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While Marianne and Elinor Dashwood are supposed to be the heroines of this Jane Austen story, they are so dull in this 4-part BBC production that when Mrs. Jennings appears, she jumps out of the screen as a full-blooded character full of life.
Hampered by extremely low production values where most of the scenes are set in smallish rooms, the viewer is left little on which to fix his/her attention. The costumes also are dull and repetitious and all of one design. The girls talk and talk and talk.
Set in the 1810s, story has the Dashwood sisters falling in love with the wrong men and then agonizing over their feelings ad nauseum. These sisters are a gloomy pair indeed and cannot compare to the sisters in Emma Thompson's brilliant 1995 film. Here , they fret and stew without a whisper of humor or spirit.
My guess is that the lackluster writing and directing defeated Joanna David ad Ciaran Madden from the getgo. Their mother (Isabel Dean) is also a gloomy gus so maybe it's inherited. Elinor (David) falls for Edward (Robin Ellis) who seems to be vaguely engaged to the grasping and catty Lucy (Frances Cuka), while Marianne (Madden) falls for Willoughby (Clive Francis) who seems to have a secret life in London.
The girls make the acquaintance of Mrs. Jennings (Patricia Routledge) a merry widow whose daughters are safely married. Mrs. Jennings takes an active interest in young people and is an inveterate matchmaker. She also serves as a surrogate mother to the girls while they are in London.
The girls suffer through dashed hopes and various humiliations before everything comes aright in the end via a series of major misapprehensions about Willoughby and Ferrars, mostly because of the gossip they listen to so attentively.
Routledge is a burst of energy physically and vocally. While the yunger women drone on in monotones, Routledge fills the air with laughter and gasps and a mellifluous voice. Those familiar with Routledge from her TV characters Hyacinth Bucket and Hetty Wainthropp will not be surprised. She's brilliant.
Stick with the 1995 film version.
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