Monday, March 28, 2011

Review: Sense and Sensibility (2008)

I had gotten a couple of requests on here about this version of Sense and Sensibility. I was a little skeptical about this version, since I am so fond of the Emma Thompson version. I know with the Emma Thompson version, they did leave out a lot of scenes and characters (which I found out as I was reading the book), but I still liked it a lot despite all that was missing. Then I watched this version, and I still liked it, but I did notice some similarities and differences. Here are my thoughts on this version. Note: I do tend to make comparisons to the 1995 movie in this review, so be warned. :-)

Box Art
Synopsis - Taken from the review for Sense and Sensibility (1995)
Sense and Sensibility follows the story of two sisters: sensible Elinor Dashwood (Hattie Morahan) and passionate Marianne Dashwood (Charity Wakefield). When their father Mr. Henry Dashwood dies, his property, Norland, is passed to his son from his first marriage, John Dashwood. Before he died, Henry Dashwood made John promise to take care of his current wife and three daughters (Elinor, Marianne, and Margaret). John promises to take care of them and wants to give them some money, but he is persuaded by his wife, Fanny, not to. Meanwhile, the Dashwood women prepare to receive John and Fanny, and when they arrive, Fanny announces that her brother Edward Ferrars (Dan Stevens) will be joining them. Edward arrives and him and Elinor form an attachment, which is broken off by Fanny.

There are a few actors and actresses that you might recognize. Linda Bassett, who was Mrs. Jennings, was on Lark Rise to Candleford, Dan Stevens (Edward Ferrars) is on Downton Abbey, and Hattie Morahan was on one episode of Lark Rise to Candleford.

A lot of the characters that were left out of the 1995 movie were included in this miniseries. We get to see Lady Middleton (she was dead in the 1995 movie), the Middleton children (there were no children in the movie), Harry Dashwood (John and Fanny's son who wasn't in the movie at all), Anne Steele (who wasn't in the movie), and Mrs. Ferrars (who was only mentioned in the movie). There were also scenes that were included in this version that were left out of the 1995 movie: Willoughby's confession scene, the dinner with Mrs. Ferrars, among others.

Anne and Lucy Steele talking with Elinor.
The addition of Anne Steele, Mrs. Ferrars, and the Middletons were very good editions. I have always wondered with the 1995 movie what it would be like if those characters were added in. Anne Steele was very amusing: Spoiler the scene where she tells Fanny about Lucy's engagement to Edward was hilarious! End of Spoiler I thought, however, that there should have been more scenes with Lady Middleton and Mrs. Palmer, but definitely with Mrs. Palmer. She wasn't in the miniseries as often as she should have been. I was happy that they included the dinner with Mrs. Ferrars; the 1995 movie left out that Edward was supposed to marry Miss Morton, but I'm glad that they included that with the dinner scene.

Margaret Dashwood's character, I could nearly swear, was taken from the 1995 movie. In the movie, she was hiding under a table in the library and was prone to be a little shy. Here, they have her hiding under the bed, hiding up trees, and (in a similar scene) she was crouched down behind a table in the library at Norland and from the screen view almost looks like she was hiding. Also, like in the movie, they show the friendship between her and Edward, something that was not in the book. I am glad that they made Margaret thirteen instead of a few years younger like in the movie.
Left to Right: Colonel Brandon, Edward Ferrars,
John Willoughby, Marianne Dashwood, and Elinor Dashwood.

Elinor and Marianne were portrayed well. I thought that Marianne should have been a little more emotional (just enough to prove Jane Austen's point on how over-emotion can be a bad thing). But overall, I thought these were good portrayals of Elinor and Marianne.

I thought that the actor who was Willoughby was too creepy for his role. I know he isn't a good character, but the Dashwood women were supposed to notice how handsome, charming, and unthreatening he was. Here, it seemed that anyone would be creeped out by him and you couldn't trust him just by looking at him. *shudders*

The scenery was a little dark for an Austen adaptation. I know Sense and Sensibility isn't as lighthearted as Pride and Prejudice or Emma, but I didn't think that it was very dark, just serious. The colors were also a little washed-out and dull for my taste; it seemed like many days were cloudy for the Dashwoods. The scenery would have been much better if there was more color present.

There were a couple of invented scenes. Like the 1995 movie, invented was the scene in which Marianne goes out for a walk in the rain at Cleveland, gets sick, and needs Colonel Brandon to bring her back. There were also scenes added to develop Edward's friendship with Margaret.

I also want to include a small note: I did not watch the first scene of this miniseries. A while ago, I saw what it was and turned it off. It was a bit of a mature scene (which I thought was out of place since Jane Austen didn't go into detail about that part). But when I heard that it was the only mature scene throughout the whole miniseries, I gave it a second chance. I can assure you that throughout the rest of the miniseries there weren't any more mature scenes.
Elinor, Marianne, and Mrs. Jennings at the ball in London.

I did like the costuming, although I found the dresses to have a rather low waistline for the Regency era. The costuming seemed to go back and forth between Regency era gown to Gregorian gowns, which for some characters I found a little confusing, namely for Mrs. Ferrars. Mrs. Ferrars is rich and in London, in the middle of the English fashion world: why, then, was she wearing out-of-date fashions for a dinner party? I would imagine her character buying the latest fashions, not using old gowns. I noticed that Mrs. Jennings occasionally would wear older gowns, but she also had Regency gowns.

Elinor and Marianne both dressed nicely. I liked Elinor's dark purple over robe that she wears on the cover; it has a similar build to the over robes in the 1995 movie. Marianne tended to dress in bright, colorful gowns while Elinor's tended to be more sedate (showing their contrasting personalities).

The music was okay, but it was mostly serious. Most of the songs had a sad overtone and were a little slow moving. There was one piece of music, however, that I thought didn't fit in with the time period. In the scene where Colonel Brandon goes out to look for Marianne at Cleveland, there was kind of an odd beginning to the piece, almost as if it came out of an 80's action movie. It seemed a little out of place, but it was a small issue.

Overall: 4/5
I'm still partial to the 1995 movie (in fact, I probably like that one a little bit more). For the 1995 version, even though characters and scenes were left out, I thought that the overall gist of Sense and Sensibility was capture (overtones, character personalities, etc.). Here, it stays closer to the book as far as scenes and including characters goes, but I thought it was a little darker than what Sense and Sensibility was written to be. But I did enjoy watching this miniseries. I wouldn't be sorry to watch it again!

Sense and Sensibility is available on DVD either on it's own or can be purchased in a collection along with Persuasion (2007). It runs for 180 minutes and it is divided into three episodes.


  1. Interesting, I've wondered about this version. Good review!

    I'd forgotten that Marianne was named Charity (the actor, I mean). I'm so unlike her... :)

    Oh, you might want to change "shutters" to "shudders." :) I've made that mistake a few times myself. :P

  2. Charity U,
    Thanks for pointing out shutters. I went and fixed it. :-)

  3. I have been seeing the version pop up every where, and have been thinking about seeing it. Thank you for the review!

    I also love the 1995 version!! :)


  4. Thanks for the review!

    I do agree with you that they 'copied' some things from the 1995 movie, although I think the Margaret in this version was closer to the one in the book (which unfortunately didn't mention much about her...). In the 1995 one they totally made up stuff about her liking to play things like pirates and sword-fighting, when in the book she was much more feminine. :)

    When my mom and I watched this version a year or two ago, we probably would have turned it off from the first scene, but she thought it might be something wierd stuck in there by mistake, since it was before the opening credits and everything, so she fast-forwarded it and continued (although we were suspicious the whole time.) Later we figured out what it was. Really, Jane Austen was so extremely discreet in the book, that I'm disgusted they stuck that in there - right at the beginning, mind you!

    It rather annoyed me that some of the waist-lines were too low, but at least they ALL weren't like in the 2005 P&P.

    I think it's good if one can watch the 1995 and 2008 S&S. That way they get the good points of each. And of course, reading the book is always good! ;-)

    Which Edward do you prefer?

  5. Oh and by the way, I love playing what I call "Marianne's Song" from this movie on the piano. ;-) (The one Col. Brandon gave her)

  6. Melody,
    I really hated that they put that extra scene in there at the beginning. One of the things that I like about Jane Austen is that she doesn't get graphic about anything: that is why I don't really like some modern books because they rely on graphic scenes when they don't have to. I didn't want to watch this one at first because I was worried that there were going to be similar scenes spread throughout the miniseries, but then I heard that that was the only scene, so I thought I could just skip that part and watch the rest.

    I liked both Edwards, although I thought Hugh Grant's 1995 Edward looked a little sickly. I noticed that they both kind of looked similar (except the newer Edward didn't look sick).

    I really didn't like the newer Willoughby. I never liked the character in the first place, but at least in the 1995 version he didn't look as creepy as this one. To me, since I first saw this Willoughby, it already looked like he was already up to no good. What do you think about this Willoughby?

  7. I know. We were worried about that too,! It wasn't exactly a pleasant way to watch a movie...having to be watching out, remote in hand...haha

    I also thought Mr. 2008 Edward was more...well, not so backward acting. And better looking too. :)

    Ugh. What do I think about that Willoughby? I think he wasn't Willoughby, that's what. Not at all like Mr W. in the book. Not only is he sort of creepy like you said, but he's not handsome in my opinion, and the Willoughby Marianne fell for is supposed to be dashing, charming, and pleasant. Dominic Cooper was none of those.
    That's what I think. ;-)

    What do you think about Col. Brandon?
    (I'm leaving too many long comments...)

  8. That's one problem with all the men in the 1995 S&S...they're all quite ugly! Willoughby is okay (but he looks about to sneeze all through his first scene), Edward is rather ugly, and Colonel Brandon would not be called handsome! Oh well. Do you think they're better in the 2008 one?

  9. Melody,
    I think that I like the 1995 Colonel Brandon maybe a slight bit more, but I also liked the newer Colonel Brandon. He's one of my favorite characters in Sense and Sensibility.

    Oh! And Anne Steele was funny! I loved the scene where she tells Fanny and Mrs. Ferrars about Lucy's engagement to Edward.

    I tend to leave long comments too :-)

  10. Charity U,
    I liked both sets of actors in this version and the 1995 version (with the exception of Willoughby in this one), so it's kind of hard to pick where they're better. I do agree with Melody that Edward was better looking in this one than in the 1995 one (Hugh Grant looked kind of sickly in the 1995 one). Colonel Brandon in this version looks younger (in the 1995 one, I think Alan Rickman (who was Colonel Brandon) was about 49). In this one, the actors might be a little closer in age to their characters than the 1995 one.

  11. I liked 1995 Brandon's acting a lot better, but he's too old. >.<

    I KNOW! She just talks so matter-o-factly and then they all freak out... "I'm sorry, it just popped out!" I was at a birthday party once where that quote was being said all around...haha...;-)

    Another thing I liked about this version, is that it seemed to have more at the end. In the 1995 one, just BOOM! And Marianne is getting married...
    They still didn't do it quite the right way though. I think in the book, Marianne actually got married a year or two after Elinor, but that would be hard to pull off.

  12. Melody,
    I think that was the deal in the book: Elinor and Edward got married, then Colonel Brandon and Marianne married a couple years later. I guess they could pull it off by having Elinor and Edward get married about fifteen minutes before the ending, show Mrs. Dashwood, Marianne, and Margaret visiting then (and Colonel Brandon happens to be there also visiting), then the next scene could be a couple years later with Marianne and Colonel Brandon getting married, just so you can see the progression of time a little. But that would either have some details left out or add time onto the miniseries and it might involve a little invention (which you would have to be careful with). Oh well. :-)

  13. Great blog!! Just found this, I am doing a degree dissertation on Austen novels and adaptations at the moment so great to hear different people's opinions!, I plan to write an article soon about some Austen stuff x


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