A Better Sense for Sensibility


Elinor and MarianneMy nightly livejournal skim took me, just now, thirty-three minutes. I note this because I’m somewhat surprised (and amused) with the abundance of just sheer stuff – specifically: gardening, language, and tattoo things. This includes, of course, eye-dissecting my friend Justin’s interview with the band Curtains–spellcheck buddy–and gawking at the fine new ink posted to the public. Is Sunday a popular day to be tattooed?

          I watched Andrew Davies’ new adaptation of Sense & Sensibility [Part One] featured on tonight’s Masterpiece Theater, and owe him kudos. This one–in my opinion–far superior to the 1995 S&S featuring Kate Winslet and Hugh Grant. These two names I underscore because, while I am fascinated with Alan Rickman and attracted to Emma Thompson (something school-teachery about her), Kate W.’s eye-rolling–and I mean this in the worst way: not sarcastic disapproval, but worked-up crazed racehorse eye-rolling–flit and Hugh Grant’s lack of personality (in every feasible situation, professionally and candidly) impressed on me a preference for blindness.

          Charity Wakefield and Hattie Morahan are the wonderfully cast Miss Dashwoods, as is Dan Stevens as Edward (compared to Hugh!), although I miss Alan Rickman as Colonel Brandon.

          The movie opened with some hot-and-heavy, though, which caught me a bit off-guard. And while some of the Austen bloggers (like Ms. Place) kindly tolerate its presence, I think on some level the scene is kind of cynically appropriate. Although, if you catch right off the bat that one of the pair of lips belongs to Mr. Willoughby, I wonder whether that might clue the UnAustenware that he is, as Ms. Place said, a cad and not a romantic hero. That’s the case anyway, but his appearance in the book is setup to make him appear dashing for the longest time. If viewers see it’s Mr. W. initially, then it upsets Austen’s intention to lure readers to his side. A lot can be said about the participatory reader in an Austen novel, of course, but I’ll leave that for later.

          However, as it is indeed Mr. Willoughby and Eliza (Colonel Brandon’s neice/ward, whose mother he tragically loves, thus remaining alone well into middle-age), and because this scene is followed immediately and darkly by the true S&S opening spectacle of the death of Mr. Dashwood, it throws into moral contrast this steamy affair in the primarily economic Regency family dynamic:

  • The Estate, by law, is entailed in whole to the eldest male heir: once a moderately wealthy man has his first boy, he can no longer do what he likes to his property because, inherently, it belongs to the son. The women of the family are completely dependent on this male heir (as is illustrated in S&S) and have very little of their own — this is why there is so much pressure on marrying.
  • Marrying means financial stability – not just for the daughter, but for her unmarried siblings and (if such is the case) widowed mother. Marrying poorly means that the family’s place in society diminishes, but one also cannot wait too long lest she become undesirable.
  • Becoming undesirable, say by getting knocked up (or doing the knocking, as Mr. Willoughby is disinherited once this is made known to his benefactress), is a pretty staunch financial fuck-up with family-wide consequences.

The way Davies juxtaposed unbridled passion with what looked like a pretty miserable death sets the tone for the story, which arguably is looking for balance between soap-operatic sensibility and the purely business-oriented wrongs of the family (sense).

Laurel Ann’s at Austenprose is my favorite review, and she otherwise sums it up for me. The male characters (except for Edward) aren’t as subtle as Austen’s: Mr. Willoughby’s purpose as the faux-romantic hero is reamed because of the opening sex scene and his hair-grease, and Colonel Brandon is a snore.


One response »

  1. Thanks for the mention. While I thoroughly enjoyed your review, disagree with it on one major point. I adore Kate Winslet, who made her mark playing Marianne. I think this is a matter of personal preference. Having said that, I think Charity Wakefield and Hattie Morahan nailed their roles in the new S&S adaptation, which I adore. I would term Mr. Henry Dashwood (the deceased) a bad daddy. Yes, his estate was entailed, but while he was alive he could have managed his estate better and his money more wisely, and saved more of it for his second family. There really was no excuse for Mrs. Dashwood to have been left with so little.

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