JANE AUSTEN MOVIE CLUB: Sense and Sensibility (2008)

Welcome to the Risky Regencies JANE AUSTEN MOVIE CLUB!

Today we’re discussing the new BBC adaptation of SENSE AND SENSIBILITY.

Or, at least, we’re discussing the first half of it. We’ll discuss the second half next Tuesday!

So…what did you think of the casting, costumes, carriages, country-dances, or anything else?

To aid the discussion, here are the major credits:

Screenplay: Andrew Davies

Director: John Alexander


Marianne Dashwood: Charity Wakefield

Elinor Dashwood: Hattie Morahan

Margaret Dashwood: Lucy Boynton

John Dashwood: Mark Gatiss

Fanny Dashwood: Claire Skinner

Mrs. Dashwood: Janet McTeer

Colonel Brandon: David Morrissey

Edward Ferrars: Dan Stevens

The non-horrific-looking Dan Stevens has recently appeared in television adaptations of both FRANKENSTEIN and DRACULA.

Robert Ferrars: Leo Bill

Lady Middleton: Rosanna Lavelle

Mrs. Jennings: Linda Bassett

Sir John Middleton: Mark Williams

Are you wondering why Mark Williams looks familiar? He plays Arthur Weasley in the HARRY POTTER movies. He was also seen in the recent TRISTRAM SHANDY (a.k.a. A COCK AND BULL STORY.)

Charlotte Palmer: Tabitha Wady

Miss Steele: Daisy Haggard

Lucy Steele: Anna Madeley

Mr. Palmer: Tim McMullan

Willoughby: Dominic Cooper

Fans of BECOMING JANE’S James McAvoy may have seen Dominic Cooper in STARTER FOR TEN; Cooper also gained notice in HISTORY BOYS. Later this year he will appear alongside Keira Knightley in THE DUCHESS.

Eliza: Caroline Hayes

Mrs. Ferrars: Jean Marsh

So…please let us know what you thought of it!

All opinions welcome!

(And if you’re interested in finding out which Austen adaptations we’ve already discussed, and adding your point of view, just click on the “Jane Austen Movie Club” link below!)

Cara King, who has more sense than sensibility…and more hair than wit…

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Elizabeth Kerri Mahon
14 years ago

I actually really like what I’ve seen so far in this adaptation. I wasn’t too keen on the opening sequence of I think its Willoughby and some woman getting it on, but getting past that, I loved the scenes at Norland, although I’m not quite sure why Marianne was calling her sister-in-law Aunt Fanny. I think that Hattie Morahan is a wonderful Elinor and I say that having adored Emma Thompson in the film. The scenes between her and Dan Stevens at Norland perfectly captured their relationship. I really felt the connection between the two of them. Love Janet McTeer as Mrs. Dashwood but also feel that she’s kind of wasted in the part. Claire Skinner made my skin crawl as Fanny Dashwood. I just wanted to slap her and I felt sorry for son and her brother. I did like David Morrissey as Colonel Brandon although for me Alan Rickman will always own that role. The only weak link for me was Dominic Cooper as Willoughby. He lacked the charm of Greg Wise in the role. I just found him rather spoiled and petulant. I also not too fond of Charity Wakefield as Marianne but I might feel differently as the series progresses next week.

Elena Greene
14 years ago

I was still getting my hellions to bed and missed the opening sequence, so can’t comment on that except to think it doesn’t sound like it serves the story.

Otherwise I’m enjoying this version. I think both the roles of Elinor and Marianne were well cast. Although overall I love the Emma Thompson version, I feel the chemistry between Elinor and Edward more in this one.

David Morrissey is growing on me as Colonel Brandon even though I loved Rickman in the role.

I have mixed feelings as to Willoughby. At first I thought I’d like him better than Greg Wise, who had more of an obvious rakish air, but once he started getting that pouty look I changed my mind.

I’m also enjoying the scenery. It just makes me nostalgic about some of the places my husband and I used to walk while we were in England.

Janet Mullany
14 years ago

Gawd. Where to start. I gave up after an hour. I found it very derivative of the Ang Lee version, but disappointing and slow moving; casting was weird–both Elinor and Marianne are supposed to be beauties, but were upstaged by the ravishing Janet McTeer. I loved her wonderful black hats, but overall thought the costumes sort of strange.

(And, almost off the topic rant: is it really impossible to cast someone who can actually play the piano? So we don’t have those same old same old shots that never actually show the hands? Amy Irving and Richard Dreyfuss did it in The Competition and they were playing/simulating some technically very advanced music.)

Sir John Middleton and family seemed a lackluster bunch, with the animation of a group of cardboard cut-outs. Edward was kinda cute, Willoughby (who was terrific in History Boys) looked like a frog, Brandon, thank god, did not have Rickmanesque jowls creeping over his collar.

I was waiting for someone to bash their head on the low lintel in the cottage; please don’t tell me I missed that magic moment. I may even watch the rest next week to see if it happens in Edward’s proposal scene.

14 years ago

Overall I liked this version. Although I adore Hugh Grant, I found Ferrars to be delish and a bit less spineless. Yes, I did just say that. Fanny gives me the willies but she flared her nostrils like no other!

I think David Morrissey is fabulous as Colonel Brandon. No disrespect to Alan Rickman who does indeed own the role.

Truth be told I’ve never liked Marianne and have always wished Margaret was a little older and would show them all up. And if you close your eyes this Elenor sounds just like Emma Thompson. It’s freaky.

Diane Gaston
14 years ago

Hee hee. I’m convinced Janet and I are mirror images or something, we so often wind up with exactly opposite views!
I’m loving this version. The prologue was not necessary, however. It wasn’t until the end of it that I thought “I get it!”

Now to my Janet opposites:
I loved the casting! Even Willoughby, who seems more spoiled brat than rake, like Greg Wise, but I think that suits Willoughby’s character. I was totally sucked in to them as real people, not the characters the actors played in the Ang Lee version (which I also loved).

I loved the costumes! I hope Kalen drops by to tell us if they were accurate, but they fascinated me.

I was riveted, and I usually watch TV and do something else like read blogs at the same time. And I didn’t even think of the Ang Lee version while I watched.

On one thing Janet and I agree–Dan Stevens as Edward. I would agree he was “kinda cute.” I just fell in love with him. First time since Gerard Butler! (Poor Gerry-he has competition now) I’ll watch next week just to see him again!

I totally agree with Santa, too, that David Morrissey is fabulous as Col Brandon. (also no disrespect to Alan Rickman)Morrissey’s is a different, but appealing interpretation of the role.

Amanda McCabe
14 years ago

I enjoyed this version quite a bit! The atmosphere, the casting, all enjoyable (except Willoughby, who really seems to have “I am an untrustworthy slimeball” written all over him! Makes Marianne look even sillier for prefering him to the handsome Brandon). I love the Emma Thompson version, too, but honestly every time I watch it I think “Oh, there’s Emma Thompson and Hugh Grant!” I never really can let go of who they really are and imagine that they ARE Elinor and Edward. This E and E, though, I found to be just right as the emotional center of the story. ๐Ÿ™‚

One nitpicky thing–I wish they had stuck with Shakespeare and not gone off into Byron (didn’t they do some stuff with Byron in the recent Northanger Abbey, too? He must be shorthand for “unruly passions”). I’m pretty sure that poem was not even written yet.

Elizabeth Kerri Mahon
14 years ago

I feel the same way Amanda with the earlier S&S, more so with Hugh Grant than with her. He seems to play Edward as someone with Aspberger’s disease. All that shuffling into rooms and hesitancy, the floppy hair. Its classic HG. And I agree that this Elinor sounds a bit like Emma Thompson. And I agree with you about the Byron, he does seem to be the go-to-guy for unruly passions. I’d rather they stuck to Shakespeare or some Blake, he was a little nutty.

I found the kind of gothicy atmosphere in this one a bit too much, all those waves crashing against the rocks, kind of thing.

I did like the fact that they addressed the age difference between Marianne and Brandon. I’d forgotten that he was only 35 which to us seems perfectly reasonable to us but to a romantic 17 year old, it must have seemed icky. Although I still would have preferred him to the slimeball of Willoughby. He reminded me of those guys who try to rub up against you on the subway.

Cara King
14 years ago

I’m not quite sure why Marianne was calling her sister-in-law Aunt Fanny.

Me neither!

I have to run, but will be back in a few hours….I will now merely say that I really wanted to like this, and expected to like this…but overall found it rather boring.

I was quite impressed by Janet McTeer, though!


Keira Soleore
14 years ago

Dan Stevens *THUD*

I thought this part one of the miniseries was superb. I could not stand Hugh Grant as Edward Ferrars in the 1995 movie; Dan Stevens does a much better job in this 2008 miniseries.

I found Kate Winslet too pouty and too petulant, whereas Charity Wakefield hits just the right note in her role as Marianne.

Alan Rickman was gorgeous as Colonel Brandon in the movie; David Morrissey is almost as good in the miniseries.

Gemma Jones was adequate as Mrs. Dashwood, but Janet McTeer is very good.

Neither Greg Wise (movie) nor Dominic Cooper (miniseries) captured Willoughby as Jane Austen wrote him. In fact, Sunday’s Willoughby was slightly sleazy. Ack.

The conflict for me arose in Elinor’s character. I really liked Emma Thompson’s version of Elinor as I did Hattie Morahan’s version. While Staying true to Austen’s vision for the character, they’ve both made the character theirs, so we do get two different Elinors.

(Cara, your tagline was hilarious. More hair than wit, eh?)

Keira Soleore
14 years ago

This comment has been removed by the author.

14 years ago

Well, it’s like I posted elsewhere. . . I loved the 1995 one, and I thought this one was pretty equal, but two tiny points that make the two different for me. . .

1 – if I were in the 1995 S&S universe, I’d fight Marianne for Brandon (aka Alan Rickman)

2 – if I were in this newer S&S universe, I’d fight Elinor for Edward.

Other than that, I really liked it. ๐Ÿ™‚


Kalen Hughes
14 years ago

mOverall it was a yawner for me. With the exception of Dan Stevens as Edward (how adorable is he?) Iโ€™m not a big fan of the casting (and yes, Hattie Morahan really does sound exactly like Emma Thompson!). I loved Dominic Cooper in The History Boys but Iโ€™m not enjoying him as Willoughby. The hair and clothes do make him appear vaguely toad-like. Iโ€™m so glad Iโ€™m not the only one who thinks so. LOL!

The costumes seem ok to me, but Iโ€™m not loving them. I actively dislike the striped dress that Elinor keeps showing up in! The only real WTF moment Iโ€™ve had is the โ€œcorsetโ€ (yes, itโ€™s so bad it requires quotes) that Marianne was wearing. I have no idea what that thing was based on. Itโ€™s like no garment Iโ€™ve ever seen. It certainly doesnโ€™t resemble those of the later Regency period (when I assume this is supposed to be set, based on Byron being quoted).

Janet Mullany
14 years ago

I was WAITING for Kalen to show up to deride that corset.
I knew it was only a matter of time.

Cara King
14 years ago

Keira wrote: (Cara, your tagline was hilarious. More hair than wit, eh?)

Well, I do have quite a lot of hair. ๐Ÿ˜‰

Okay, here are a few of my thoughts on the cast:

1) I find the whole age thing very interesting, so here’s some info:

Based on when I think they must have filmed this, the actors were more or less the following ages when this was filmed:

Elinor: 28
Marianne: 26
Edward: 25
Willoughby: 29
Brandon: 43
Mrs. D: 46

By contract, in the Ang Lee, the ages were approximately:

Elinor: 35
Marianne: 19
Edward: 34
Willoughby: 28
Brandon: 48
Mrs. D: 52

Which is actually not what I expected! And it blows out of the water my first theory of the day, which was going to be: “Janet McTeer as Mrs. Dashwood wipes the floor with the actresses playing Elinor & Marianne, thus showing the wisdom of casting actresses who are old enough to have lots of experience — which is one reason Emma Thompson’s Elinor conveyed so much more than Hatti Morahan’s.”

But that was back when I was assuming that Morahan and Charity Wakefield were quite young!

Then again, neither has actually done a huge amount of film or TV work, so maybe I can modify the theory a bit…

Anyway, I’m loving Janet McTeer. She conveys so much here, including subtle emotions and multiple emotions at the same time. The character is always dignified and proper, but behind it all we can see glimpses of all the emotions Mrs. D has: humiliation, hope, pride, anger, etc, etc.

By comparison, Elinor and Marianne seem much more one-note to me — or, at least, one note at a time.

Which is not to say I dislike them. I find Marianne interesting, and I think by the end I’ll prefer her interpretation to Winslet’s…and Elinor is fine, if unexciting.

(More later! I need to go brood on my exploded theory.)


Victoria Dahl
14 years ago

Diane, thanks for the tip about this movie discussion!

I’m really enjoying this new version. I do think it’s quiet, but still enjoyable to me.

Am I the ONLY ONE totally disturbed by watching Emma Thompson play a young woman in the Ang Lee film? I just could never get into it, because it throws me out of the fantasy every time I see her. I’m sure it’s a fantastic performance, but I couldn’t suspend disbelief. Of course I was much younger when I saw it, & maybe as a 35 year old, it would no longer bother me. *g*

Anybody else or am I on my own?

Diane Gaston
14 years ago

Hi, Victoria! I’m glad I mentioned it!
You said: Am I the ONLY ONE totally disturbed by watching Emma Thompson play a young woman in the Ang Lee film?

No you aren’t. It is one of the things that bothered me about the Ang Lee film, even though Emma Thompson gave a wonderful performance. I can’t blame her for wanting to play the part but she was too old for it.

14 years ago

Since I’m a Luddite who cut my TV cable, I have to wait for the DVD.

Just have to say that Rickman (and his jowls) defines Brandon for me.

In the book I kept thinking Mrs. D. and Brandon. But there was that sticky gotta produce an heir thing.

Looking forward to the DVD.

Elena Greene
14 years ago

Victoria, I wouldn’t say I was totally disturbed but it did make it a bit harder to suspend disbelief.

Keira Soleore
14 years ago

My theory of the day… Why is it so difficult to cast and have the cast produce creditable performances as villains (term used loosely)?

For example, I was never satsfied with the Wickham was played in various incarnations of P&P or Willoughby here in S&S. Are the villains too subtely depicted in Austen’s works that modern actors are unable to show them without coming off as sleazy?

What about the female villains, Lady de Bourgh in P&P and Lady Fanny in S&S? Do they show the same degree of deliberateness as the book, or do they come off as shrill and over-the-top, too?

14 years ago

Victoria, Diane and co. –

Ang Lee actually had to work very hard at convincing Emma Thompson to play Elinor. Emma initially wanted (real life sisters) Natasha and Joely Richardson to play Elinor and Marianne respectively.

Mr. Lee felt Ms.Thompson would not only do a great job in the role, but modern audiences would relate to Elinor’s urgency as a “spinster” a lot more with an older woman in the role. I think this is probably true for most, especially the youngest viewers. (I say this having fell in love with the movie at age 11!)

Alan Rickman and Greg Wise are the only Brandon and Willoughby for me! I really do enjoy this version though, despite the unnecessary slimy nature of Willoughby. And I think Ms.Wakefield pales in comparison to Kate Winslet. She doesn’t play Marianne as passionate and naive, but a bit spoiled and self-interested. I must say, I relate to Kate Winslet’s Marianne much more in the Lee version and Hattie Morahan’s Elionor much more so in this version.

Also, I totally agree that the opening sequence is totally unnecessary, euch!

But overall, I am very pleased with this sweet version that was obviously a labor of love.

Amanda McCabe
14 years ago

“I relate to Kate Winslet’s Marianne much more in the Lee version and Hattie Morahan’s Elionor much more so in this version.”

Oh, yes, what she said! I feel much the same, but couldn’t figure it out before. ๐Ÿ™‚

And I’m very glad she didn’t get the sisters Richardson as the Dashwoods! Ack.

Cara King
14 years ago

As to Victoria Dahl’s “age of Emma Thompson” question, I must say that it didn’t bother me! But then, I’ve always been a big fan of hers, so perhaps that has something to do with it!

And Keira, you ask some very interesting questions about the villains! Now that I think about it, I wonder if it’s easier to play one of Austen’s boo-hiss villains, like Lady Catherine or Fanny Dashwood (who really are both very extreme in the books) than to play one of her rascally men…the men have to be intelligent and charming and likable, and yet quite selfish and callous…and it must be hard to give clues to the villainy, and yet not give it all away!

Because I agree, based on what I’ve seen, it’s very hard to do a great Willoughby or Wickham (I’m not sure I’ve seen either done in a way I totally loved). But I’ve seen a lot of great Lady Catherines (or should that be Ladies Catherine??) ๐Ÿ™‚ , and now I’ve seen two good Fanny Dashwoods!

I have very strong ideas about Mariannes, though, which I will expound upon later (while my husband tours the British Museum! Or actually, come to think of it, sleeps.)


Cara King
14 years ago

Here’s my view on Marianne:

Austen writes: [Elinor] had a delicate complexion… Marianne was still handsomer. Her form, though not so correct as her sister’s, in having the advantage of height, was more striking… Her skin was very brown…in her eyes, which were very dark, there was a life, a spirit, an eagerness…

So, the way I read it, Elinor is “delicate,” whereas the adjectives used to describe Marianne include “dark” and “striking.”

So I’ve always pictured Elinor as a tall, slender blonde, and Marianne as a shorter, curvy brunette.

During the 18th century, I’ve read that English fiction often used certain physical archetypes with women, and one of them was that of the woman who was of what they considered the “Latin” type, both in looks and temperament…and I’ve always felt Austen was using those archetypes to make her characters more immediately clear. So Elinor’s the tall, cool blonde, and Marianne’s the short, dark, passionate one.

Now, I don’t expect that in adaptations they should always look like that, but I’ve been struck by the fact that pretty much every Marianne I’ve seen has been a wispy blonde!

Though I concede, Wakefield isn’t all that wispy, but Winslet certainly was.

But in my mind, it all ends up with Marianne’s real character. I’ve always read her as someone who does have very strong passions — think a Bronte character — and her flaw is that she doesn’t fight hard enough to control those passions.

But far too many Mariannes I’ve seen (particularly Winslet’s) seemed to me like a young girl affecting all these passions because she thought it romantic.

And to me, these things are very different.

Anyway, sorry my explanation was so long! But there it is. ๐Ÿ™‚


Susanne Saville
14 years ago

“So Elinor’s the tall, cool blonde, and Marianne’s the short, dark, passionate one. ….. I’ve been struck by the fact that pretty much every Marianne I’ve seen has been a wispy blonde!”

Cara has stolen my brain!

That was one of the things I was pondering as I watched the movie – along with the already-remarked-upon fact that the actress playing Elinor sounds like Emma Thompson.

14 years ago

Cara wrote:

I have very strong ideas about Mariannes, though, which I will expound upon later (while my husband tours the British Museum! Or actually, come to think of it, sleeps.)

Well, I’m awake again. ๐Ÿ™‚ But no touring museums today! I’m looking forward to watching this adaptation when I get back, but for now, I’ll just assume that everything Cara says is profound truth.


Cara King
14 years ago

Cara has stolen my brain!

The aliens made me do it, Susanne! I’ll give it right back, I promise!!!

Nice to find out someone else sees it how I do!


Keira Soleore
14 years ago

Cara, thanks for clarifying the villains issue. You’re right. It’s easy to do the bitchy witchy female than to the sublter males. I wonder why the women couldn’t have the same depth of emotion. For example, I would’ve liked to have seen Fanny played as Julianne Moore did Mrs. Chevely in An Ideal Husband. I love, love Judi Dench, but her shrill de, Bourgh was a bit much.

14 years ago

I’m seriously upset because I didn’t hear about the new version. I hope I can catch part two.

I bought the DVD for the Emma Thompson version last Friday and watched it like I never seen it before and cried at the end, like I always do.

Emma’s age never bothered me because I thought she was playing a spinster.

Cara King
14 years ago

Bummer about missing it, LaShaunda! I hate when I do that. I used to tape Dickens serials, and I’d always end up missing part 3 of 5 or something. :-/

I suppose you can rent the DVD — I think it’s either out now, or will be in just a couple days!


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