Sense and Sensibility adaptations: Janeite Movie Marathon!

Sense and Sensibility Movie Adaptations all over the place.

Last week I rented the 2007 BBC adaptation of Sense and Sensibility from Scarecrow Video, which came with a bonus disc, Miss Austen Regrets. When I checked out Sense and Sensibility, I was blissfully unaware that the bonus disc was included in my rental. Scarecrow Video came through for me yet again. Needless to say, I was very happy when I got home. Two movies for the price of one, amazing. Extra surprise Jane Austen-based movie to feed my addiction, priceless.

I also found a movie with Aishwarya Rai,  advertised on the cover as a Tamil “Kollywood” adaptation of Sense and Sensibility, called I Have Found It. I figured that renting two different adaptations of Sense and Sensibility would make for a fun-filled movie marathon.

I got both of them from the Literature section of Scarecrow’s vast room selection.

Literature room at Scarecrow Video, Seattle

I watched the two BBC movies first , and loved them both.

Let’s start with the BBC version of Sense and Sensibility. This same version of Sense and Sensibility was playing every Sunday on Jane Austen Season when I was staying in London, Spring 2007. I have also seen bits and pieces on PBS Masterpiece Theatre in the states, but it was really nice to view the film in its entirety. The whole movie felt right- it felt like being in the novel, with rustic simplicity of the English countryside in the background.

My favorite things about this version:

  1. The Casting. Most of the characters really seemed authentic to the period, and behaved in believable ways, or as their characters might be expected to from what we know of them. It took me a while to warm to some of the secondary characters, but it was not long before I fell in love with them too. In my opinion, the cast in this newer Sense and Sensibility just felt right. For example, Mrs. Dashwood was cast wonderfully. She was just aristocratic enough to be polite in rough situations, and to whether the family crisis with class, while still not quite understanding the financial predicament that her family was really in.
  2. The script. The words in the script were chosen very well, and it seemed enough like the sentiment and tone of the novel without being a recitation of the novel.
  3. Costumes. Marianne and Eleanor were dressed very believably, and so were the other characters. They were not so worried with appearances, especially when they moved to the cottage. Marianne dress was simplistic with a touch of whimsy to match her character’s personality, and Elinor’s sensible and more rustic dress suited her character as well.
  4. Marianne. I was bracing myself to hate this new version of Sense and Sensibility’s Marianne, since I loved the 1995 version with Kate Winslet so much. Although Kate Winslet is one of the best actresses in the world, (and I still love the older version of S&S), I thought this Marianne (Charity Wakefield), knocked her role out of the park as well. She was not only NOT disappointing, but was instead very much like Austen’s Marianne.

Marianne from the 2008 BBC Adaptation

This new Marianne looked and acted as I’d imagined her character when I read S&S for the first time, and it was refreshing to see her vs. Kate Winslet’s version of Marianne. Kate brought more fervor and passion to the role, but Charity Wakefield brought more subtlety, and I think was closer to the correct age of the character when she played her. Her hair also seemed more natural, and Kate Winslet’s blond curly wig in the 1995 version just drives me bonkers when I watch it because it doesn’t even look like real hair.

Three rainy versions of Marianne

  1. The awkwardness. This awkwardness, created by the crass country company and the impropriety of the new connections is downplayed by the social skills of Elinor and her mother; although Marianne handles it somewhat less gracefully, she also confronts the rudeness more directly and changes the behavior of her “attackers.”

What I didn’t like about this adaptation:  honestly, I can’t say much about that. Besides missing Kate and Alan Rickman simply for nostalgia’s sake,  I enjoyed this new adaptation thoroughly. It was one of the first times I’ve really been able to sit and watch an adaptation without critically analyzing it. I think this is because it felt so comfortable to me. As I said, the film makers really did a wonderful job with it, and the music was spot on to convey the tone of the different scenes, none of which were hyperbolic or as dramatic as the older movie version. I was impressed. I would recommend watching this movie with a cup of warm cider, since the scenery gets a bit chilly and wet.


Now, I Have Found It, although intriguing on the exterior, was a little too far out there for me. I was definitely in the right mood for a long Bollywood-esque movie, which I later learned (thanks M.) is different from Kollywood, and prepared myself to sit for hours on the couch enjoying musical numbers and Janeite references. However, I was pretty confused during the first 30 minutes of the film. It starts with footage of a war, and gun fighting, which of course was never a part of Sense and Sensibility.

I didn’t really understand at all how this movie had been even loosely adapted from the novel until at least 30 minutes in when the family loses their home to their brother and his wife (who seems really nice at first, and then suddenly turns into a greedy evil sister-in-law,  an unrealistic character shift). The person who is responsible for the home is the dying grandfather (not father/ husband of the Dashwood women), so that threw me off.

Once I finally figured out which character was supposed to refer to which, I didn’t feel that the sentiments of those characters were in any way matching. I was also disappointed in Aishwarya Rai’s portrayal of a young and excitable “Marianne.” Her acting was too controlled and had no emotion, the opposite of Marianne. She kind of just acted like a spoilt brat through most of it.

Aishwarya Rai

The cover says that the film is about two sisters who are opposites, (ahem, one with “Sense” and one with “Sensibility”) but it really seemed to be primarily focused on the Colonel Brandon character, and his struggle loving the Marianne character unrequitedly. He is also a war vet (hence the first part of the film), is a raging alcoholic when first introduced on screen, and has lost his leg. It seemed a bizarre representation of his character, and although I appreciated a more imaginative Colonel Brandon, the Marianne character still seemed to keep him grounded and sober, while in the novel he is the steady one who rubs off on her more.

So, not only did the director choose to focus on the man and his plight, making the female story less impactful, but the gender roles between Colonel Brandon and Marianne’s characters were reversed as well.

I could go on and on about this movie, but really, it doesn’t seem worth it. If interested, I found this fairly entertaining and pretty thorough summary of the film. I think that Jane Austen’s works are so fabulous because they are open to various interpretations. However, this one really missed the mark, and I think that it is almost nothing like the novel. In fact, they may have just referred to already popular and already very famous Sense and Sensibility to sell more movies.

If you value your time and sanity, don’t watch this movie. I would not recommend it to anyone, not even to someone with loads of time on their hands, and will never suffer through it again myself.

Until next time,

Miss E


17 comments on “Sense and Sensibility adaptations: Janeite Movie Marathon!

  1. Maliha says:

    Thanks for the shout out 🙂 I haven’t seen I have found it, but I’ve seen enough of its trailers si I can still hum the tunes. I enjoyed your take on the film and thoughts on the differences from the original plot, however I must say that I don’t think the directors were trying to create an adaption of sense and sensibility, but were more ‘inspired’ by it and wanted to recreate aspects of the situational conflicts in their movie.

    Austen’s eighteenth century England, and modern day middle class India have a lot in common in regards to values, morals, gender perceptions and money/beauty/marriage connections so the stories being transferable makes sense. You hit the nail on the head though with the comment about the film being male lead centric rather than female like the plot. I’m not 100% familiar with Kollywood (I actually can’t watch Indian movies not in Hindi because I keep trying to learn words, so I end up missing out the storyline lol) but I do know that they have more male centric films and that the Colonel Brandon character-with the very entertaining name Mahmooty-is a HUGE superstar, so the masses prefer scenes with him and think he has depth and is a rogue who is reformed by the love of a noble woman. Common theme in MOST mass appeal oriented Indian Movies.

    Also, I’m not entirely sure Austen is that popular in India, given that there is a certain backlash against 18th century British things with the sentiments relating to Anti-Colonialism and all. But I can’t speak for sure since I have never been a part of the academic world in India.

    I am trying to remember if bollywood ever did a sense and sensibility adaptation/copy. That version may be more similar. I’ll link to it when I think of it!

    Oh and I don’t think Aishwarya can act well on her own at all. She REALLY needs the guidance of a strong director to show proper emotions. I think she was cast as a big name star heroine to be opposite the MEGA Star Mahmooty-hence the constant dance sequences focused on her and her elaborate costume changes. One thing that is hard to really explain though, is the audience that Indian directors are aiming at. Since I know very little about Tamil Cinema or audiences I won’t comment too much, but its an aspect worth exploring since so many liberties were taken with the plot. I think most mainstream cinema in India is very formulaic and has a set predictable pattern that people go to see. My stepmother explained it to me as since so much in India is UNpredictable, people like knowing they can go sit in a warm/dry/air conditioned/safe from the harsh elements movie theater for 3 hours, watch an escapist film and not think about their own lives. They also like having all the senses appealed to-like a catharsis of sorts but only the superficial feelings of shock at the cruelty of larger than life characters plus admiration of romantic leads who are SO impractical in their thoughts and actions. Pure escapist fun. No real messages being conveyed, no thoughts to ponder after the movie is done. Just songs to sing and dance to at weddings and costumes to try and recreate:)

    • Thank you for your comment Maliha! Always amazing to talk with you about gender issues and Indian cinema. Thanks for your first point about the inspiration vs. adaptation- that definitely seems to be the case. Since I was expecting adaptation, I was really confused!

      I also appreciate your points about the audience consideration- I have little experience with that region, but I would imagine that even though their are still colonial echoes, there would be some backlash towards Austen and other English/ British writers.

      Also, I didn’t know that about Aishwarya Rai’s acting- sad face of disappointment 😦

      Your comment was really helpful! Hope to see more in the future!


      Miss E

  2. I have to see the 2008 BBC adaptation of Sense and Sensibility! I never knew about it. I absolutely love the 1995 version and can’t even come close to knowing how many times I have seen it!! I can’t wait to compare it to the newer adaptation. Gosh, I love british period films!

    • Yes! Me too 🙂 2007-2008 was a good time for Austen adaptations too. If you haven’t seen them yet, I highly recommend the BBC adaptations of Persuasion, Emma and Northanger Abbey from that time range!

  3. loky says:

    You are brave in choosing to watch Jane Austen’s adaption in Bollywood, especially the one with Aishwarya in it. 🙂 There’s another adaption: Bride and Prejudice and Aishwarya Rai stars in that too.

    Advice: don’t watch! 😛

    • Ha! I had no idea that Aishwarya Rai had this reputation for bad acting! Thanks for the ninja advice Loky, although I do have to say that I must watch all Jane Austen adaptations I find out of a morbid curiosity (call it blog post research 🙂 So, you have seen Bride and Prejudice and don’t recommend it? Any adaptations you would recommend?

      • loky says:

        I have not seen Bride and Prejudice but I have not read glowing reviews for it either. I don’t know of any other Jane Austen’s adaptions in Bollywood.

        If you are interested in other authors, Omkara and Maqbool are both very good movies based on Othello and Macbeth.

      • Much says:

        Hi! I love Bride and Prejudice — it’s just so bad it’s good! Full of literary excellence and shining moments in acting? Well … no. Looking forward to exploring your blog!

    • I enjoyed “Bride and Prejudice.” Oscar worthy? No. BBC-esque? No. But I thought it was a fun adaptation.

      Judging from your review, “B&P” stayed closer to the book than “I Have Found It.”

  4. Thank you for your feedback! I would love to see those- I wonder if they have them at my local movie store?!

  5. Maliha says:

    Confession Time…I own Bride and Prejudice, if you ever wanna watch it LOL. But I like it for the interracial relationship aspects, along with the comical Mrs. Bennett character who reminds me of my own mother…But yeah, it shouldn’t be watched with the idea that its Pride and Prejudice, more like a movie that ‘borrowed’ the storyline, and then changed it as it saw fit while still following the outline. I don’t think any bollywood movie follows the movie its inspired by..I mean how else can they fit in the song and dance sequences?! LOL.

  6. Scriptor Obscura says:

    If you love to watch Period Dramas such as these ones (I am a HUGE fan of period dramas myself) you will really enjoy this YouTube channel which contains a large number of Period Dramas and series posted in their entirety:
    This is an excellent YouTube channel for watching Period and costume dramas, particularly from the BBC, which produces so many lovely films and series! I highly recommend this YouTube channel to you, I think that you will really enjoy watching all of the films and series that are posted there!

  7. Wow! Thank you. Each of you have provided me with an eye-opening view of culture and films.

    I have only recently read Sense and Sensibility (and also Pride and Prejudice) so am trailing far behind you. I did not know anything of Kollywood. Since I don’t understand the language, I enjoy Bollywood for the music and visual aspects of the scenes.

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