Saturday, 23 March 2013

The Lizzie Bennet Diaries (2012-13)

Jane Austen's Pride and Prejudice is one of my all-time favourite books and I've seen several different adaptations of it: the 1940 film which starred Greer Garson and Laurence Olivier, the 1995 BBC miniseries which starred Jennifer Ehle and Colin Firth, and the 2005 film which starred Keira Knightley and Matthew MacFaddyen. I've also seen a few modern-day updates: the Bridget Jones' Diary films and the Bollywood film Bride and Prejudice. Now I'm currently going through The Lizzie Bennet Diaries.

The Lizzie Bennet Diaries is another modern-day update of Pride and Prejudice and it's taken the internet by storm. It's a web series that's told in the form of a vlog (a blog in video form). Each episode is usually about 3-5 minutes long and you can watch all of them on YouTube. The series was created in April 2012 by Hank Green and Bernie Su and it stars Ashley Clements as a modern-day Elizabeth Bennet. Elizabeth (or Lizzie as she's called in this) is a 24 year old student who lives in California and is studying for a postgraduate degree in Mass Communications - so with the help of her friend Charlotte Lu (Julia Cho) she decides to make a vlog as part of her dissertation. Most of the episodes are filmed in Lizzie's bedroom and in the early episodes Lizzie chats about her life, her family and her friends. Lizzie's sisters and Charlotte make guest appearances on the vlog as well. Then a rich and single medical student called Bing Lee moves into the neighbourhood. Lizzie's mom then makes plans to pair one of her daughters off with him, and, yeah, if you're familiar with Pride and Prejudice then you'll know the rest.

I'm usually very sceptical about modern-day updates and when I first heard about The Lizzie Bennet Diaries I really didn't think I'd like it. However The Lizzie Bennet Diaries is the best modern-day update I've ever seen - that hasn't been written by Steven Moffat of course! The updating of Jane Austen's book from 19th century England to modern-day California is extremely well-done. I was really impressed at how they managed to work in some of the plot-points of the book! The entailment of the house is now a threat about having to sell the house because of a family financial crisis. The Meryton militia is now a swimming team. Mr Collins is now a businessman and Catherine de Burgh is now his financial backer. Lydia is almost exactly what you'd think she'd be. She's now an immature, promiscuous, wild party girl type and is incredibly annoying in the early episodes. Yet Lydia isn't as bad in this series as she is in the book. In the book Lydia is a love-to-hate character and is responsible for her own downfall. Her selfishness and stupidity nearly ruined her family's reputation forever. In this series though Lydia becomes a much more sympathetic and endearing character than the Lydia of the book. Mary Kate Wiles gives a brilliant performance as Lydia and I actually felt really sorry for her character. This is quite an achievement given how much I dislike Lydia in the book and in other adaptations!

There are lots of other updates in this series as well but I won't go through them all. One notable difference though is that Lizzie only has two sisters in this series - Jane and Lydia. I'm guessing that this is because most families only have 2 or 3 kids these days. Mary (the real middle child of the Bennet family) is now the Bennet sisters' emo-goth cousin. Kitty is now an actual cat! She's the family cat who follows Lydia around everywhere just like Kitty does in the book. Poor Kitty. At least Mary still got to be the same species! It is a bit of a shame that Kitty isn't a person in this series but I suppose if you're going to leave any of the sisters out then it should be her.

Another thing that I really love about The Lizzie Bennet Diaries is its fantastic casting. This is the only Pride and Prejudice adaptation I've seen where I actually like every single actor in it! I really hope that they'll be able to move onto bigger things on film and TV when this series finally ends. I also loved that all of the Bennet sisters had red-ish hair in this series. It really helped to make them look like sisters.

I'll give special mention to Ashley Clements in this review. She does a brilliant job and I loved her. She completely gets the witty humour, the charm, and the intelligence of Austen's Elizabeth and her impressions of Mrs Bennet are hilarious. *Jane Bennet's impressions of Darcy cracked me up as well* Clements has great comic timing and her Lizzie is very likeable. She is almost exactly how I would imagine a modern-day, American Elizabeth Bennet to be. The reason I say "almost" is because I found Lizzie a little bit annoying in some of the earlier episodes. This is because she's much too angry and harsh towards Darcy at times. Even before Wickham tells her that Darcy denied him his inheritance Lizzie goes into massive rants about Darcy and gets angry at the mere mention of his name. However, even though Lizzie isn't perfectly characterised in this web series I still loved her. I'll also mention Daniel Vincent Gordh who plays Darcy. He's very attractive, he and Clements have amazing chemistry, and I loved his portrayal of the character. In this series Darcy's character is rich, professional, socially awkward and has great fashion sense. The 11th Doctor would definitely approve of his bowties! Darcy doesn't even show up in this series until Episode 60 but the wait is worth it! I'm also hoping that Darcy will sing in the final episode because Gordh is a great singer in real life.

I think a big factor in The Lizzie Bennet Diaries' success has probably been its interactive element. It has Twitter, Facebook, Pinterest and Tumblr pages and fans have been able to submit questions to the characters. Every so often there are Q&A sessions where these questions get answered - with the actors in character. How cool is that?! Another really enjoyable thing about The Lizzie Bennet Diaries is that it makes occasional references to other Pride and Prejudice adaptations and Lydia has a fake I.D. under the name Mary Crawford. A nice Mansfield Park reference there. In fact the only thing that's really disappointed me about The Lizzie Bennet Diaries has been Lizzie's relationship with her dad. In the book Elizabeth is really close to her father and she's Mr Bennet's favourite daughter. Mr Bennet is also a really funny and witty character. But in this series Lizzie barely talks about her dad at all and they don't seem particularly close, and when Lizzie does mention Mr Bennet his character seems really boring and not very funny at all. I think that's a real shame and I really don't understand why they changed that : S

The Lizzie Bennet Diaries is now coming to an end and its final episode will be shown on the 28th of March. The episodes have been put up on YouTube twice a week (Mondays and Thursdays) since April last year. I've been spending my last few weekends going through the episodes and now I've come up to Episode 98 I only have to watch two more. Now I'll be waiting for these final episodes to be put up and will be going through the Q&A sessions and The Lizzie Bennet Diaries' spin-off vlogs. Lydia has her own sporadic vlog series called The Lydia Bennet Diaries, Charlotte's sister Maria has a vlog called Maria of Lu, and Gigi (the Georgiana Darcy character) has a vlog called Pemberley Digital.

Overall The Lizzie Bennet Diaries is an extremely impressive modern-day update of Jane Austen's novel and its timing couldn't be better, it coincides with the book's 200th anniversary. I completely recommend this series, especially if you've read the book, and the series is a very worthy addition to the many other Pride and Prejudice adaptations out there. It's clever, entertaining, really funny, great fun and pretty darn inventive. It might not be the most accurate Pride and Prejudice adaptation out there but it's actually my favourite. I'd love Green and Su to make vlogs of other classic novels once they've finished with Pride and Prejudice. They could do a vlog about any of Austen's other works but I think I'd quite like them to tackle Louisa May Alcott's Little Women. I think Ashley Clements would make a great Jo. I'll end this review with Episode One of The Lizzie Bennet Diaries so you can get a feel of what the series is like : )

UPDATE: Now that I've finally finished The Lizzie Bennet Diaries I thought I'd watch the various spin-offs this weekend and I'd recommend them all. If you're only going to watch one of these though then I'd go for The Lydia Bennet Diaries which is the longest and consists of 34 episodes. You get to see much more of Mary and Wickham in that vlog, a little bit more of Jane, and at one point you even get to see Kitty. Lydia continues to get excellent character development in this vlog too. Ooh, here's a cool fact as well! Mary is played by Briana Cuoco who is the real-life sister of Kaley Cuoco (Penny from The Big Bang Theory). 

Wednesday, 20 March 2013

Downton Abbey (Series One)

It's taken me a long time to start watching the hugely successful period drama that is Downton Abbey. This is ITV's most popular and critically-acclaimed period drama since their adaptation of Evelyn Waugh's Brideshead Revisited from way back in 1981. The show has been a smash-hit both here in the UK and in America. Of course I knew of Downton Abbey but I never really paid all that much attention to it when it first started airing back in 2010. Maybe I just didn't think it would appeal? I don't generally rate ITV's period dramas as highly as the BBC's and I only tend to watch period dramas which are based on novels I already like: e.g. Austen and Bronte adaptations. However I did start to become more interested in Downton Abbey last year and I did try watching it on TV. I only saw bits and pieces of it though because the completist in me felt I should start from the very beginning - so I got a boxset of series 1&2 a while ago and I've been going through the episodes with my mum because I knew this show would be her sort of thing.

Downton Abbey is a show set in the Edwardian era and is about the inhabitants of Downton Abbey, a fictional country estate in North Yorkshire. The show was created by the Oscar-winning screenwriter Julian Fellowes who writes all of the episodes. Fellowes also wrote the films Gosford Park and The Young Victoria (the latter is one of my favourite films). Series one is made up of seven episodes and it starts the day after the sinking of the Titanic in 1912, going right up to the outbreak of WWI in 1914. I've also read that Downton Abbey owes quite a bit to the BBC's Upstairs Downstairs - the original series from the 1970s - in that it's focused on both the aristocratic, "upstairs" family of Downton Abbey and their working-class, "downstairs" servants.

The upstairs characters of Downton Abbey include Lord Robert Crawley, the Earl of Grantham (Hugh Bonneville) and his American heiress wife Lady Cora (Elizabeth McGovern). The couple have three daughters: Lady Mary (Michelle Dockery), Lady Edith (Jessica Carmichael), and Lady Sybil (Jessica Brown Findlay). Robert's mother Violet, the Dowager Countess of Grantham (Dame Maggie Smith), lives nearby and frequently visits Downton. I should also mention the Crawleys; these are the middle-class distantly-related cousins of the Downton Abbey family who move into the nearby village from Manchester at the start of the series. There's the young solicitor Matthew Crawley (Dan Stevens), who is the heir to Downton Abbey, and his mother Isobel (Penelope Wilton). The two previous heirs to Downton Abbey died on the Titanic and Matthew has settled nearby so he can start to learn the ways of the estate that he will one day inherit. Downstairs the house is run by the butler Carson (Jim Carter) and the housekeeper Mrs Hughes (Phyllis Logan), with the cook Mrs Patmore (Lesley Niccols) in the kitchen. There are numerous other servants. There are the footmen William (Thomas Howes) and Thomas (Rob James Collier). There are the maids Anna (Joanna Froggat), Gwen (Rose Leslie) and Lady Cora's personal maid Mrs O'Brien (Siobhan Finneran). There's also the kitchen maid Daisy (Sophie McShera) and, the newest addition to the household, the valet Mr Bates (Richard Coyle). Bates's arrival creates quite a stir in the household. We also get a new member of staff later on in the series, the politically-minded Irish chauffeur Branson (Allan Leech).

Downton Abbey isn't a show I'm head-over-heels in love with and there are several shows on TV that I enjoy a lot more: SherlockDoctor WhoOnce Upon a Time and Horrible Histories. I'd add Merlin to the list as well if it hadn't ended recently. Downton Abbey has its faults, well, things that I consider faults anyway. For example: series one is set in a two year period from 1912 to 1914 with months passing by from episode to episode. But by the end of the series it never really felt like two years had gone by to me. It only felt like a few months had gone by tops. Also, the storyline that involved Mary and the Turkish diplomat Mr Pamuk in Episode Three was so hilariously soap opera-esque that it literally made me laugh out loud! And no, it wasn't supposed to be funny! I've heard that the storylines for Downton Abbey get even more soap opera-esque in the later series so that is a bit of a concern for me. And now I've mentioned Mary I have to say that I got really tired of the constant bitchiness and nastiness between her and her sister Edith. I especially hated Mary. She's just so conceited and whiny and bitchy! As you can imagine then I found it pretty hard to care about her romance with Matthew. Their characters don't even seem all that well-suited and I think poor Matthew deserves better. It's funny really because I think Fellowes and the producers intended for the Mary-Matthew romantic tension to be the big love story of the show. However if you read comments and reviews of the show online you'll realise that most fans were more interested in the Anna-Bates and Sybil-Branson romances. Anyway, my criticism of Mary is entirely down to the character though because Michelle Dockery does a great job playing her.

Some of the historical details on the show didn't feel quite right to me either. Whilst Sybil's close friendship with Gwen is quite touching would an upper-class girl really be BFFs with her maid and even give her a hug? Some viewers have spotted modern satellite dishes and yellow road signs on the show as well which I find quite amusing!

Also, one of the storylines of series one involves Cora and Violet trying to break the entailment so Mary can inherit the estate. That didn't really make much sense to me. I'm not an expert on these things but it's my understanding that to break an entail you needed to have a lot of political influence and a huge amount of money - and even if you did have these things it was still unlikely to go through. So why do Cora and Violet even bother trying to break the entailment? Why don't they just try to get Mary married off as soon as possible? Although in fairness, they do spend a lot of time trying to do that as well. Maybe I'm just nitpicking.

Having said that I do actually like Downton Abbey quite a bit. It's well-written and has some engaging storylines. It has great actors. The characters are mostly likeable. It has superb production values and can be pretty funny at times. It really does have a lot going for it. The entire cast of Downton Abbey is excellent and there isn't a single weak link. All of the actors are great and are really well-cast. It's hard for me to single anyone out but I feel I have to give special praise for Dame Maggie Smith. As Violet, she steals every scene she's in and gets some very funny one-liners: "Put that in your pipe and smoke it!" : D I particularly enjoyed her clashes with Isobel. My favourite guest star in the series was Charlie Cox (Tristan from Stardust) in Episode One. Another thing that I liked about Downton Abbey are the characters. There isn't one main character in the show and it truly is an ensemble piece. I quite liked that. Also, considering that there are so many of them, the show does a a pretty amazing job with the characters' storylines. The characters all get a good amount of screentime and, considering how many of them there are, most of them are very well-developed. The only characters who didn't seem so well-developed to me were Thomas and Mrs O'Brien, the show's villains. They seemed really two-dimensional to me and I wish their motives had been better fleshed-out. I did like most of the characters in the show though and I liked pretty much everyone downstairs. Of the upstairs characters Sybil was by far my favourite out of the sisters and I really liked Violet, Robert, Matthew and Isobel as well; although I probably shouldn't count Matthew and Isobel since they don't actually live at Downton Abbey.

I have to mention the amazing production values of Downton Abbey as well. The show is visually stunning and it must have cost ITV a fortune. I was really surprised at how beautiful it looked and it's right up there with the BBC's period dramas in its aesthetics. The cinematography and costumes are beautiful and Highclere Castle makes for a gorgeous setting. My mum and I want to visit it this year. There's some very nice eye candy in the show as well in the form of Dan Stevens and ex-Coronation Street actor Rob James Collier. Man, his career's improved since then! Oh, and there's a seriously cute dog in Downton Abbey too.

So that's Downton Abbey! It's not a show I passionately love but I do really like it and watching its episodes is a fun way to spend an afternoon. Even if you're not into period dramas I'd still recommend the show it because it has a very modern feel to it.

Friday, 8 March 2013

'The Tenant of Wildfell Hall' by Anne Bronte (1848)

Synopsis: The Tenant of Wildfell Hall is a novel that's told in three parts. The first part is a letter by Gilbert Markham to his brother-in-law Mr Halford, in which he recounts events which happened many years before when he was still a young man.

Gilbert Markham is a gentleman-farmer from Yorkshire who becomes deeply fascinated by a beautiful young widow called Helen Graham, who has moved into the nearby Wildfell Hall with her young son Arthur and only one servant. Helen is working as a painter to support herself and is quite mysterious. Gilbert offers Helen his friendship and he falls in love with her. However Helen's aloof behaviour makes her the victim of rumours and gossip, with the local villagers accusing her of being the mistress of her landlord Mr Lawrence. Gilbert refuses to doubt Helen's moral character at first until he flies into a rage and beats up Mr Lawrence one night after seeing him alone with Helen. It's only then that Helen allows Gilbert to read her diary - which makes up the second part of the book. Gilbert finally learns Helen's secret, she isn't a widow at all.

The diary begins six years earlier when Helen is just 18. Helen becomes infatuated with a handsome, charming rake called Arthur Huntingdon and - going against her aunt's advice and ignoring all of the warning signs - she marries him. The marriage is a disaster and Huntingdon's true colours are revealed. He's a cruel, selfish, manipulative, emotionally abusive drunk and an adulterer. Helen is a devout Christian and tries to make the best of her situation for many years; hoping that Huntingdon will eventually see the error of his ways and will become a better man and husband. However, Helen can finally take no more when she begins to realise that Huntingdon is beginning to corrupt their young son Arthur. She runs away and takes Arthur with her so Huntingdon can't taint and ruin him. The final part of the book is the remainder of Gilbert's letter to his brother-in-law and we finally learn whether Gilbert and Helen ended up together.

Anne Bronte's The Tenant of Wildfell Hall is more famous than her other novel Agnes Grey but it's still been long overshadowed by two of her sister's novels - Wuthering Heights by Emily and Jane Eyre by Charlotte. I'd already read both of those books by the time I came to The Tenant of Wildfell Hall. I'd been very curious to read something by Anne after loving her sisters' novels very much but I still didn't have very high expectations for this book the first time I read it. I assumed that because The Tenant of Wildfell Hall is less famous than Wuthering Heights and Jane Eyre that it couldn't be as good. But I was completely surprised because I ended up loving it! The book - and Anne Bronte herself - are both massively, criminally underrated! The Tenant of Wildfell Hall is a brilliantly-written book, I really liked the fact that it was split into three sections, and its subject matter is so modern and is years ahead of its time. Back in Victorian times, married women were essentially viewed as being their husband's property and were supposed to stay with them no matter what. It didn't matter if a woman's husband was abusive. She would simply be expected to make the best of it. Anne Bronte pulled no punches with this book. It's very likely that Arthur Huntingdon is partly based on her own brother Branwell and Helen's behaviour towards Huntingdon - i.e. locking him out of her bedroom and running away from him - would have been considered scandalous at the time. The book was a financial success but it got some harsh reviews from the Victorian critics and even Charlotte Bronte disapproved of the subject matter. I think Anne was incredibly brave for writing this book then. It's interesting to compare it to her sister's works as well. As you'd expect from a Bronte novel it's atmospheric and is full of passion, romance and drama. However, readers who love Jane Austen but aren't fond of Charlotte and Emily's works are likely to find Anne's novel much more favourable. Anne's writing style is actually quite similar to Jane Austen's.

Most of the modern reviews I've read for The Tenant of Wildfell Hall have been positive but it has come in for its share of criticism. I've read some reviews which have argued that Helen and Gilbert are unlikeable. Some readers dislike Helen for being pious and "sanctimonious" and think that Gilbert is a spoilt brat who isn't all that much better than Huntingdon. I completely disagree! Helen's diary is my favourite part of the book and I really love her character. Yes, Helen has some flaws and she makes mistakes. Her naivety in marrying Huntingdon cost her dearly and she openly admitted to Lord Lowborough that she should have honest with him about his wife's infidelity. Nevertheless Helen is still an extremely likeable character and her flaws only make her human. Helen is a strong, brave, moral and intelligent woman - and she's just as passionate as Jane Eyre. She also stands up for herself and refuses to let Huntingdon walk all over her. Helen is a genuine Christian and she isn't at all sanctimonious. I really admired her strength, her devotion to her son, that she didn't back down in her convictions and that she was able to hold onto her faith - and keep it strong! - in such an awful marriage. She isn't at all boring either and she clearly has a sense of humour; more so at the beginning of her diary before life with Huntingdon wears her down. I was really pleased that everything worked out happily for her. As for Gilbert, yes, I do get the criticisms of his character to a certain extent. He's clearly flawed and I didn't like him much at first. Having said that he's by no means cruel and emotionally abusive! He improves under Helen's influence and he grows through his relationship with her. Although he's certainly no Rochester I did warm to him more as the book went on. Also, he actually left Helen alone when she asked him to unlike Huntingdon and Mr Hargrave!

I really love The Tenant of Wildfell Hall. It's a powerful read and my second favourite Bronte novel (after Jane Eyre). I really love it and I really hope it gets the recognition and fame it deserves someday. Again, Anne Bronte is severely underrated! Her book Agnes Grey is worth a read too but The Tenant of Wildfell Hall is the much better book of the two even though it only came out a year later. It really makes you wonder what a third novel would have been like if she hadn't died so young.

Rating: 5/5

Sunday, 3 March 2013

Sense and Sensibility (2008)

This post will be a review of the 2008 BBC miniseries. This is a three-hour adaptation of Jane Austen's novel that was written by Andrew Davies. Initially I was very apprehensive about watching this miniseries because I'm a huge fan of the 1995 film. Much to my surprise though I really liked it! It might not be as good as the 1995 film in my eyes but it's still an excellent adaptation and very enjoyable. Believe me, this is a huge thing coming from me considering how much I love the 1995 film!

Possibly my favourite thing about this miniseries is that it's an hour longer than the 1995 film and it can therefore include characters from the book that the 1995 film was forced to leave out. In this miniseries you get to see Brandon's ward Eliza Williams, John and Fanny Dashwood's son Henry, Sir John Middleton's wife and children, Mrs Ferrars, and Lucy Steele's sister Anne. Most of these characters didn't actually get to say or do all that much but it was still really nice to see them. We even get to see the duel scene between Willoughby and Brandon which is only briefly mentioned in Austen's book. You get to see Willoughby's "woe is me" speech to Elinor in this version too.

This miniseries has lots of other things going for it as well. It's beautifully-filmed and there are some stunning location shots of Devon. The music is lovely in places and there are some really nice costumes. I still prefer the 1995 film though because of the acting. That's not to say that the acting in this version is bad though. There are some great performances in this.

I really loved Hattie Morahan's Elinor in this version. She's a much more age-appropriate casting choice than Emma Thompson in the 1995 film. Although I do really love Emma Thompson's performance in that film, there's really no getting around the fact that she's much older than Elinor is supposed to be in the book. Emma Thompson was 36 at the time whereas Book Elinor is 19! Thompson was almost old enough to play the 40 year old Mrs Dashwood! Morahan may have been 28 at the time this miniseries was filmed but she's still much closer to Book Elinor's age than Emma Thompson. She does a great job with the character as well and she gives a truly excellent performance. Her Elinor is clearly mature, sensible and practical but she isn't at all cold and is very likeable. You can tell when she's struggling to control her emotions, you can sense her deep love and affection for her family at all times, and she's warm and kind. She's pretty too. *Trivia: Morahan is engaged to Blake Ritson in real life, who has been in Mansfield Park and Emma adaptations.*

I must say that I really loved Edward Ferrars in this version too! He's played by Dan Stevens of Downton Abbey fame. Stevens' acting is excellent and he definitely makes for a much fitter Edward than Hugh Grant! Edward's character is made more appealing in this miniseries too. He's more cheerful, charming and assertive - especially in Episode One. This isn't really true to Book Edward at all but then again I'm not really a fan of Book Edward so that's perfectly alright with me!

Other actors give great performances in this version as well. I loved Janet McTeer's Mrs Dashwood. She has a backbone and she's clearly a good mother who really loves her children even if she occasionally needs guidance from Elinor. McTeer is also closer to the book character's age than Gemma Jones from the 1995 film. I really enjoyed Mark Gatiss and Claire Skinner as John and Fanny Dashwood. I didn't find Mark Williams' Sir John Middleton as funny as Robert Hardy's from the 1995 film but he still did a really good job. Daisy Haggard is great fun as Anne Steele. She does an over-the-top West Country accent for comic effect and is pretty hilarious. The scene where she blurts out Lucy and Edward's secret engagement to Mrs Ferrars and Fanny Dashwood is the funniest scene in the whole miniseries. Jean Marsh is very stern and intimidating as Mrs Ferrars - I certainly wouldn't want her as my mother! Much to my surprise I thought David Morrissey as Colonel Brandon was pretty good too. Alan Rickman's shoes are big ones to fill but Morrissey makes the character his own and is really good. I still think Rickman is more attractive and acts the part better though.

Some of the acting wasn't to my taste in this miniseries though. I suppose Charity Wakefield isn't bad but her Marianne often comes across as selfish and whiny, and she simply can't hold a candle to Kate Winslet's performance in the 1995 film. Winslet just brings so much passion, emotion and sensibility to the role - she became Marianne! Winslet has a lovely singing voice as well and we never get to hear Marianne singing in this version. I didn't like that Marianne had her hair down in some scenes either although that's not Wakefield's fault of course. I guess that since Marianne is still only 17 that they thought they'd be able to get away with it? Having said that Mrs Jennings wears her hair down in some scenes as well and there's no excuse for that!

Speaking of Mrs Jennings, I was disappointed with her portrayal in this miniseries too. Mrs Jennings is one of my favourite Austen characters. Linda Bassett's acting is by no means bad either but she was too quiet for my liking and her character didn't seem all that interesting. I much prefer the jolly, funny, over-the-top Mrs Jennings of the 1995 version! Anna Madely was disappointing too. She was alright as Lucy Steele but she just wasn't sly or bitchy enough. In all of her talks with Elinor, Lucy seems really sweet and sincere about her affection for Edward. If I hadn't already read the book I think I'd have felt sorry for her. Of course her real character is revealed at the end but this wasn't enough for me. I found the child actress who played Margaret a bit annoying as well and I really missed Hugh Laurie and Imelda Staunton as the Palmers. The Palmers don't get very much screentime in this version at all and they don't make an impression.

By far the worst casting choice in this version though is Dominic Cooper as Willoughby. I mean, just LOOK at him! He's a terrible Willoughby! He's nowhere near handsome or sexy enough. OK, I know this is quite subjective of course but he isn't handsome enough in my opinion. I certainly didn't find him anyway near as attractive as Dan Stevens or Greg Wise from the 1995 film. Also he's so shifty-looking! How were the Dashwoods completely fooled by him?! Yes, Willoughby is sinister and shifty on the inside but he's not supposed to look it! In fact Willoughby is so obviously up-to-no-good in this version that even people who haven't read the book wouldn't be surprised when his true character is revealed. Cooper is nowhere near charming enough for the role and is simply very badly miscast.

This version has other faults too. With some scenes in this miniseries it felt like Andrew Davies was simply ripping-off the 1995 film. For example: Margaret - who is quite a minor character in Austen's book - had an expanded role in the 1995 film. Margaret's role is also expanded in this miniseries. That wouldn't have bothered me if some of her scenes hadn't been such blatant copies of scenes from the 1995 film. Just like in the 1995 film, this miniseries has Margaret hiding at Norland and having a friendship with Edward. This version also has Brandon rescuing Marianne from the pouring rain and carrying her off to Cleveland, just like the 1995 film did. These are such obvious rip-offs that it was quite annoying!

Also, as you'd expect from an Andrew Davies adaptation, this version is sexed-up. We even get an actual sex scene in it. At the very beginning of Episode One, right before the opening credits, there's a scene of Eliza getting seduced by an unseen Willoughby. I hated this scene and it was completely pointless! A newcomer to the story wouldn't know who these characters are and would be confused. And then there's the obligatory "sexy shot of the male love interest". You know how the infamous pond scene in Pride and Prejudice was gratuitous and a blatant attempt to get women everywhere swooning? Well in this adaptation of Sense and Sensibility we get Edward chopping wood in the rain, witnessed by Elinor, in Episode Two. Oh yeah, I'm sure Edward chops wood all the time! Seriously, I didn't actually mind this scene as much as the pond scene from Pride and Prejudice because it wasn't completely gratuitous and it at least showed Edward's anger and frustration - but really? My final issue with this adaptation is the fact that Davies compares Marianne's growing love for Brandon to the breaking-in of a wild horse. Eeew! That's downright unpleasant!

Overall I did enjoy this miniseries despite its faults and I'm sure I'll be watching it again in the future, although I do prefer the book and the 1995 film overall. I recommend this version to Austen fans because it is excellent on the whole and is definitely worth watching.

Rating: 4/5