Widow Dashwood and her three unmarried daughters, Elinor, Marianne and Margaret, inherit only a tiny allowance. So they move out of their grand Sussex home to a more modest cottage in ... See full summary »
Emma Woodhouse seems to be perfectly content, a loving father whom she cares for, friends, and a home. But Emma has a terrible habit - matchmaking. She cannot resist finding suitors for her... See full summary »
Jonny Lee Miller
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The daughter of a country doctor copes with an unwanted stepmother, an impetuous stepsister, burdensome secrets, the town gossips, and the tug on her own heartstrings for a man who thinks of her only as a friend.
Widow Dashwood and her three unmarried daughters, Elinor, Marianne and Margaret, inherit only a tiny allowance. So they move out of their grand Sussex home to a more modest cottage in Devonshire. There, the prevailing ambition is to find suitable husbands for the girls. With help from wealthy neighbor Sir John Middleton, suitors for Elinor and Marianne are soon found, but not landed. They include dashing Willoughby, future vicar Edward Ferrars and retired colonial gentleman Colonel Brandon. Written by
The scene of Col. Brandon shooting with Sir John Middleton was not in Andrew Davies's script. It was added at the suggestion of Mark Williams (Sir John), who was keen to include a scene between the two men, and being a historical gun enthusiast, wanted an opportunity to showcase his expertise. See more »
The scene: Elinor finds Edward chopping wood in the rain. We see Elinor approaching with her arms holding the shawl over her head and shoulders. When the shot shifts and we see Elinor from her back, the shawl is covering only her head, with arms over the shawl. See more »
My favorite version, especially for Elinor and Marianne
This serial, like Pride and Prejudice and Emma by the same scriptwriter, is my favorite rendition of its novel. In the first hour it's my favorite by far; in the rest, just my favorite.
The first part, which required the most invention, introduces the protagonists and unfolds the story quite compellingly; later the pace and the choice of incident become more iffy, as though the intended runtime had been shortened during shooting: some closely spaced scenes have a similar tone, without enough contrast between, and some minor characters are introduced and then abandoned. Why the ocean is there, I don't know; it points up the two sisters' different moods but has a way of making some scenes seem like Emily Bronte. I also don't understand why the families are introduced in poses as for portraits; this tends in the opposite direction from the seascapes, towards satire, which seems out of keeping with the general approach.
I take it the scriptwriter has adopted a darker view of the period since his earlier Austen dramatizations; those were charming and merry; the latest two leave out the funniest lines, turn the funny characters into unfunny ones, and seem bent on pointing up the sad plight of women in men's toils. This of course is one of Austen's subjects, but I believe her characters never say outright, as Marianne does here (in some such words), "Are we only men's playthings?" The sentiment is apt, but the perspective seems a little awry .
In any case, where this production exceeds its predecessors is in the casting, especially of the Dashwood family. Its Elinor is the only one I've found right, and Marianne, who has been done well by before, is conveyed more fully here. And they're just extremely likable; by the end I was ready to marry both of them myself. Also, the family seems a real family, with relationships that could only be products of having lived under the same roof for years. And the production is sensitive to the qualities of the actresses cast: e.g. having Janet McTeer as the mother, it gives her credit for more sense than the novel does. This elides the point that she's the person from whom Marianne inherits her romanticism; on the other hand, this is clearly portrayed as a byproduct of her youth, and so no further excuse is needed.
The male principals, I thought better cast also. The best of all is Willoughby, although until his last scene with Elinor I didn't see where the production was heading with him. Always before, he's seemed like another Wickham, but here he isn't; he's well-meaning in his own mind, but too weak to carry out his better intentions. Marianne practically throws herself at him, and from our one look at Brandon's ward we can imagine she did the same; he plainly doesn't have the strength of character to have rejected them. The novel gives him a break the serial doesn't: he says he didn't know about his ex-girlfriend's indigency because he'd forgotten to give her his address but she could have gotten it if she'd tried, and Elinor believes him. Perhaps the scriptwriter didn't, or thought the audience wouldn't; anyhow, in the novel Elinor's final judgment on him is more severe: that his only motive throughout has been selfishness. I was sorry this speech was eliminated, but it would have been superfluous, since one infers the same from the actor's reading of the scene. As for the other beaux, this Colonel Brandon comes nearer the mark than the others, in being younger and more reserved; Edward is better, too, but not so much so: he's like a synthesis of the former Edwards and another actor I can't place; rather in the Hugh Grant line, but more skillful at it. I don't fully get the character; but then I didn't in the book either.
The sisters, however, are something else again. Here at last is an Elinor I can believe in--about the right age, long used to being the voice of reason in her family and of being accepted as such, from necessity rather than choice; practical, circumspect, long-suffering, but with her spirit alive and unspoiled. A nice touch is the indication at one point that someone so unfailingly right in her advice can sometimes be a drag to live with.
Of the prior Elinors, I thought Emma Thompson's was an expert portrayal, as one would expect, but the actress's core character--the one all her characters are built around--is a mild neurotic of a type I don't see as having existed before the 1920s, and certainly not in Austen's time. Moreover, the rhythm of that character is a distinctively 20th-century rhythm, and Austen's prose had to be wrenched to make it fit; Thompson did so with considerable skill. but the result was a translation more than an interpretation. Then there was the age issue: Thompson's Elinor was a middle-aged spinster; Austen's wasn't. The Elinor of the earlier BBC serial seemed closer in some ways but still not right; she looked rather like a clumpish Cinderella, and gave some of her lines inflections that sounded cold and cutting in a way not the character's.
Yet as impressed as I was by the new Elinor, by the end I was even more impressed with Marianne. She's played as young (until she grows up), with all the silliness, stubbornness, and excess that are part of the baggage of that time of life. And of course the sexuality. Few scenes have been more erotic, with less "happening" in them, than her forbidden tour of the house she imagines will be hers. Both of the prior Mariannes were fairly accurate (except for the air that Kate Winslet's characters always have of being spoiled university girls), and both quite alike in being romantic above all; this Marianne has more dimension, as well as more suggestion, about her, and reminds me of girls I've known.
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