Monday, August 23, 2010

Sense and Sensibility Mash Up

Today I tackle mashing up Sense and Sensibility, which I think may be the book of Ms. Austen's that best translates to film. All the adaptations done of this story stick fairly closely to the original text, and all are satisfying in their own ways. Nevertheless, as each film has improved on its predecessor, the first - a 1971 BBC mini-series in four parts - cannot really compete in this contrary exercise in which I intend to indulge. It is for this reason that I posted a review of the film last Friday, as it is entirely unrepresented here. Still, between the 1981 BBC mini-series (this one was allotted an enormous seven parts, though in only half hour increments), the 1995 Ang Lee film, and the 2008 Andrew Davies mini-series, this was still the hardest mash up I have yet attempted. Some of the characters have been repeatedly represented phenomenally - like Fanny Dashwood and Willoughby - making selection very difficult. I know many will disagree with my final calls, but as I acknowledge the entire endeavor to be partial and prejudiced, I hope no one may think I slighted anyone intentionally. That being said, for your delectation may I present my Sense and Sensibility Mash Up? I hope you enjoy it!

(Check out previous mash ups - Emma, Mansfield Park, Pride and Prejudice, and Persuasion)

Elinor Dashwood - Though Irene Richard charmed me in this role (also familiar to Austen fans as Charlotte Lucas in the 1980 production of Pride and Prejudice), and Hattie Morahan was positively exquisite, I still prefer Emma Thompson in the role (despite being a bit too old for it). Yet I cannot watch the film without remembering those awesome final episodes of "The Vicar of Dibley", so memorable to Richard Armitage fans, in which Dawn French refers to Emma Thompson's reaction when Hugh Grant finally asks her to marry him. If you've ever seen it, by all means get a copy a check it out!

Marianne Dashwood - I'm sticking with 1995 on this one, though it was a tough call between Kate Winslet and Charity Wakefield. I went with the former because, frankly, I just really like Kate Winslet. Ever since first seeing the film (not long after first reading the book), she has been the Marianne in my mind's eye whenever I read the book.

Edward Ferrars - By far and away, I vastly prefer Dan Stevens' 2008 portrayal to any other Edward. He is more charming than Edward is usually imagined to be, which might have something to do it with it. I must admit that Edward is not one of my favorite Austen heroes.   

Colonel Brandon - On this one I am decidedly biased towards 1995. I adore Alan Rickman andwill always think he's the best Brandon, no matter how many phenomenal performances David Morrissey gives. I have nothing else to offer in justification of myself. 

John Willoughby - If I could blend Greg Wise's 1995 performance with  Dominic Cooper's physical appearance I would, but, as that would be against my self imposed rules, I'm going to pick Dominic Cooper (2008) for this role. He just looks exactly like I have always imagined Willoughby to appear (a slight resembles to my first boyfriend doesn't hurt either).

Mrs. Dashwood - Everyone who has played this role has done a fine job, but I prefer Janet McTeer's 2008 portrayal. She captures the sensitivity towards her children that Austen develops so well and looks every inch the lady of the manner. We really feel her the magnitude of her indignation at her social descent in this adaptation.

Margaret Dashwood - I lean towards Lucy Boynton in the 2008 production for this role, although her interpretation seems more based on Emilie Francois' 1995 performance than anything one might find in Austen. As none of the previous adaptations bother to include Miss Margaret, I guess we can assume that this hoydenish portrayal is the version cinema is sticking to.

Lucy Steele - I am going back to the 1981 version for this selection. Julia Chambers is the only actress who seems able to balance her innocent facade and the deceitful nature. The other portrayals lean either too far one way or the other for my satisfaction. Unfortunately, I could not find a better quality photo. 

John Dashwood - This was a very hard decision, but in the end I think I favor Mark Gatiss' 2008 performance, as he really comes off as, frankly, whipped, and inclined to act better were his wife not such a harpy. This feels, to me, more in keeping with Austen's intentions for him.

Fanny Dashwood - I imagine this must be a wonderfully fun part to play, as most of the actresses who have attempted it have done it so well, but I like Amanda Boxer's 1981 performance best. She has such a sneer! Her self-satisfied condescension is perfect.

Mrs. Jennings - Again, 1981 holds sway here. I really like Annie Leon's motherly portrayal of this part. She is both the ill-mannered and jovial lady Austen created while perfectly capturing the truly good heart that lays beneath the unpolished exterior, yet not an image can I find! You'll just have to watch the film!

Sir John Middleton - This is another role that just seems like fun and has been repeatedly performed well. I like Mark Williams' 2008 portrayal best. He's a perfect country squire while not being overly course. I also like how his friendship with Colonel Brandon is developed further in this adaptation.

Mrs. Ferrars - For whatever reason, none of the actresses who have played this role seem to quite capture the essence of the part, at least not at well as some Austen's other grand-dames have been portrayed (like Lady Catherine). I think Jean Marsh did the most justice to the part in 2008, incorporating a very appropriate haughtiness into her performance, but I wish she would have been less stoic (especially when she confronts Edward and Lucy).

Charlotte Palmer - I really like Hetty Baynes thoroughly silly portrayal of this part from 1981. Her incredibly annoying giggle sticks with me far more than any aspect from any other lady's performance as Charlotte, although a personal bias makes me long to give this role to Imelda Staunton -1995 (especially as I lament the lack of a decent image of Ms. Baynes).

Mr. Palmer - Although the interpretation of Mr. Palmer presented by Hugh Laurie in 1995 is significantly more sympathetic than anything Austen could have envisioned for the man, I like it, and I like Mr. Laurie. His performance emphasizes the similarities between the relationship of the Palmers to that of Mr. and Mrs. Bennet, a parallel which has long intrigued me.

Anne Steele - I prefer Daisy Haggard's 2008 portrayal of this part. Something about her toothiness makes her performance work far better for me than the others. It should be noted that Miss Steele was completely absent from the 1995 film - a sad omission of a fabulously comic character in my mind.

Robert Ferrars - There is a propensity to cast rather doughy-faced actors in this role, a practice I do not fully understand. Of the doughy-faced portrayals of this part, I think I find Richard Lumsden's 1995 performance most satisfying. Perhaps he is just less doughy than the other actors, but I do think he has a bit of the Ferrars haughtiness, which helps to make him rather convincing.

Images -

Emma Thompson -
Kate Winslet -
Dan Stevens -
Alan Rickman -
Dominic Cooper -
Janet McTeer -
Lucy Boynton -
Julia Chambers -
Mark Gatiss -
Amanda Boxer -
Mark Williams -
Jean Marsh -
Hetty Baynes -
Hugh Laurie -
Daisy Haggard -
Richard Lumsden -


  1. These mash-ups are so fun! It looks like you liked characters from all three chapters equally. I love your comment about Robert Ferrars always having a doughy face!

  2. I too loved Janet McTeer's portrayal. One of my favorite Mrs. Dashwood scenes is when she comes in with drawings of Beecham Court and Thrush Place and mentions "look, Marianne, it has a gazebo!" It reinforces how Mrs. Dashwood is more like Marianne and as you mentioned her having to really adapt to a very different lifestyle money-wise.

    It's been awhile since I've seen the 1981 adaptation but I do remember Amanda Boxer's shriek (perhaps that's an understatement) when she finds out about Edward's secret engagement.

    When they make the next P&P Hugh Laurie would be the perfect Mr. Bennet!

  3. I love this Mash Up! I am in agreement with most of your chosen actors but I can't happy with you choosing Dan Stevens! I think he is a much better hero for a film because he is better looking and much more charming than Hugh Grant's portrayal, but I find him very untrue to the book. Hugh Grant's awkward and nervous role is more what Austen had in mind I think. Having said that, I almost wish I hadn't read the book, because then I could enjoy Stevens' performance so much more!

    PS. I also love your reviews for the 1995 and 2008 adaptations! You made some very good points!

  4. Hi Annalisa. I know what you mean about Hugh Grants portrayal of Edward, and I have to agree that it is more in keeping with the book. However, I really just don't like Edward very much , which has a lot to do with my preference for the less accurate interpretation.

  5. I know that it's been a long time since you wrote this mashup, but I've just read it. You have a fun little typo in the explanation for Lucy Steele. Personally, I think it makes it better than what you intended!