Sense & Sensibility (2008) Review
While the 1995 Emma Thompson adaptation of Sense & Sensibility still stands as my personal favorite adaptation of Jane Austen’s beloved novel, the 2008 version penned by period drama veteran Andrew Davies (’95 adaption of Pride and Prejudice) is definitely a close second. Indeed, there are some aspects of this miniseries I like better (especially since the longer format allows for more development).
For those still unfamiliar with Austen’s story, Sense & Sensibility is about a widow, Mrs. Dashwood, and her three daughters: Elinor, Marianne, and Margaret. With the loss of husband and father, these women are left practically with no money since law demands the money and estate go to the girls’ older half-brother, a brother who cares very little for them (especially since he has a nasty, greedy wife whispering in his ear). They must find a way to support themselves.
While looking for a new place to live, Edward Ferrars comes to visit his sister (the girls’ sister-in-law) and forms some kind of attachment with Elinor. He’s handsome, kind, and the two just bond instantaneously. An engagement seems on the horizon, against the wishes of Edward’s sister Fanny, but nothing happens. There’s something holding Edward back, but what?
Finally, the Dashwood women find a new place to live, a cottage by the sea. They move with the hopes Edward will come to visit them. In the meantime, they are introduced to a Colonel Brandon, a man of high means who has suffered a romantic tragedy in losing his first love. Immediately, he is drawn to Marianne and her lively character, but she has no interest in him. Instead, she begins to fall for a younger man named Willoughby who rescues her. The two understand each others’ Romantic spirits and so Marianne throws all caution to the wind, never hiding how she feels for him; the opposite of her sister Elinor, who constantly keeps her secret feelings in check.
Sense & Sensibility is, of course, much more complicated than the brief overview I just gave. It’s about humanity, family, and love, and this adaptation does a stunning job of bringing the story and themes together with a fantastic cast as well. With Dan Stevens (Downton Abbey) as Edward, you can’t help but fall in love with him just as much as Elinor does. Then there’s David Morrissey as Col. Brandon and Dominic Cooper as Willoughby as the other two, very dashing leading men. The female cast is just as good as their now more familiar male counterparts. While not equal to the performances of Winslet and Thompson (who could match that?), Hattie Morahan and Charity Wakefield are simply wonderful.
Despite the weird, sensual opening of the new miniseries (I didn’t really get this choice by Davies), the execution of Sense & Sensibility is breathtaking from the performances, the writing, the costumes, to the overall production. If you love romantic period dramas and Jane Austen, Sense & Sensibility is definitely a must see! It is available on DVD, rent, and Hulu Plus.
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