dominic reminds me of The Artful Dodger all grown up. I know looks aren’t everything, but I fail to understand why Marianne is so drawn to Willoughby when such a handsome Colonel has been courting her. Oh, I know she was turned off by the Colonel’s age, but David Morrissey is so yummy that any self-respecting girl in need of a husband would not quibble with the age difference if he came a’calling.

Dan Stevens as Edward Ferrars is also too handsome for the part, though I liked his kind eyes and expressive face. He is well matched with Hattie Morrahan in looks and height, and they seem like a perfect couple. It is entirely believable that Dan/Edward would be happy living the simple life of a minister in a small cottage with his frugal and practical Elinor.

Except for the Marianne-in-training sequences, I rather enjoyed our glimpses of our heroes in manly scenes, cutting wood, hunting, hawking, or riding flat out. Such touches are what make Andrew Davies adaptations stand out from the rest of the field.

I finish this review with Mrs. Dashwood. Ever since I saw Janet McTeer in Songcatcher, I have adored her. An actress with a remarkable scope and range, she played the widow and loving mother with the right amount of grief, bewilderment, and strength. Her realization that her cushy life was over when Elinor rejected her first two choices for a rental house foreshadowed the challenges she would have to face as a poor widow. However, except for some crucial scenes, Janet was given remarkably little to do in this film except to stand still for reaction shots. This is another strong argument for shooting a mini-series.

I have seen this film three times already and intend to see it again tonight. Needless to say, I highly recommend it. Oh, dear, I just had a thought. What will I do with my Sunday nights after The Complete Jane Austen series has ended? Watch A Room With a View, of course. The movie will be aired on Masterpiece Classic, April 13th, one week after Part II of Sense and Sensibility has aired.

Click here for my 2009 review of Sense and Sensibility, which features additional images.

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True or False? A single woman in possession of a good fortune has some free will in the choice of a husband. False, as far as Mrs. Ferrars and Fanny Dashwood are concerned. The woman in question is Miss Morton, the late Lord Morton’s only daughter. This young lady not only comes from a good family, she is in possession of £30,000. Such prized attributes make her a hot commodity on the regency marriage mart.

In Sense and Sensibility, the reader is made acutely aware that Mrs. Ferrars has chosen Miss Morton for her eldest son, Edward. The readers never meet this poor girl, although her unseen presence looms large in the novel. Edward’s purse strings are controlled by his mother, and he stands to lose a fortune if he refuses to obey her. As Fanny Dashwood is quick to remind Mr. Dashwood, Edward will do his mother’s bidding. He has no choice.

Unbeknownst to both Fanny and Mrs. Ferrars, however, Edward has been engaged these many years to Lucy Steele, a little miss nobody with nothing but air and dust in her coffers. As soon as Mrs. Ferrars discovers this unpleasant fact, she disinherits Edward, and quickly switches sons on poor Miss Morton. This suggests that Robert and Edward are fairly interchangeable in their mother’s eyes*, and that Miss Morton would hardly notice the difference between them. (Or care if she did.)

As Miss Morton is lobbed from one son to the next, we begin to feel sorry for her. There is no mention of love or affection, merely the assumption that just as the Ferrars are after Miss Morton’s fortune, so Miss Morton must covet the Ferrars’s fortune. A conversation between an incredulous Elinor and her half-brother John Dashwood illustrates the point:

“We think NOW,”–said Mr. Dashwood, after a short pause, “of ROBERT’S marrying Miss Morton.”

Elinor, smiling at the grave and decisive importance of her brother’s tone, calmly replied,

“The lady, I suppose, has no choice in the affair.”

“Choice!–how do you mean?”

“I only mean that I suppose, from your manner of speaking, it must be the same to Miss Morton whether she marry Edward or Robert.”

“Certainly, there can be no difference; for Robert will now to all intents and purposes be considered as the eldest son;–and as to any thing else, they are both very agreeable young men: I do not know that one is superior to the other.”

Poor Miss Morton: first regarded as a piece of goods, and then jilted by two men! What a degrading situation. Wait, perhaps not. She escaped a lifetime of domination by an awful mother-in-law. We might laugh today at this comedic situation, but in a highly stratified society the BUSINESS of marriage was taken seriously. After coming out, young women were expected to display themselves and their talents in the best light possible, or their prospects of marriage might dim. They spent the social whirl meeting the right people and being seen in the right places. I suspect, however, that Miss Morton with her £30,000 pounds would be regarded as a diamond of the first water even if she developed acne, and had cross eyes and a snaggle tooth.

For more on the topic, please click on the links below:

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Laurie Viera Rigler, author of Confessions of a Jane Austen Addict and Margaret C. Sullivan, author of the Jane Austen Handbook, have just completed their thoughts about Sense and Sensibility 2008. Click on PBS’s Remotely Connected to read their views.

Then tune in on PBS Sunday night at 9 P.M. to watch the movie on Masterpiece Classic. The film will be show in two parts on March 30th and April 6th.

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PBS Masterpiece Classic resumed The Complete Jane Austen last Sunday with the rebroadcast of the 1997 adaptation of Emma. My favorable review of the film sits in the post below. Ellen Moody expressed different thoughts about Mr. Knightley in her blog, Ellen and Jim Have a Blog, Too. Click here to read why she thinks there’s something odd about him.

Ellen is the creator of the Jane Austen almanac. If you haven’t yet come across her calendars of Jane’s novels, click here. They are remarkably useful.

Kaye Daycus compared the two Emmas in her Fun Friday review. I wonder what she’ll come up with for this Friday?

As always, there’s a lively discussion going on at Austen Blog. This time it’s Emma’s turn. Join in the fun and leave your opinion.

Over at Jane Austen Today, the second guest blogger, Barbara Larochelle, moderator of the Sense and Sensibility discussion group at The Republic of Pemberley, gives us her thoughts about the new film adaptation of Sense & Sensibility. I believe she likes it.

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