Wednesday, June 24, 2015

Sense and Sensibility 1995: a review

Movie Review: Sense and Sensibility

I don't like either of the covers, as Marianne looks weird in one and Elinor looks weird in the other, and this is such a nice picture of everyone.*

I'd like to start with stating three things:
A) This review will likely be rambling and probably long
2) This review will be biased
D) This review will contain spoilers.

Oh, and there will be lots and lots of pictures.
A quick summary before we start:
The Dashwood family is impoverished at the death of Mr. Dashwood, and continuing at the Norland estate with the Miss Dashwoods' half brother and wife is not an option. The three girls and their mother leave Norland for rather far away but cheap Barton Cottage, leased to them by Mrs. Dashwood's cousin Sir John Middleton. Elinor, the eldest, leaves behind a hoped-for suitor in the person of Edward Ferrars; Marianne, the second-eldest, finds a suitor at Barton, in the person of John Willoughby. Margaret leaves behind a tree-house (though 13 and nearly personality-less in the book, she's 11 in the movie and is a little adventurer).
Other characters which will be mentioned:
Mrs. Jennings = Sir John's mother-in-law.
Lucy and Anne Steele = sisters and cousins to Mrs. Jennings.
The Palmers. Charlotte Palmer is Mrs. Jennings' youngest daughter.
Mrs. Ferrars = Edward's mother.
Fanny = Edward's sister and the wife of the Dashwood girls' half-brother John Dashwood.
Colonel Brandon = Long-time friend of the Middletons and new friend of the Dashwoods whom they meet at Barton.

First off, what I think is important in a good movie that is a book-to-movie adaption is sticking true to the book. It really annoys me when a screen writer/director/whoever is in charge here thinks they write better than the author whose book people are coming to see. No. So I'll be mostly comparing book to movie throughout this whole review.


   Characters left out: There was no Lady Middleton. Small and annoying, but Sir John is just not the same without her. Not a movie-changer though. Also, Mrs. Jennings lives with Sir John... but still has her own house?? One tiny detail that kind of didn't make sense (they couldn't just say she was staying with him?) There was no Anne Steele either, and I think this is more important. *Spoiler alert!* Without Anne Steele Lucy is the one to tell Fanny that she and Edward are engaged. Lucy is too smart for that. Again, not a major change but Lucy too is not the same without Anne. *end spoiler*

   Characters left in: The sisters could not have been better. Emma Thompson is a perfect Elinor, loving and sensible. She does a good job of letting us understand her feelings while not being untrue to Elinor in showing her feelings too much. Granted, she looks a bit older than 19, but Kate Winslet looks closer to 21 than 16 too, so... Kate Winslet makes a splendid Marianne, romantic and passionate and, incidentally, she does a good job being sick (some thanks to the makeup people is probably due there). Elinor and Marianne act together very well, showing the frustration they have which each other's behavior while also portraying their close relationship. When Elinor points out, around halfway through the movie, that they know Mr. Willoughby very little and so Marianne ought to hide her regard for him, Marianne retorts that "if I had more shallow feelings I could perhaps conceal them as you do". That's basically their disagreements in a nutshell. I almost cried, though, when *spoiler alert* Elinor cries at Marianne's sickbed, thinking she is about to die. *end spoiler* No matter what, they're still sisters. Having two myself, stories about sisters are always special for me.
Mrs. Dashwood is played by Gemma Jones. She is a little older and a little more, how shall we say... reserved? She is supposed to be just like Marianne, only older of course: that means she is romantic, emotional, doesn't act with a lot of sense. Even though she is all this, I felt it could have been more. Emilie Fran├žois plays Margaret. As I mentioned above, she is little developed in the book, so much of her movie-personality is not pure Jane Austen. It does not however, contradict Jane Austen and I find her little impish self to be highly amusing and fits in with her family.
A typical Dashwood scene: Margaret being un-ladylike, Elinor employed, Marianne staring thoughtfully, and Mrs. Dashwood wearing an enormous hat.

Hugh Grant plays Edward very well. Some hateful people have said "he's so good, I wish he was handsome" (*coughcoughtwincoughcough*) but in my humble opinion is very good-looking and does Edward's facial expressions and style of talking very well. He rather reminded me of Jimmy Stewart in some ways (and also kind of Dick Van Dyke??).

I'm starting to sound like a broken record, but Willoughby is played well by Greg Wise. His charm, vibrant enthusiasm, guilt, and anxiety are all portrayed accurately. He reminds me of Laurie from the 1995 Little Women in a way.
Marianne seems to be wearing a coat and a shawl. Plus she's making a weird expression.

Alan Rickman plays Colonel Brandon.

I've seen him in two roles and I think I prefer him in this. Either way, he's a very good actor, because in the one movie, he really doesn't show emotion much. Not facially, that is. His face is pretty much always a cold bored dislike. The characters are also vastly different The first time I watched S&S I hadn't seen HP, so I wouldn't have had any problem always seeing Snape, but this time around, the last seven times I saw him in a movie he was not Colonel Brandon, yet I had no problem seeing him as said character. What?? Alan Rickman can smile happily? Yes, he can, and even laugh. He conveys the quiet personality of Colonel Brandon very, very well (better than I remembered even). 
*spoiler* Sometimes Colonel Brandon, a reserved man on the wrong side of five-and-thirty, is not considered at all a suitable husband for bubbly, open sixteen-year-old Marianne. I used to feel this way, too, but my love of Sense and Sensibility prompted me to watch the movie after reading the book, then to read it twice more, and watch the movie yet again – and now I feel much differently about the relationship. It is true that their tempers seem at first as dissimilar as their ages, but watch/read closely and you'll see how he is one of the few who actually pays attention when she plays the pianoforte, and how he appreciates poetry too. I loved the scene where he carries her in from the rain, even though it isn't from the book. I like how it echoes the meeting with Willoughby. *end spoiler*
And I love this part.
Alright I'll stop ranting on Colonel Brandon, but first I have to share these:
I'm sorry, I'm a teenage girl living in the 21st century. I can't help it. I kept myself to two!!

Mrs. Jennings and Sir John Middleton were a little more... umm, flamboyant? They seemed to be constantly laughing uproariously. Mrs. Jennings was as annoying as ever, maybe more so than the book.
They were pretty much like this all the time.
Mr. and Mrs. Palmer (Hugh Laurie and Imelda Staunton) were hilarious. They were pretty much carbon copies of the book characters. Nothing to complain there.

Lucy doesn't deserve a large sized picture.
Lucy Steele (Imogen Stubbs) seemed a little less clever and a little less of a flatterer. In the book she is very smart and very conniving. She and her sister Anne are always flattering everybody, and though this endears them to Lady Middleton (because they give attentions to her horrid children), Sir John and Mrs. Jennings (because it makes them seem so amiable), the Dashwood girls see through their simpering manners and are disgusted with them. You don't get that feeling so strongly that Lucy is a total farce, or that she really is very smart. 

Fanny and John Ferrars were played by James Fleet and Harriet Walter (I'm pulling these names off IMDB just so you know). For some reason Fanny reminds me of Mrs. Elton. A lot. To the point that I went through her movie list to see if she'd played the character before.
Another fluffy hat for Mrs. Dashwood, and a black choker which doesn't match her dress for Mrs. Elton – I mean, Fanny.

Because of the length of the movie, many scenes were dropped out or rearranged. Mrs. Palmer's baby shows up at the wrong time, Lucy comes to Barton at the wrong time, and etc.
Due to the removal of scenes, many things felt shorter, ie the length of time spent in London, or how fast Marianne got seriously ill.
One thing that did bother me was when Edward comes to call on Elinor, saying "Colonel Brandon said you wanted to see me" instead of just walking in. This is contrary to the book, where Elinor begins to write him a letter, consoling herself that at least she doesn't have to do it in person, when just at that moment he is announced.
*spoiler* Fanny reacted a little more violently than in the book when she finds out about the engagement. She literally tries to strangle Lucy. In the novel she certainly freaks out – goes into hysterics, as they'd say – but doesn't attempt murder. *end spoiler*

It is a great pleasure, however, to listen to scenes where the dialogue is straight from the book. Such as Mr. Palmer thinking all babies look alike, or towards the beginning, when Fanny convinces John to do nothing for his half-sisters.

 *Spoiler* They added in a scene where Edward tries to tell Elinor about his engagement right before the Dashwoods leave Norland. I like this though, and while it did alter his character, Austen never says he tried his hardest to keep Elinor from finding out, so I think it not altogether impossible that he would have done such a thing. *end spoiler*

Less desirable elements (ie violence, language, sexual content): As far as I noticed there was none of the above. There might have been some very mild language but it would have mild for me not to notice (and it is only a PG rating so it couldn't have been much). There are a few low-ish necklines but this is what I mean by low:
Not Willoughby's, silly.
*spoiler* An uncomfortable situation involving Willoughby is referred to briefly (a girl who was pregnant who wasn't married to him). This could have been much, much worse, though, as no details are given and it is only mentioned, not shown. *end spoiler*

Set: The set was very pretty, though I don't remember them mentioning a lake near Barton??

Also the "small cottage" is really not small at all, but considering to be poor meant you kept only two servants, I guess "small" is a comparative term.

Another thing that was a change from the book that I didn't like was how Combe Magna was 5 miles away, and could be seen from the top of the hill on the Palmer's estate. It's thirty miles away, my friends, not 5. But this is a movie and they have to be more dramatic, so Marianne can't just get sick wandering through the rain, no, she has to go look at Combe Magna.

Costumes: The costumes were, as far as I could tell with my limited knowledge of such things, very accurate. In the morning, dresses were worn with a chemisette, rather like a dicky.

Notice each of the ladies has a white scarf-like thing tucked into her neckline.

And in the evening they don't wear the chemisettes. Just like our idea of what is modest fluctuates depending on the occasion (at the pool vs. walking down the street), they wore lower cut dresses in the evening than they would have worn during the day.
Margaret had her hair down and wore shorter dresses, as a younger girl would do. The older girls had their hair up (unlike some Jane Austen movies which are good but persist in having grown-up girls run around with their hair down all the time *P&P05coughcough*). Although Mrs. Dashwood's hats are kind of unattractive, married women/widows wore caps like that. I assume the men's costumes were accurate, too, from what I noticed, but I wasn't paying that much attention.
Kind of a useless shawl.
More importantly, all the costumes are really pretty (if you pay attention you'll notice Elinor only has maybe four dresses, while Marianne has lots... it's obvious who the money gets spent on).
Even the nightgowns are nice.
If you've gotten this far, congratulations! My conclusion: Sense and Sensibility is both a good movie and a good adaption of the book. It cuts and changes like every movie, but retains not just the general plot of the book, but the wittiness, the well-drawn characters, and the same feeling of Jane Austen's novel. I admit I'm biased as I love the story and this is the first adaption I've seen, but because I love the story, if it vastly (or even minutely) departed from the book I'd be up in arms. I hope to see the 2008 BBC S&S soon, in which case I'll post a comparison review. It'd be hard to beat the amazing cast and costumes of S&S95, though.
 photo awdursignature_zps319c67b7.png

*All my pictures came by googling "Sense and Sensibility 1995" and I don't own any of them.


  1. I really loved this review, by the way. You are so funny. :-)

    ~ Naomi

    1. Aww, thanks! Glad you liked it. :)


Spill your thoughts. Observe common courtesy. You'll make me happy.