Jane Austen; the woman, the legend, the literary queen. We love her, we admire her, we wish we had more. She gave us six novels, a collection of short stories and essays, and one unfinished story, left to future generations to finish, both delighting us, and tearing our hearts asunder.
Basically, she was a sassy boss who will be remembered and revered until the eventual heat-death of the universe. She used her wit to bring joy to her readers; to make them laugh, make them care, and give them a happy ending to make their lives a little brighter.
In the wake of the ending that shall not be named, I thought it pertinent to remind ourselves of the glorious tales Jane Austen brought us. So, welcome to #AustenMondays! If you plan to reread / rewatch, I’ll be going chronologically.
CONFESSION TIME – Sense and Sensibility is not my favourite. SO MANY people claim this as their Austen ride-or-die, and good for you guys, that’s great, we can all like different things! Personally I feel like Austen hadn’t quite found her swoon-ocity, her epic wit, her effortless charm, her *ahem* editing skills (it just keeps GOING). I will, however, concede the scathing social commentary, as well as the three-dimensional characters. You will not find a clear villain, nor a totally faultless hero… well, except for Elinor, which one COULD say the annoying lack of faults IS her fault? I don’t know.
I’ve chosen the 1995 Emma Thompson vehicle because the brilliant cast and their electric chemistry turn a meandering tale (I’M SORRY, TRULY) into something charming and heartwarming.
So let’s put on our comfiest bonnets, snack on some gooseberry cheese, and dive right in!
The movie began with a touching scene between father and son, as Mr. Dashwood lay dying. Since regency law was stupid, he couldn’t leave any part of his estate to his second wife and three daughters. Therefore, Mr. Dashwood used his dying breath to implore his son to take care of his beloved girls, to which John Dashwood of course complied… until his wife Fanny got involved.
What followed, both in this movie and in the book, is a scathing study in how people are able to justify their own greed and selfishness, convincing themselves that the people who need their help are better off without it.
Then we met the ladies Dashwood!
Marianne Dashwood is that girl at the slumber party who tells everyone that their crushes are like, so immature, because one time she went to a college party and now knows what romance SHOULD be, so the kinder-egg heart your boyfriend got you is simply not going to cut it.
Girl loves drama and has hoity expectations, is what I’m saying, and why yes, I DO love her, thanks for asking.
Meanwhile, Elinor is pragmatic and reserved. Basically, the two of them are the regency’s answer to the Odd Couple.
Rounding out the family is their mother, who seems cool, if not a little personality-less, and their younger sister Margaret, who likes to hide, and largely exists to make the romantic leads look good.
The ladies Dashwood were understandably displeased with the fact that they had to give up their home to their older brother and his gross wife, which resulted in some deliciously awkward moments.
Edward is meant to be an awkward, shy, mouse of a man who needs to feel comfortable with someone before attempting a joke. That’s his whole deal in the book, so I respect Hugh Grant for leaning into it with such commitment. That being said, it is SUPER WEIRD to see the usually charming and easy-breezy Hugh Grant as a stiff, robotic, neckless chump. His arms don’t move, you guys! His arms don’t move!
Anyway, unlike his gross sister, Edward is obviously nice, as proven by his refusal to take Marianne’s room, and his rapport with a child (men who get along with children are automatically nice, you know).
Basically the two of them just Emma Thompsoned and Hugh Granted all over our screens, and it was charming, shy magic. Elinor and Edward are the origins of “adorkable”.
Marianne, though disgusted by the idea of a tame, polite romance, was nonetheless on board to have Edward as her cute brother-in-law/pet if it meant that her sister would be happy.
Fanny is throwing some STRONG Evil Step Mother/Queen/Witch vibes their way! Edward and Elinor’s obvious adorable flirting attracted her ire and she was all, “yeahhhhhhhh, hate to be rude, but ya girl is just not good enough for my bro, sorry not sorry, it’s out of my hands.” Naturally, mama Dashwood got uppity, and was like, “we are outtie AT ONCE.” So the search for an affordable dwelling commenced, and ended with an invitation from their distant cousin.
Edward said goodbye to Elinor in the barn, and it seemed very likely that he was about to propose, or confess, or tell her she’s rad or something (but then of course it would be a very short movie), and instead he prattled on about inconsequential things (*wink*) until Evil Step Fanny came to interrupt them.
It’s always funny to me when people in movies become destitute and have to move to a smaller house and they’re walking around all disappointed, and I’m sitting here in my studio apartment like, “you have walls that separate rooms???” Anyway, they put on their brave faces and dealt with their two-story multi-roomed mansion-house, and got to work making it livable.
At dinner, Cousin John and Mrs. Jennings were speculating about Elinor’s love life, and in order to save her the awkwardness, Marianne offered to play the pianoforte. This, of course, was the moment Colonel Brandon (the ever dreamy Alan Rickman who shall forever live on in our hearts) arrived, and instantly fell in love with her. Later he helped her to cut a reed, which was like, SO FLIRTATIOUS. He was, however, not romantically dramatic enough for our girl.
So, it turns out that Colonel Brandon’s first love was torn from his loving arms, forced to live a destitute life of horrible suffering, had a baby, then died in a poor house, all while he was off fighting in a war. Not a great time, basically, BUT good ammo against any woman who loves fixing a broken heart, ammiright, ladies?
Trouble in adorkable paradise! Instead of coming for a visit, Edward sent Margaret’s giant atlas by post, which was naturally disappointing, especially to Elinor’s shy, awkward heart.
“But your heart must tell you.”
“In such a situation, Mama, perhaps it’s better to use one’s head.”
Ugh. This hurt. And it is just SO Elinor, heh heh, right, guys?
Marianne and Margaret went for a mighty walk in the pouring rain, and whoopsie doodle, Marianne fell and twisted her ankle. BUT, all was not lost, for a handsome stranger scooped her up and I guess carried her the entire way home? Like… he had a horse, right? Anyway, the household was all a flutter, and the Ladies Dashwood were decidedly #TeamWilloughby, which had Colonel Brandon tripping in polite regency anxiety.
Marianne was one hundred percent gaga for Willoughby because he was the exact image of a dashing romantic hero she had constructed in her head. He could quote Shakespeare, and made passionate speeches, and was tall (let’s be honest, many a lady has fallen for the ‘he’s just tall’ trick), and in no time at all they were in loooooooove.
He even took a lock of her hair which is very romantic and not at all gross. Then it was time for a big social outing at Colonel Brandon’s, but he got some urgent news and had to dash off. This pissed off Willoughby and he made fun of him behind his back, which, RUDE.
So after their little family gathering, Willoughby asked Marianne if he could call on her the next day to ask her a “particular question.” Oooooooooooooohhhhhh… what could it beeeeeee? Obviously everyone assumed he would propose, but when the ladies returned home from church they found Marianne in tears, and Willoughby announcing that he’s off to London.
So off he went in a very normal, not rude or sketchy way, and we got a brilliant moment where her entire family sobbed in their respective rooms while Elinor drank some tea on the stairs. *chef’s kiss*
Meet Lucy Steele, an all-round Basic who is secretly engaged to Edward. GASP! But Edward is our romantic hero, how can this beeeeeeeee? The scoop is – Edward had basically never met another girl in his life, then while away at school met Lucy, who was not a close relative, so he decided to marry her. BUT, he knew his family would disapprove (due to their jerkness), so they have kept their engagement a secret for five years.
Lucy claimed to be confiding in Elinor because she “trusts her”, but c’mon, girl knew the score, and knew exactly what she was doing. Our deer sweet Elinor was heartbroken, but couldn’t show it because ETHICS. At that very moment, the girls were invited to London by a young Professor Umbridge, so off they went on an adventure.
When they got there, Elinor was visited by Colonel Brandon who was like, “is my girl engaged?” and she was like, “sortaaaaaaaa?” and Brandon was like, “she must be careful else she befall a terrible fate!” and Elinor was like, “whoa, details please,” and Brandon was like, “that would cut like half the plot,” and Elinor was all, “huh?” and Brandon was like, “must dash!”
Meanwhile, Marianne was busy sending letters and pestering the poor doorman because she’d been left on read, and then it was time for a ball (there’s always a ball). Elinor and Lucy were all aflutter over the possibility of seeing Edward, but instead it was his very toothy brother. Hmmm, who else was there? Am I forgetting anyone… oh yeah:
It was Willoughby, and he was VERY frosty to our girl who made quite the spectacle of herself. Then it was revealed that he is engaged to another (dun dun dunnnnnnnnn), which left Marianne naturally distraught.
So now that Willoughby was revealed as a fart-breathed ass brain, Colonel Brandon felt it was a good time to clear up his earlier vagueness – apparently Willoughby got his ward pregnant and then left. I just…. I get that he didn’t want to ruin Marianne’s happiness or whatever, but this feels like information a woman should know before becoming financed. C’MON, BRANDON.
Here’s the part where the villain becomes a real person – he actually did love Marianne. He was going to propose to her, and would have done so if events hadn’t made him fear his aunt’s disapproval. Don’t get me wrong, he’s positively THE WORST, but he’s not evil. He hadn’t planned on leading Marianne on. He wasn’t being deliberately hurtful. This is something I do love about this book / movie – there are no broad strokes.
Lucy went to brag to Elinor about how much Edward’s family simply ADORES her, oh how they DOTE on her, how FAVOURED she is (barf), when who should show up but Edward himself, looking incredibly uncomfortable at the sight of his side-piece hanging with his betrothed.
It was deliciously awkward, you guys, and I loved every second of it, especially when Marianne entered the scene and made everything seventeen thousand times worse, all, “isn’t Elinor such a total babe? She’s so smart and awesome, I bet she’d make a great wife, eh Edward? Huh, huh? Haha, what fun we have!”
Lucy, feeling pretty darn confident in her status as Fanny’s pet, told her about her secret engagement to Edward, and was, in no uncertain terms, rejected. Fanny gave her a beat-down and sent her packing.
Now that the Lucy-shaped cat was out of the bag, Edward was disinherited, which he honestly didn’t seem too put off by. He was never into the whole ‘heir of estate” deal anyway. And, being the stand-up guy he is, he kept his word to Lucy and promised to marry her.
Throughout the movie, Marianne was borderline obsessed with getting Elinor to show some human emotion, and after Mrs. Jennings confirmed Edward’s engagement, she got her wish. Elinor broke down, and Marianne deservedly felt like a grade-A butt face. Afterall, she had been wailing about her own romantic woes, forcing Elinor to comfort her while her own heart was shattered. In Marianne’s defense, her attitude turned around quickly, and the two sisters took comfort in each other.
I truly do think Elinor and Marianne have a good relationship, even if Marianne can be self-centered, and Elinor can be cagey. They support one another, they wish for the other’s happiness, and I can only assume that after this scene they indulged in a sundae bar until their tummies hurt.
Colonel Brandon heard about Edward’s situation and offered to help out by offering him the church on his estate, not realizing the pain he was causing Elinor by asking her to be the go-between. Oh Brandon, you dreamy, well-meaning dummy.
Quick question – what in the sweet hell is happening to Hugh’s body? Was he cursed by a witch? Is he on his way to see the wizard about getting himself a heart? Is he programed for human-cyborg relations?
Anyway, Elinor gave Edward the good news in a delightfully tense scene where their lips said one thing, and their eyes said, “I AM DESPERATELY IN LOVE WITH YOU SAVE ME FROM THIS HORROR.”
So, with their hearts broken and all hope lost, it was time to leave London and go home. But first they had to stop at Professor Umbridge’s house, where Marianne could wander the hills dramatically in the rain in order to get a glimpse of her crush’s house.
Colonel Brandon to the rescue! I will admit to some mild (not mild) swooning during this scene. He carried her back to the house and stood vigil as the doctor told us the news: due to Austen law, any heroine who gets caught in the rain must subsequently fall dramatically ill. Then, needing to feel helpful, he went to fetch their mother, which was honestly the sexiest thing anyone did throughout this whole movie. “You, woman I don’t even want to sleep with, give me a task to do so that I may help this situation without any ulterior motive.” BE STILL MY HEART, you guys.
This scene. This scene was everything it needed to be, and I cried so hard, and Emma Thompson is a Goddess, someone get her some ice cream immediately. Elinor broke down at Marianne’s bedside and begged her to stay, to fight, to live, and my sweet heavens it was so powerful.
Anyway, Marianne didn’t die (GASP?), and now the whole family was rightfully #TeamBrandon.
After a very nice sister-moment where they both admitted they could benefit from being a little more like the other, the news came that “Mr Ferrars” married Lucy.
Hahaha, J/K, imagine if a Jane Austen story had such an unhappy ending??? Heh. Heh. *sob*
As it turns out, it was not Edward who married Lucy, but his toothy brother! It took Edward a hilariously long time to realize what they thought and correct their assumptions. They were all, “how’s your wife?” and he was like, “my knife? Sharpened and in my saddle bag, why?” Like, dude just did NOT get it for a very long time.
But then he did. And Elinor immediately burst into tears. And then he proposed, but we only saw it through the reactions of her family, which I thought was brilliant.
Everyone was happy and great, and it all worked out, and the land rejoiced. Marianne married Colonel Brandon, Elinor married Edward, they ended up neighbours, Margaret traveled the world as a professional cartographer (I assume), and Deloris Umbridge was carried off into the woods by a herd of centaur.
I said at the start of this recap that Sense and Sensibility is not my favourite Austen, but don’t misunderstand me – I genuinely enjoy EVERY Austen novel. Her voice was so unique, intelligent, observant and critical, while also being funny and lighthearted. She pulled off the near impossibile in her books – she made people care about her characters, laugh at her jokes, and also learn some things about their society, and thus themselves. Just because they were written 200 years ago, doesn’t mean any of these things have changed. The books are still funny, they’re still thoughtful, they’re still full of heart, and even though some social customs may have changed, the human observations she made still make us learn things about our society, and our lives.
The thing I love about Sense and Sensibility is that it portrays how complicated people are. No character’s personality is cut-and-dry, and no one is fully hero or villain. Willoughby was a downright scoundrel, but his feelings for Marianne were genuine, and he had every intention of following through on his unspoken promise.
Alternatively, Colonel Brandon was the very definition of a good, dreamy man, with honorable intentions and a deep, commanding voice, and smouldering eyes, and a handsome… *ahem* what was I saying? Oh right, Brandon was a hero, but if we’re being perfectly honest, he didn’t know Marianne like Willoughby did. Their conversations happened, for the most part, near the end of the book. So, throughout the whole story, Brandon’s love was mostly based on aesthetics. He loved Marianne because she was pretty and could carry a tune.
And Edward! He was engaged to someone else, and he led Elinor on! Yet he is our hero. Marianne was self-absorbed, yet good-hearted, Elinor was cold and pragmatic, yet kind. Even John Dashwood had good intentions until his wife got in the way.
Jane Austen knew there were no perfect people, no saintly, faultless heroes and heroines, and she wrote her characters to reflect that.
- “I shall winkle it out of you, you know.” – “She’s horribly good at winkling.”
- So, I guess the casting director for Harry Potter just played this movie, and whoever was on screen when they paused got the role.
- “We neither of us have anything to tell. I because I conceal nothing and you because you communicate nothing.” Damn, Marianne. Lay your weapons down.
- I appreciate that their faces were red when they were upset or active.
- Meeting their overbearing cousin with all his dogs seemed like a nightmare for them, but is my ACTUAL DREAM. A jolly relation with no ulterior motive who loves to chat and has multiple dogs? GIVE THAT TO ME PLEASE. #ToniWantsChatsAndDoggos
- Any time there’s a fiance in the way of our heroine’s happiness, it’s always some horrible and/or basic wench. WHY are these other fiances never just nice?
- So, could regency dudes just “go into the church” like it ain’t no thing? Did pastors or reverends or whatever not need any kind of qualifications or training? Can Colonel Brandon just “give him a church” without discussing it with, I don’t know, the God-union or whatever. Like, for all Colonel Brandon knows, Edward has never even read the bible.
- When Marianne was dying, the medical treatment was to BLEED HER. How did anyone survive the regency? Seriously. How are humans still a thing?
- I enjoyed the 2008 version, but I must say that while I love Dan Stevens, I think his Edward was too confident and charming. Hugh Grant’s weird wooden doll performance was much more faithful to the book.
- “I knew a lady very like your sister, the same impulsive sweetness of temper, who was forced into, as you put it, a better acquaintance with the world. The result was only ruination and despair. Do not desire it, Miss Dashwood.” Even after being presumably rejected, Colonel Brandon still wouldn’t even hear anyone else wish ill upon Marianne, or try to change her in any way. *GIANT SWOON*
- Emma Thompson was nominated for best actress for playing Elinor, and she won the oscar for adapting the screenplay. I would say she was robbed for the best actress win, but she lost to Susan Sarandon for Dead Man Walking, and… yeah, that’s fair. Still though, our girl is a QUEEN. I will show up for anything this woman does. ANYTHING.
OKAY THANKS FOR COMING! While I usually try to do these types of things week-to-week, life is a bit bananas (in a good way!), and Austen movies are gloriously long. Thus, I’ll post the remaining five stories every other week. Go ahead and comment or tweet me your suggestions on which adaptations I should do, because nothing is decided yet.
HAVE A STUPENDOUS DAY AND WASH YOUR HANDS WITH SOAP FOR 20 SECONDS EVERY TIME!