Andrew Davies clearly wanted to emphasize the sexual nature of some of the characters, which I do not disagree with. We have the scene with Willoughby and Eliza at the beginning which makes us a bit more reluctant to like Willoughby at first. Actually, it makes you want to yell “statutory rape!” or “creeper!” at the screen. We also have sparks flying between Edward and Elinor which made my heart ache when they are separated, seemingly forever. And when Willoughby takes Marianne on a tour of Allenham, you can feel the teenage hormones flowing and makes you think that she would have gladly followed him into a bedroom had he opened a door. For a few seconds, I felt the butterflies that were clearly in her stomach when she slid her hand up the banister. And when he says her name after the kiss in front of the windows at Allenham, one clearly senses that she was expecting either a proposal or roll in the hay or both. The only self control in that scene was his, which was admirable, considering his previous inability to control his...urges.
Obviously Jane Austen could only allude to these things obliquely, but bringing this part of the story to life is not only realistic, as opposed to Austen’s sanitized version, but it would speak more to the younger viewers, who would be in the age bracket of the girls depicted.
The resurrection of some more minor characters like Lady Middleton, Miss Steele, and little Henry (a hilariously plump, redheaded mute) were refreshing. Miss Steele’s lower class accent was great for her inane ramblings about her beaux, but if Mr. Davies had included a few of the “ain’t” words that Jane Austen wrote for Lucy, we could have seen her as just grasping at gentility, and the contrast to Elinor’s perfections would have been more apparent.
But this is nit picking (ooh that expression always makes me want to scratch my head). This 3 episode miniseries is lovely and the casting and scenery are just brilliant. Hattie Morahan and Charity Wakefield were plucked from obscurity to play the lead roles here and I hope they both get more work as a result. Mrs. Dashwood and Brandon were expertly played as well. All of the other roles were well played but not quite as outstanding. No one seemed to really jar in their role, which is no mean feat. I loved the music, which is not surprising as it was done by Martin Phipps who did the equally good music from North and South. The evening scenes were beautifully lit with candle light and added to the period feel. The costumes and hair were all great, especially Fanny’s stiff kiss curls around her face. Charity Wakefield’s soft curls are a lovely way of emphasizing her romantic nature and a contrast to Elinor’s straight controlled look. And the ginger headed father and son John and little Henry Dashwood were priceless.
I have to say a word about the gorgeous house used for Norland. All of the locations were amazing, but this one is outstanding. Wrotham Park has apparently been used for many productions, probably partly due to it’s beauty and partly the fact that it is not open to the public. The indoor stairs were famously used for Bridget Jones to pull Mark Darcy aside and ask him to pop by her place sometime. Crikey! The whole place seems unchanged since Georgian times and can be rented for weddings for a mere £8,000.
Anyway, it is a lovely watch, preferably spread over several nights but this one is hard to turn off so you have been warned. And if you don’t have a new appreciation of the character of Edward after seeing him chase chickens at his new rectory, you haven’t got a heart. A lovely happily ever after.