Scents and Sensibility: Not all Austen Remakes are Made Alike
We interrupt our Featured Writer Series for this post about Jane Austen! Tune in next week to join me and Kait Nolan hamming it up on The Happiness Project! I’m convinced we’re the funniest two women in the blogosphere. You should see our google chats!
I pride myself on my Jane Austen pop culture. A Jane Junkie since birth, I’ve made it my business to investigate any remakes and spin offs of her tales. This year, I included Sense and Sensibility in my To Be Read Pile Challenge.
It’s the story of the Dashwood girls, recently fatherless and without income. The family uproots from high society to the country life in a cottage. Elinor, the eldest, is responsible, reliable, and always keeps her emotions in check. Marianne, the middle child, is free-spirited, dramatic, and quick to angst. Margaret, when she can be found, is the youngest, and usually hiding with a good book somewhere or eavesdropping on others’ conversations.
Like any good Austen novel, she discusses issues of class and gender, but she also discusses love. For Elinor, it is the doting Edward Ferrars, favored son of the Ferrars, intended for great things. And for Miss Marianne, it is all Willoughby, romantic and forthcoming. But Willoughby is not all he seems, and waiting patiently and ever ardently in the shadows is Colonel Brandon.
Ang Lee directed the most popular film version of the book with Academy Award winning screenwriter, Emma Thompson, who also played Elinor.
Then BBC TV launched a Jane Austen series on Masterpiece Theater where a new version of Sense and Sensibility was shown, a bit more scandalous version if you ask me. Oh Mr. Willoughby, you tease!
And oh, Austen fans, it gets better! With the success of the Bollywood Bride and Prejudice spinoff of Pride and Prejudice, Indian film star Aishwarya Rai Bachchan also starred in the Bollywood version of Sense and Sensibility called I Have Found It.
If you’ve never seen a Bollywood film, I recommend it. Their cinema is known for its music, dance, and colorful costumes. Here’s an example from I Have Found It.
Bollywood isn’t the only one taking liberties with Austen’s work. I also included the sci-fi adaptation, Sense and Sensibility and Sea Monsters on my TBR book list this year.
In this kitschy version, Elinor and Marianne are well adept swimmers and expert harpooners. Willoughby rides up on a dolphin instead of a horse, and wears a very becoming wetsuit. Colonel Brandon was cursed by an evil Sea Witch and is now half aquatic with tentacles and gills. More sci-fi than Austen, but still mostly true to plot, and very entertaining.
Now Onto the Bad Remake!
My sister, another Jane Junkie, called me the other evening to tell me that Lifetime was showing a film call Scents and Sensibility. The premise?
Elinor (Ashley Williams) and Marianne (Marla Sokoloff) Dashwood live a charmed life. They get everything their hearts desire, plus they never have to work. But all of that changes when their father is indicted by the FBI for swindling millions. Now that their family fortune is gone and the Dashwood name and reputation are ruined from the recent scandal, the Dashwood girls must try to make it on their own in life, in work, and in love. From the start, the girls find it virtually impossible to find good, well-paying jobs with employers willing to hire them. Love also becomes a big challenge for Elinor and Marianne, since they keep falling for the wrong men at the office. In Elinor’s case, that man is Edward Farris (Brad Johnson), whom Elinor comes to believe steals. Marianne falls for John Willoughby (Jason Celaya), who is a liar, and Brandon (Nick Zano), who brushes her off. When the Dashwood girls decide to try to market Marianne’s homemade lotion, they find that they just may have found a way to turn their lives around. Can they find their happy ending in work and in love?
I normally share positive reviews. I love to rave about things I find I think you guys might like too! But in this case, I just want you to save 2 hours (89 minutes if you take out commercials) of your life. And to convince you I’ve done my research, I’ve made a play by play review of the things I hated in this movie.
1. Marianne graduates from college. In the opening scene, the Dashwood family has assembled to honor Marianne’s apparently long education process. While I never heard a year amount named, it was noted as more than 4. And for some reason, this was joke worthy and appalling. This may seem pointless now, but I will refer to it in a later scene. Marianne is accompanied by John Willoughby at the party. Sitting blatantly next to him on the couch, the camera cuts him from the shot and has Elinor give Marianne the third degree about taking things slow with Willoughby. Um, I think he can hear you…
2. Henry Dashwood is arrested, family meets with lawyer. The lawyer tells the distraught family that their father is being arrested for fraud, “more commonly known as a ponzi scheme” he says, to which Marianne cries, “What does that mean?” Stupid dialogue encounter #1. Who uses a basic term like “fraud” and then explains its definition through an obscure historical reference? No wonder Marianne didn’t have a clue what he meant, although her dialogue was just as stupid as his! For reference, you can learn about the “common Ponzi Scheme” here.
3. Mom and Daughters Make a Budget. Dad gets thrown in jail, and we have to watch a heartwrenching scene where Elinor stands in the street while their SUV gets taken away. I’m supposed to feel bad because… Mom’s plan is to move in with her sister, but the girls are on their own. Suddenly Elinor and Marianne have to find jobs, and these jobs have to pay for up-until-now-unmentioned-and-unnamed-diseased suffering sister, Margaret’s medicine.
4. The job hunt joke. Montages of Marianne on the phone looking forlorn as she makes calls and Elinor having her resume’ actually crumpled up in front of her face flash before our eyes! Cut to a Help Wanted sign and there’s Elinor, employed in a gorilla suit waving a giant banana sign advertising smoothies! All hell breaks loose when the sprinklers turn on and she runs off camera screaming. Yah, um, how can she feel the water inside giant monkey suit? Poor Elinor is fired after day one.
5. Marianne gives work a try. Marianne lands a job by lying about her name! Congratulations, Marianne, the newest copy assistant in town! Kudos!
6. To the Batmobile! Uh-oh, Marianne needs a car to get to work, because “the bus is stinky.” So Elinor hocks their giant flat screen for apparently enough money to buy a truck. Sure wish I didn’t have to cash in my savings bonds from a middle school essay contest just to pay my parents back for my car!
7. Marianne puts her skillz to use. Remember when I said I’d come back to Marianne’s college education? Here’s the thing, she majored in English and was there for sooo many years. Her first 5 minutes on the job show her aimlessly walking around the copy room doing God knows what! Looking for Rumplestilzkin? I don’t know! She can’t use the copier, and when another employee hands her his flash drive to print copies from, she has to talk out loud to herself just to muster the courage to find out what’s on it! In all her extensive years working towards an English Degree, did she never write a paper? Use a copy machine? A flash drive? So, you want me to believe she came from a wealthy family with all the latest trends in flat screens and vehicles, but she needs the voices in her head to pump her up to just to plug in some plastic?
8. Marianne = Copy Room Conondrums, But Chemistry Whiz? After a hard day’s work in the copy room, Marianne settles in for the night making organic flowered lotions. She gives a bottle to Elinor. Do you know how to whip up homemade floral lotions with scratch products? Oh you do, but now can you use a copy machine?
9. Elinor pimps product at her new job: Janitor of the Spa! While collecting towels from the pedicure room, Elinor overhears a client talk about the increasing arthritis in her feet. Elinor offers the use of her sister’s lotion for the foot massage. Sugary sweet comments are exchanged about the heavenly scent, “What is that? Ambrosia?”
10. Ambrosia Cures Arthritis? Someone should have told my mother! Within seconds of putting some on, the woman raves about how much better her feet feel and that her friend with back problems needs it and she’ll pay whatever it costs to get some! Since when did aromatherapy cure all forms of joint pain?
11. Marianne suffers from boy problems. John Willoughby is the love of Marianne’s life, but he’s led her to believe he’s in Switzerland, working abroad with a great business opportunity. In fact, John is playing video games right here in the same town, but he’s covering up his tracks on those overseas phone calls, discussing how the “holey cheese” tastes better there than here, I mean here than there! I mean, look a squirrel!!!
12. Marianne Catches Uber-Obvious Typo. Marianne is given an assignment from the company boss. Uh-oh! There’s a typo: IT’S is spelled ITS. She circles it with red marker, she talks to her advisor, and yet she’s told to run it. Then, surprise, surprise, the boss comes and chews her out for making him look like a fool. Since when did the copy assistant become responsible for final edits?
13. Doomed Spa Side-plot. The owner of the spa Elinor works at is Fran. Fran’s brother is Edward. Edward likes Elinor. Suddenly strange side-plot of Fran’s spa business owing lots of money unfolds and Elinor’s sister’s freaky magic lotion could be the answer. I love it when there’s blatant foreshadowing!
14. World’s Shortest Bowling Game Ensues. Elinor gets asked out on a date by Edward. He takes her bowling. We watch Edward bring 2 giant florescent bowling pin shaped soda cups out, he teaches Elinor how to roll in a “romantic” scene, and then she’s called away by a catastrophe message from Marianne. What a lame date!
15. Big Surprise, Truck Dies. The catastrophe Elinor must help with is the dieing vehicle Marianne rolls home in. Whine, whine, whine. Poor Marianne has to walk. In the Austen book, Marianne loved to walk! While walking in the park, Elinor and Marianne see Willoughby holding hands with another woman! And yet, there’s no raucous fight scene. The girls just leave! Wha????
16. Worst Conspirator Award Goes To… Lucy! Lucy works at the spa and is a minion of Fran. Fran asks Lucy to break into Elinor’s locker and steal some of the lotion out so she can test it and sell the product to save the salon. Here’s how Lucy goes about her sneakery: Jiggle the lock, grab a fire extinguisher, and smash the sh*t out of the locker creating a huge scratch mark across the front and leave the broken lock dangling from the latch. Touche’ Lucy Steele!
17. Surprise Date Followed by Liar, Liar Pants on Fire Terrible Dialogue Scene: Marianne goes on an impromptu date with boss and everything Willoughby is forgotten. However, Elinor surprises Marianne for dinner and learns through a large print sign on the office door that there are jobs available in the office where Marianne works. Meaning: If Marianne had come clean about this, Elinor wouldn’t be stressing out working as the maid in the spa! Elinor also finds out Marianne lied about her last name so people wouldn’t connect her to her family. Ooooh! Double whammy!
Elinor: “I had no idea how selfish you are.”
Marianne: “I’ve been doing pretty well considering we have no TV!”
18. Brandon Makes a House Call. After the sisterly blow out on the sidewalk, Marianne’s boss, Brandon, makes a house call to check on her. Wait, how’d he get her address if she used a fake name? Apparently all was revealed during the missing scene between him on the doorstep and nodding at the kitchen table. To make it that much better, he asks to learn how to make lotion! My guy is always asking me questions about how to do a nice mani-pedi at home too! While using a mortar and pestle to grind flower petals, Brandon injures his hand, and once again the miracle of ambrosia lotion saves the day!
19. Lotion Gets Stolen – Oh my! Elinor finally sees her broken locker and clearly tampered with lock. Lucy does the smart move and blames Edward. Elinor leaves feeling crushed in confidence and in love.
“I’m just tired of having to work so hard only to be disappointed.”
Really, Elinor? I’m so sorry your dad got arrested for a crime and took away all your toys and free time!
20. Edward Shows Telepathic Abilities. In the race to the end of the movie, Edward pops into the spa looking for Elinor. After learning she didn’t show up to work that day, he immediately races to the exact location she is sulking. Did I mention Edward is a patent lawyer in this movie? Very convenient, no? So it’s Edward to the rescue, protecting our Dashwood girls from the patent-stealing sister of his, Fran.
21. All is Well, Cut to the Wedding Scene! Everything left hanging gets wrapped up in a matter of seconds. We see Willoughby called out for the slime that he is in a split second duel where he, Brandon, and Marianne all happen to be. ???? The sale of the ambrosia lotion is prevented just in the nick of time and Elinor and Marianne are able to quit their jobs and work on lotions full time! They’ve magically sold enough bottles to get diseased sister, Margaret her medicine! How fabulous that Brandon owns a PR company and Edward oversees their patent. And of course, Marianne proofreads all the labels!
22. As If The End Scene Wasn’t Enough of an End Scene. To really clue its watchers in that the movie was over, we have to sit through a good 2 minutes of photo montages describing for us the future of every character. Fran had nothing but terrible things happen to her, Willoughby marries an overweight foreign woman, Lucy becomes manager of the spa?, the girls have their magic lotion, and oh yah, sister Margaret – she gets to live on a horse therapy ranch!
Gosh it’s like they copied Jane Austen or something! I can’t believe you missed this! What horror shows have you watched recently hoping they’d get better? And tell me about your favorite Jane Austen original and remake!