Sense & Sensibility (2008)

Sense and Sensibility
Hattie Morahan (Elinor), Charity Wakefield (Marianne), Janet McTeer (Mrs. Dashwood), Dan Stevens (Edward)

Directed by John Alexander; adapted by Andrew Davies

Plot: Impoverished sisters, one practical and one hopelessly romantic, find themselves entangled bounders and a few truly hideous family members. Commence with the tears and heaving bosoms until, at last, a pair of happy endings.

I don't blame this adaptation for its lack of Rickman, Grant, and Laurie, because that would be patently unfair. I mean, really unfair. And I don't blame it for the knock-off casting--how Morahan sounded like Emma Thompson and Wakefield's rounded face and curls blatantly echoed Kate Winslet's beauty.

I blame it because it didn't even try to do something new.

The reason why I was so generous with the Keira Knightley Pride and Prejudice, even though it is not as satisfying as the Firth/Ehle version and has that prickly American ending that fans either love or hate, was because it tried for something new. Darcy was younger. Lizzie was a bit more impetuous. The Bennetts were poorer and more loving with each other. The Georgian era made for a change of costume, and the rougher portrayal of life added an extra layer of class divide. And then there was the near-kiss, which made the whole damn picture for me. Differences. Welcome ones.

OK, so setting P&P aside, what did this new S&S contribute to the gathering lore of Austen adaptations? Um, the missing Miss Steele? She made me laugh, coz I'm a simpleton. A duel? True, but not a very sexy one. A seaside setting? Yes, yes, very nice. But the men were less dynamic, the language was plainer, and the costumes--although perhaps more authentic--were generally not as fine.

Emma Thompson and Hugh Grant in Sense and SensibilityAgain with the authenticity, I bet if I went through the book, line for line, and compared it to each version, Davies' adaptation would be the more faithful. Thompson, who adapted it for the screen, was probably very aware of her own place in the film as an actress, so she had a dozen wonderful scenes and choice lines. Her finale with Hugh Grant still rocks out--even "The Vicar of Dibley" talks about that noise she makes, because it was so damn memorable. Brilliant.

(Note: I could've included pics from the version I'm actually reviewing, but I didn't want to.)

Alan Rickman as Colonel BrandonEverything about Thompson's screenplay had more life, more spark between the sisters particularly, more humor, and some of the best lines in romance. "The air is filled with spices." "Brandon is the sort of man everyone speaks well of, but no one remembers to talk to." "People always live forever when there is an annuity to be paid." "Believe me, Marianne, had I not been bound to silence I could have provided proof enough of a broken heart, even for you." "Neither of us have anything to tell. I because I conceal nothing and you because you communicate nothing." And the pièce de résistance: "Give me an occupation, Miss Dashwood, or I shall run man."

I'm a messy, nasty, snotty puddle by the time the movie is finished, in part because Ang Lee who directed the Thompson version has a knack for seriously tearjerker endings. But this miniseries did nothing but drag. For the final third, I was merely waiting to see how the big reveal between Edward and Elinor would play out. It was ok, which is all I can say for this as a whole. Not bad, not great, just ok. And seriously pointless.

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