Saturday, August 24, 2013

Sense and Sensibility (2008): A Review

  Sense and Sensibility is my favourite Jane Austen story. It has been ever since I saw the 1995 movie several years ago, which quickly became one of my favourite movies ever, if not my very favourite. However, until less than a year ago, I had no idea that another version of Sense and Sensibility even existed, so when I heard of this one, I naturally knew right away that it would not be nearly as good as the 1995 version. For a long time I didn't even have an interest in seeing it at all, but just recently my sister and I decided to just go ahead and watch it, just to see what it was like.
 I didnt' really have very high expectations, and to be honest, I was prepared to despise it. So, Andrew Davies wanted his chance at Sense and Sensibility, did he? I had read several reviews and heard good things and bad things about this adaptation, but the only way to find out what it was really like was to watch it.
 It wasn't as bad as it could have been, maybe not even as bad as I thought it would be. Actually, it wasn't bad at all. Well, maybe the first scene could easily be classified as "bad" (we skipped it altogether since we had read it was rather "racy"), but in short the miniseries was pretty tolerable. My sisters and I have been calling it "that awful miniseries", but that's really only a joke. : P
  I've decided to write my own review, to express my thoughts on this adaptation, and to compare it with my beloved 1995 version. So be warned, people. There is bound to be ramblings and comparisons ahead, so if you are one of those who prefers this version and does not like to hear it made downplayed or made fun of, you may not wish to proceed. However, if you enjoy ramblings and comparisons, criticisms, poking fun at Andrew Davies and the like, then read on. : )

 Naturally I had my doubts about Hattie Morahan as Elinor, but I was pleasantly surprised by her performance. Unlike Emma Thompson, she was exactly the right age, and although at first glance you might not think her very pretty, I think she was just pretty enough for Elinor without being beautiful, as Marianne is supposed to be. All in all, I thought she played the part very well, which is more than I had expected. I can't think of anyone who would have played the part better, and I now I would very much like to see more of Hattie Morahan. 

  Apparently it's "in" to stand on cliffs wearing long coats with the wind blowing your hair. Just an observation.

 As for Marianne...hmm. I don't think I even have to say that Charity Wakefield was not the Marianne that Kate Winslet was. Besides that, I don't think she's very pretty. She might be considered pretty, but as my sister thoughtfully pointed out, she probably wouldn't have been considered pretty back then. I wasn't too impressed with her acting skills, either. At times she made Marianne seem spoiled and ungrateful ("There's nothing to wear! Why are we so poor?"), and at other times she made her just seem....stupid. It is my opinion that while Marianne is passionate to the point of being ridiculous and sometimes so impatient as to be rude, she is not truly ill-mannered or ungrateful. Charity Wakefield made the character seem so shallow, and I didn't like that. She also made her seem extremely self-absorbed, which I supposed Marianne is to a certain extent, but I really didn't like the scene when Colonel Brandon comes to Barton Cottage and Marianne deliberately avoids seeing him by going outside in the rain, especially with Margaret complaining about the rain and how stupid her big sister can be. Alright, she didnt' say those exact words, but no doubt that's what she was thinking! And why did Marianne have to drag Margaret along anyway? The whole thing seemed unfair. I was practically seething. And then Willoughby showed up, which only compounded the situation, but we won't go into Willoughby at this moment. So no, I didn't like Charity Wakefiled as Marianne at all.

  Despite my dislike of Marianne, she and Elinor did really seem like sisters, so that at least is to the actresses' credit. There seemed to be a lot of scenes at night when they were going to bed, which became a little repetitive, but  overall I think they both did a nice job with the sister relationship.

 Janet McTeer was kind of pathetic as Mrs. Dashwood. I know Mrs. Dashwood is supposed to be kind of overly emotional and whiny at times, but this Mrs. Dashwood seemed to have very little personality. She wasnt' exactly a bad actress, but she had one very great fault: she was not Gemma Jones. (And yes, that was a Marianne quote, in case you didnt' catch that. One of the rather stupid ones, I might add.) I'm not really sure why they couldnt' cast this thing better, because most people were very disappointing in their roles, but I suppose it is not for me to criticize anyone. (Hehee, that was a joke.) She wasn't horrible, but she could have been so much better. Actually, if you ask me, no one could be better in the role than Gemma Jones, but then, you didn't ask me. : P 

  Lucy Boynton is adorable. I think the very first I heard of this miniseries was when I found out she was Margaret. I've always thought she was a good actress for being so young, and even though this was not one of her best roles that I've seen, I thought she did alright. I was a little surprised that they called her Meg instead of Margaret, but that does seem more like a little girls' name than Margaret, and even though it was complete improvisation, I was okay with it. Some of her lines were cute, and others you could tell were supposed to be cute but just came across as sort of annoying, but most of the time she was cute.

I'll admit, one of the main reasons why I finally decided to just go ahead and watch this adaptations was because of Dan Stevens. Ever since seeing him as Matthew Crawley in Downton Abbey, Dan Stevens has been one of my favourite actors. And he was perfect....only he wasn't Edward. Dan Stevens made Edward the perfect gentleman, but he wasn't awkward like Hugh Grant was in the 1995 adaptation. He didn't try to become a gentleman and live up to his mother's high expectations of him simply because he neither wanted to nor cared, whereas Hugh Grant not only didn't care, but he didn't really know how. I thought he did a very good job (well, OF COURSE he did!), he just wasn't the Edward I know and love. Maybe his Edward is close to the book, but I will always prefer Hugh Grant.

 The scene where Edward is chopping wood was possibly one of my favourites in the entire miniseries. : ) I know that must sound extremely fangirly of me, but it's true. Sadie pointed out, though, that they kind of stole the scene from Amazing Grace, since it's raining and he has his coat off and everything, but I didn't really mind! In the next scene when he leaves Barton Cottage, I wanted to say, "Wait, Edward! We need more wood!" Actually, I may have said it out loud. I may even have shouted it.

    While he was tolerable as Edward Ferrars, to me Dan Stevens will always be Matthew Crawley, and Hugh Grant will always be Edward Ferrars.

He's smiling.
 Colonel Brandon was Bradley Headstone. *Ahem* THAT didn't go over too well at first, but surprisingly he was one of the better actors and I actually didn't mind him as much as I thought I would. He wasn't perfect, but he did alright. His worst scene was probably the one where Colonel Brandon tells Elinor about Willoughby, because I couldnt' really take him seriously since, you know, he's Mr. Headstone. It really is a pity that David Morrissey will always be marked from now on in my mind! However, it was nice to see him as a decent character for a change, and he did do tolerably well.

Dominic Cooper was probably the worst cast character in the entire miniseries. He was AWFUL. Greg Wise's Willoughby was charming and handsome and realistically pitiable, but this Willoughby was just plain-down horrible. He wasn't even handsome, for goodness' sake. He wasn't even within ten miles of being handsome. It is supposed to be understandable why Marianne falls in love with Willoughby, but the whole time we were thinking, WHY does she even like him????
The scene where Willoughby cuts off a lock of Marianne's hair was just plain creepy. "Pleeeaasssse, let meeeee." But then, he was just plain creepy. Which brings me to another point: Willoughby isn't a creep. He is a scoundrel, yes, but not a creep. In the 1995 version (see? I warned you there would be comparisons!), in the scene where Willoughby tells the Dashwoods that he has to leave for London on business, you could tell that he did love Marianne and was truly sorry to leave her and that it actually pained him to go away. In this adaptations, he was like, "Oh, sorry, I have to go to London on business.... no, I don't think I'll ever come was nice meeting you....bye." He was even kind of smiling, like it was no big deal that he had to leave! Arggg. Several times throughout the miniseries I just felt like telling him to shut up. Actually, I may have once or twice. : P
  Please someone tell me that the scene where Willoughby comes to Cleveland is not in the book. That was just weird. After he had deceived Marianne, deceived them all, broken her heart and married an heiress, he still had the nerve to come back? I thought Elinor told him off just fine. Who cares about your lonely soul, Willoughby.

  Sir John Middleton was, like most everyone else, a complete disappointment in comparison to Robert Hardy (a.k.a. Mr. Tite Barnacle.) He did look a lot like someone I know, though, so that was pretty funny.  : P In the old version, Sir John was annoying but still kind and generous, but this Sir John was basically just annoying. And his mother, oh! Was it just me, or did she bear a striking resemblance to Mr. F's Aunt in Little Dorrit? She was almost unbearable. I'm afraid that almost the entire time we were watching this, my sisters and I kept pointing out how much better everyone was in the old one. 

 Fanny Dashwood was even more horrible than in the '95 version. She was literally insufferable. She was almost too awful, and whenever she was on screen I just wanted to slap her. Harriet Walter was not nearly this bad! I know Fanny is supposed to be awful, but is she really supposed to be quite this awful? And her son was the ugliest child I do believe I have ever laid eyes on, impolite as it may be for me to say so. In short, I was glad she wasn't in it any more than she was, and if she had been in even less I would have been okay with that.

I love Anne's face in this picture. : )
  The Steele sisters were absolutely hilarious. Ever since we finished it, I have been quoting Anne's line "Oh, I always say the wrong thing!" over and over. And what was with her northern English/American/weird accent? I don't know, but she absolutely put me in stitches. Of course, by the time the Steeles appeared on screen, I was already in stitches and still recovering from Edward's Chopping Wood scene, so....yeah. I'm glad they added Anne, because in the old one they left her out and I think she was a nice addition, providing some much-needed humour.
 The scene where Anne accidentally tells Fanny Dashwood and Mrs. Ferrars Edward and Lucy's secret was a riot. Anne's just sitting there stitching away, rambling on and on without thinking and then suddenly--
  "I'm sorry! It just popped out!"

 Oh my goodness, the Palmers were just awful. I can't even find a picture of them at this moment and I don't really want to waste time trying, but they were nothing like Hugh Laurie and Imelda Staunton in the old version. That's another thing about this version: the '95 version was chock-a-block full of excellent actors, and this one had about....three. Even the smaller characters were great actors in the old one, but in this one people like the Palmers were just obscure "dummy actors", as Michael Gambon would say. Mr. Palmer had about three lines, and Mrs. Palmer had none of the silliness that Imelda Staunton had. She and her mother (Mr. F's Aunt) were not even in the least funny together, they were just boring. That was the main problem with most of the actors: they were boring. The main reason why Anne Steele was so entertaining was because everyone else was so unutterably dull that by the time she appeared on screen we were like, "Finally, a character with personality!" That is not to say that no one had personality-- Elinor did, and Edward did, but most everyone else was just blah. So well done, Anne Steele. Turns out, you don't always say the wrong thing.

  The duel scene was rather far-fetched. I haven't read the entire novel (yes, I know, I know, for shame), but something tells me that this scene was something old Andrew Davies just decided to make up to add unnecessary drama. I mean, really, sword-fighting in Jane Austen is pretty much nonexistent. I for one thought it was weird.

  The end was absolutely adorable. I loved the scene where Edward comes back and finally declared his true feelings for Elinor, only Sadie kind of ruined it by randomly announcing that she was not going to use hairspray for her skating exhibition that evening. Still, it was beautiful, and I thought Hattie Morahan did and exceptional job with that scene in particular. And Edward running around chasing chickens was one of the most adorable things I ever saw. : )

  I have always thought that Marianne and Colonel Brandon's wedding was rather sudden, and it seemed even more sudden in this adaptation because Marianne had been so indifferent and even rude to the Colonel until after he rescues her (from her own stupidity, I might add), and then one night she suddenly says, "Elinor, Colonel Brandon asked me to marry him and I said yes." I suppose it is meant to be sudden, but I thought they made it happen a little too fast.

  Another thing I thought was odd: why did they live by the sea? It's Devonshire, not Cornwall! Suddenly the fact that they lived on the coast was a huge element. The whole shell thing was pretty strange too. All in all I thought the cinematography of this version was much darker and more subdued than the old one, which I didn't really care for. Jane Austen isn't supposed to be so dark, in my opinion.
 Also, I thought most of the music was too dark and gloomy. It was alright, but nothing to scream about. I first heard of composer Martin Phipps when I saw North and South, but this music wasn't nearly as good. It was pretty, but it was a little too repetitive and the soundtrack only seemed to have two or three themes that were played over and over and over again. Most of it sounded a bit too modern for the story too, especially the theme that is played near the end when Elinor is shown standing on the dock and then sitting on a bench on the shore. I was kind of disappointed that the music wasn't better, since I love the North and South music so much. Sadie declared that Martin Phipps must be taking stupid lessons from John Williams. (Kudos if you can name what movie that's from!) : P

 Most of the filming was pretty dark, and the sun only shone a few times. Most of the scenery was pretty, though, except Barton Cottage was even more run-down and lilliputiant than it was in the '95 version. Sadie and I immediately recognized Norland as Thornfield Hall from Jane Eyre (2011), and so then when we saw that Delaford was Donwell, I thought, hmmm. Have we stooped to stealing locations, Andrew Davies? Actually, Sense and Sensibility was filmed before bothe Emma and Jane Eyre, so nevermind. : P

The costumes were very pretty, for the most part, but....yes, you know what I'm going to say: they just weren't as pretty as the 1995 ones! Elinor's dresses were my favourites, and I liked how the girls wore the same dresses over and over again, because it showed that they didn't really have very many dresses to choose from. Most of Marianne's dresses were pretty too, but some of them were a bit more colorful and bright than I generally like. Most of the time Marianne looked kind of disheveled too, I'm not sure why. Maybe it was because she wore her hair down.....? What I want to know is, how come so many more people complain about Keira Knightley wearing her hair down in Pride and Prejudice, and then Charity Wakefield just gets away with it without remark? Well, I'm remarking. It looked sloppy. Come on, Andrew Davies, this is the Regency, remember? (Not that Andrew Davies has been promoted to hairstylist, but he does have influence.)

   All in all, I was annoyed by some things (*ahem*, Willoughby), but I was also pleasantly surprised by other things, and I am glad I watched it after all. In my opinion it is not nearly as good as the 1995 version, but it is worth watching if you like the story or if you just like period dramas in general.

Have you seen this adaptation?
Do you prefer this one or the older one?


  1. Interesting. It's been years since I saw the 1995 version, and while I just read the book last year, I can't remember if Willoughby came to Cleveland or not (but I think he did). However, I find Dominic Cooper attractive, and I think Willoughby is really creepy (impregnating an orphaned girl and abandoning her is creepy, in my book), so I'm actually kind of interested in this version just cuz of him.

  2. UH! From the pictures is doesn't look very good :) Thanks for this review! I had heard that they were making another one and wanted to know what is was like, this gives me the whole picture :P Hehee, I love your fangirly thing, me and Ally do that A LOT! :P


  3. NOT that I like creepy guys! I didn't mean that I was interested in seeing this because Willoughby is creepy, but because I think Dominic Cooper is an interesting actor, so I'd like to see him in the role. Does that make sense? Lol.

  4. I absolutely ADORE S&S '95. I did a review of it here

    I have always been opposed to watching the Andrew Davies' version of S&S, because, really, what could compare with Emma Thompson's?

    Maybe I'll watch it someday, but I keep hearing/reading that its "ok, but not like Emma Thompson's S&S

    Great review!

  5. Hi Maddie Rose!
    I'm glad you liked the review! Yes, I also adore the 1995 version! Emma Thompson is my second favourite actress and everyone is so perfectly cast, and the music is so's just perfect! : ) This one doesn't even compare in my opinion, but if you're a Dan Stevens fan (which I happen to be, in case you couldn't tell : P), it's worth watching. Hattie Morahan did a great job too, but still not as wonderful as Emma Thompson.
    I will have to read your review of S&S 1995! I promise I will, if I don't get to it right away. : )


  6. I adore this version! I liked most all of the actors/actresses better than the 1995 version. It is one of my favorite period dramas :)

  7. Hi Kristalyn,
    I'm glad you liked liked this version! I myself didn't really care for it and much prefer the '95 version, but I did think Hattie Morahan did a very nice job playing Elinor and there were a few other things I liked about it.
    With that said, I hope I didn't say anything too upsetting in this review! Thanks for commenting! : )

  8. Emma Jane, you didn't say anything to upset me. Difference of opinion makes the world go round :)

  9. Hello Emma!
    I will be commenting on this post with my thoughts on the 2008 version. You have probably read my review also :). I'm sorry this will probably be another long comment..

    I had my doubts about Hattie too and Yes I also was pleasently surpirse. I really liked her performance but for me Emma Thompson is Elinor.

    Interesting, I really liked her performance but I think I liked Kate's a little more.. :)

    Yes they were very much like sisters. Well I haven't got a sister so I don't know what it would be like having one. :(

    I agree on Mrs Dashwood and Margret also! :).

    Yes! I watched this series becuase of Dan as well, isn't that a coincidence. :D.. I kind of liked his performance a little more than Hugh's probably as he is how I pictured Edward when I first read the book.

    I haven't seen David in anyother roles so for me he will always be Colonel Brandon. I love Alan Rickman's performance a little more but I agree that David did do a good job.

    Finally someone who captures what I thought about Willoughby, well said!

    Hahahaha the steele sisters made me laugh so much! It was so good! :D

    anyhow.. I really liked this version but it is nothing compared to my beloved 1995 version. :)

  10. Hi Emma Jane,

    I have seen this version too, and I like it very much.
    I like both versions. But I like Kate Winslet as Marianne and Hattie Morahan as Elinor more. I like Dan Stevens as Edward Ferrars and the Colonel Brandon from 1995 also more.
    Great review!
    (We skipped the first part too ;-))
    I understand your opinion of Willoughby. I don't like him at all!
    I think Margaret from 2008 is better.



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