I’m a total Jane Austen Junkie, of course (come on–I even wrote a “modern retelling of Persuasion“). So here’s my dark little secret: I’ve never been a big fan of Austen’s novel Sense and Sensibility, or any of its adaptations.
Don’t tell anyone, okay?
I mean, it’s okay. It’s Jane Austen, so it’s still better than 90% of the schlock you find out there these days. But still. The Dashwood sisters just don’t set me on fire, for one thing. Marianne? Hysterical much? Calm down, Marianne, sure Willoughby is a total dashing hottie, but he’s still just a guy. Pull it together, all right? And Elinor? Yes, dear, sober, sensible Elinor. I know we’re supposed to love her but I don’t know how much I can love anyone who carries a torch for Edward Ferrars, perhaps the biggest wet blanket in all of Austen Maledom. Even Edmund Bertram in Mansfield Park, with his idiotic crush on Mary Crawford, rouses more excitement in me than the docile, boring, whoops-I-got-engaged-to-an-idiot-so-I’ll-just-have-to-go-through-with-it-while-pining-for-my-true-love “hero” Edward Ferrars.
This is a shame, because there have been a lot of adaptations of Sense and Sensibility. There was the big theatrical version, of course, starring Emma Thompson and an adorably young and histrionic Kate Winslet (for her hair in this movie I will dub her Kate Ringlet) and a reliably-awkward Hugh Grant, reprising his Four Weddings and a Funeral role in period dress. Then there was the 2008 BBC adaptation, which at least had a gorgeous soundtrack and finally made Colonel Brandon a believable older hottie by casting David Morrissey in the role (I love David Morrissey, although the quality of the projects he chooses is sometimes, well, questionable). It also featured believable and actually likable Dashwood sisters, but again, the casting of Dan Stevens as Edward Ferrars didn’t do much for me. (I am not a Dan Stevens Fan.) Evidently a 1981 adaptation is also available; I’ve not seen that one.
But for some reason this week I was jonesing for some sweet 1970s BBC action, so I went searching for another Sense and Sensibility I’d not yet seen: the 1971 adaptation starring Joanna David as Elinor and Ciaran Madden as Marianne. And WOW! This is a Sense and Sensibility I can get behind. Let’s run down the case.
1. At last, a Marianne who just seems kind of foolish, but mostly young, rather than absolutely ridiculous. She’s also delightfully rude and doesn’t show any kind of remorse. She’s a total teenager.
2. I like this Elinor too, who is quiet and sensible and nice without seeming boring AF. Bonus points to this Elinor for also appearing in the 1995 BBC/A&E adaptation of Pride and Prejudice (as Elizabeth Bennet’s Aunt Gardiner).
3. 1970s make-up styles!!
4. Double extra points to the casting of Patricia Routledge as the loud and crass and yet genuinely goodhearted Mrs. Jennings. Does she look familiar? She would go on to play Hyacinth in the popular comedy Keeping Up Appearances. Mr. GBTV wandered through the room while this movie was on (he’s had to sit through a painful amount of Keeping Up Appearances episodes, as I rewatch them on PBS) and said, “Wow, she sounds just like Hyacinth Bucket already.”
5. The pacing here is good. There’s four forty-five minute episodes, and that’s enough to be quite faithful to the book (although there’s no little sister Margaret here) without getting bogged down with too many faithful details.
6. Last and certainly not least: ROBIN ELLIS. That’s it, I’m becoming a total Robin Ellis Fan Girl. Robin Ellis, who would go on from this program to star as Ross Poldark in the 1970s adaptation of Poldark, stars here as Edward Ferrars. And he’s a completely sympathetic, stuttering slightly but not distractedly so, funny, and my, when he opens the door to Elinor with his puffy shirt distractingly open, his cute little glasses, and his declarations of love at the ready, I thought, FINALLY. Here is an Edward Ferrars I can get behind.
It was a most enjoyable dip into 1970s literary adaptation world. (Here’s another review if you don’t want to take just my word for it.) I would highly recommend it if you’re looking for something to help you through the upcoming winter weekend.