The Complete Jane Austen begins to wrap up tonight with a two-part presentation of the new-to-us Sense and Sensibility. PBS’ Remotely Connected blog has a review from Laurie Viera Rigler:
Anyway, after I stopped turning cartwheels, a mild feeling of apprehension set in. As an Austen addict whose obsession exceeds even that of the protagonist of my novel, my mind is so full of the text that often I must watch a new film adaptation twice just to see if I like it or not. The first time I watch, my mind is buzzing: Did the screenwriter/director stay true to text? Why did they add this scene or cut that one? Not exactly the uncluttered frame of mind one needs in order to sit back and enjoy the story unfolding on the screen.
But this new Sense and Sensibility? That called for three viewings before I could even see it as a film unto itself. Not only was the novel echoing in my head, but the Oscar-winning Ang Lee/Emma Thompson movie, which is perhaps my favorite of all the Austen-related films, demanded comparisons at every turn.
Nevertheless, I’m happy to report that I find myself in a state of admiration for the new Sense and Sensibility. A review by Amazon UK’s editorial staff addresses the inevitable comparisons to the Ang Lee/Emma Thompson film by suggesting that “it’s perhaps best [to] see them as companion pieces.” I agree. The luxury of this particular film’s nearly three hours of screen time provides more opportunities to stay true to text, which we devotees of text certainly appreciate. However, this film, like most adaptations, includes expanded and even invented scenes, something I have no objection to, as long as they serve the story and character development.
And the Editrix also had her share in the conversation. Well, actually we had some help from perhaps unexpected sources. 😉 (If you haven’t seen the new film yet, the review might make much more sense after you do.)
PBS also has a minisite dedicated to the film, including some behind the scenes videos.
There are lots of media reviews as well, which is to be expected. The New York Times review by Ginia Bellafante takes an interesting view of the pasted-on “seduction” scene at the beginning.
The PBS adaptations of Austen’s novels have been infused with a certain eroticism, and it should be said that “Sense and Sensibility” introduces itself with a bedroom scene that seems to exist as an admonition against incautious sex. Flesh is anathema to Austen purists, but the murkily filmed scene (baffling until you figure out who the players are much later) animates what is implied if not stated in Austen: that in mindless passion there is no substance at all.
Has someone told Andrew Davies? 😉
The reviews are overwhelmingly positive: The Pittsburgh Post-Gazette, the Los Angeles Times, Cleveland.com, USAToday, the San Francisco Chronicle, the Orlando Sentinel, and the Arkansas Democrat-Gazette all have rave reviews. Maureen Ryan at the Chicago Tribune thinks Willoughby is too obviously a cad for belief, the Mercury News thinks it’s a little slow, and the Long Beach Press-Telegram thinks it’s not lively enough for Jane Austen.
What did we think? We thought it quite good, definitely the best of the latest set of adaptations, though not quite as good as the 1995 film, although at times we felt more like we were watching a remake of that film than a new adaptation of the novel. We particularly enjoyed Daisy Haggard’s turn as Miss Steele (quel surprise) and thought Hattie Morahan as Elinor was a real bright spot in the production, very much the emotional center of the film and a very strong performance. We liked Dan Stevens a lot as well, though he reminded us more of Henry Tilney than of Edward Ferrars. We found the story rushed and a trifle sloppy in places–why in the world did Marianne call Fanny Dashwood “Aunt?” And then how does Edward, Fanny’s brother, become Elinor’s cousin? We don’t mean to nitpick, but we find such changes confusing, distracting, and most of all unnecessary. And see if you can spot all the lines stolen from P&P, because Jane knows we can’t have an adaptation that doesn’t reference P&P.
That being said, we think our readers will, for the most part, be very pleased with the new series. Let us know what you think.