Thursday, June 23, 2011

Sense and Sensibility (2008)

I recently re-watched the 2008 Sense and Sensibility for my third item for Austenprose’s Sense and Sensibility Bicentenary Challenge. I watched it when it first aired on Masterpiece Theatre in 2008, but I thought watching it again might give me some second insights into the program. And who am I kidding – do I need a reason to watch a Jane Austen mini-series?

Andrew Davies wrote the screenplay for this version, and made an attempt to sexualize the story. I didn’t approve of these attempts. I thought the new Willoughby/Eliza scene of passion at the beginning didn’t really work. It was rather confusing when I first watched it and thought for a bit that I had the wrong channel.

Davies also tried to sex up Edward by having him chop wood. I could have done without this scene - it was not the Mr. Darcy wet shirt moment that Davies hoped it would be. I did like how Colonel Brandon was spiced up with his duel with Willoughby, rescuing Marianne in the rain, taking care of Eliza, and hawking. One could definitely see how Marianne could transfer her affections to Colonel Brandon, something I couldn’t always see when he was played by Alan Rickman in the 1995 version. It didn’t hurt that David Morrissey was cast as Colonel Brandon. He is an excellent actor and very attractive.

I like how the 2008 version fills in the gaps with several scenes not in the book. While I don’t think Austen needs improvement, it did tend to set this version apart and make it different from other versions of the story. In particular, I love a good dual and was pleased to see Colonel Brandon and Willoughby take their animosity to the next level. I also loved the scene with Colonel Brandon and Eliza; it was heartbreaking when she hoped to see Willoughby one last time. It really made me think about how Colonel Brandon must have felt about Willoughby seeing how he hurt two of the most important women in his life. I also enjoyed seeing Mrs. Ferrars disowning Edward and Lucy. I thought it was funny after Marianne’s accident when Colonel Brandon shows up for a visit and Mr. Willoughby is hiding behind Mrs. Dashwood. It was different then described in the novel, but funny and showed that Willoughby might not be all that he seemed.

I thought the cast was good in this mini-series, in particular I liked David Morrissey as Colonel Brandon and Dan Stevens as Edward Ferrars. I didn’t really like Dominic Cooper as Willoughby. I don’t quite believe in him with the hiding behind Mrs. Dashwood, smirks, and general ill-humor throughout. I’m not that surprised when he turns out to be deceitful. I think overall he can’t compare to Greg Wise’s superb performance in the 1995 version. I also enjoyed the music in this production.

I thought the last scene was rather strange. Is Edward chasing chickens with Elinor laughing? It was not nearly as romantic as Colonel Brandon carrying Marianne into the house.

Overall, this mini-series tried to spice up the classic Sense and Sensibility, but I don’t think it needed to be spiced up as shown in the excellent 1995 version of the story. It was an interesting version to watch, but definitely not the definitive version.

Have you watched this version? What is your overall impression?


  1. Laura - I enjoyed this BBC S&S series but the Emma Thompson movie will always be my perfect adaptation. Last summer, however, we did walk down to the cottage used in the series - it's at Hartland Quay. I also found out that Prince William had his stag night at Hartland Abbey which is a stone's throw from the cottage.

  2. I always felt the Thompson/Grant combination a bit strange in '95 but I still haven't seen this adaptation. Every time I read something about it I want to see it, though! Maybe I can do some catching up starting this Friday. Fingers crossed. :)