Once again, I’m back comparing two classics. Who doesn’t love Jane Austen? Well, maybe some biker on a Harley, wearing lots of leather and a skull helmet. Nevertheless, for the ladies of the world who revere her timeless stories, this is one of my favorites.
Like many other Austen tales, there are multiple versions of this first published work of Jane’s in 1811. There was a 1971 TV serial, 1981 TV serial, 1995 film and the most recent 2008 mini-series. Do I have a favorite? The 2008 version is the one that floats my remote, but the 1995 movie version is close behind.
The 1995 version had been my favorite, of course, until the 2008 mini-series came along, consisting of three episodes and 174 minutes. Sense & Sensibility is one of my best-loved Austen tales. The 1995 version is the star-studded, well-known cast of Emma Thompson, Kate Winslet, Greg Wise (married to Emma Thompson in real life, by the way), Hugh Grant, and the infamous Alan Rickman. Each of these talented actors make up cast who tells this fascinating tale of the Dashwood sisters.
The 2008 TV mini-series is much longer, of course, with a casting of new faces, at least for me, in most of the characters. I had never seen Hattie Morahan (Elinor) or Charity Wakefield (Marianne) before this series aired. Frankly, I loved them and found them both endearing in this version. Kate Winslet, although, probably outshines as Marianne between the two. She is such a spirited actress. “Can he love her? Can the soul really be satisfied with such polite affections? To love is to burn – to be on fire, like Juliet or Guinevere or Eloise.”
Then we have the men who love these woman. Hugh Grant and a young Greg Wise in the movie version make good choices. In the 2008 version, we have blue-eyed Dan Stevens (the Downton Abbey heart throb) as Edward Farrars. A more sleazy Willoughby, in my opinion, was the 2008 Dominic Cooper, who drew from a me a little more empathy in spite of being a rogue. There is quite a bit of sexuality played in the 2008 version with the seduction scene at the beginning. The interaction between Willoughby and Marianne is more tender and seductive as well. However, I’ve read that was a pain point with some critics (read here). Austen and raunchy don’t mix. But in all honesty, there isn’t anything raunchy about the BBC version whatsoever.
Then we have Colonel Brandon, played by the late Alan Rickman in 1995, who did everything well on screen. It’s sad that he has left us and his fans have been robbed of great performances that were yet to come. Nevertheless, we are left with memories of older ones, even in this version of Sense & Sensibility.
In the 2008 version, we have David Morrissey, a handsome Brandon, who I thought more attractive but a bit too stiff in his role. Alan had a little more heart in his performance than David did. Morrissey is no longer wearing cravats and period clothing but has been on Zombie and sci-fi related shows in the past few years. Apparently, he’s working on another long-long-ago period drama set in 45 AD, Britannia. Maybe he’s taking up a toga instead.
Another thing that I like about the longer series version is that it’s not so rushed. You also get to enjoy beautiful coastal scenery of Hartland, Devon, with quite a few shots of rolling waves crashing against the rocks. It brings back to me the quiet life of those time periods, when long walks, picnics, playing the piano forte, and finding husbands were the order of the day.
Both versions are available to rent and stream on Amazon. However, the 2008 version is on Hulu, if you have a subscription there.