Monday, March 31, 2008

Sense and Sensibility, Part I

Finally, after weeks and weeks of making us wait and suffer, Masterpiece premiered another new Jane Austen adaptation last night: the first half of Sense and Sensibility. To be fair, I can’t review the movie until next week when I’ve seen the whole. However, I will say that I thoroughly enjoyed Part I (something I could not say about the other adaptations) and recommend any book or movie lover catch Part I (if possible) and Part II next week.

This version of Sense and Sensibility (and particularly the 1995 Emma Thompson version) does raise one of my literary adaptation pet peeves. Why can’t filmmakers actually cast actors who are the same age as the characters they play?

Sense and Sensibility’s Elinor and Marianne Dashwood are 19 and 17 years old, respectively. Colonel Brandon is over 35. The actors playing the Dashwoods, though, are clearly in their late 20s and Colonel Brandon in his 40s (Emma Thompson’s age has been talked to death, so I’ll only mention it here). I would love to see a literary adaptation where Jane Eyre is really played by an 18-year-old and Catherine Morland a 17-year-old.

Of course, Hollywood has a long tradition of casting older actors in young roles—just look at The O.C. and Beverly Hill 90210 for proof. Not long ago, though, I read an interesting article by USA Today’s Robert Bianco suggesting the sexual nature of these shows precludes age-accurate actors. The viewing population can only accept teens’ sexuality if the characters don’t actually look like teens.

Bianco makes a valid point. A 17-year-old Marianne Dashwood and 35-year-old Colonel Brandon smacks of pedophilia to a 21st-century audience. The same can be suggested for a Mr. Knightley who falls in love with Emma long before she turns 21 (or 18, for that matter) when he is 16 years her senior.

Although I long for an accurate film adaptation, perhaps my sanity is better off without it.

1 comment:

Nick Adler said...

It is tough to judge 19th century morals in today's terms. What about the preference for marrying cousins back in that time? As for having older actors play late teenage parts...the truth is younger actors don't always have the chops to pull it off. It is hard to portray youth, youth are not always introspective enought.