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Tuesday, June 15, 2010

Dinner and a Movie Adaptation: Sense and Sensibility

"She was full of jokes and laughter, and before dinner was over had said many witty things on the subject of lovers and husbands; hoped they had not left their hearts behind them in Sussex, and pretended to see them blush whether they did or not."

Emma Thompson + Hugh Grant version

Like everyone, I was pretty enamored of this when it came out.  I hadn't read the book yet (I was 11, and my first brush with reading Austen was just prior to my senior year).  But now, of course, I can see why Emma Thompson was so highly lauded for the screen play (it was brilliant; she won an Oscar), and the cast is absolutely marvelous.  Until recently, I would have said there's no topping it.  But when I look back now, especially comparing it to BBC's 2008 version, it seems overdone to me, and like it was geared toward winning Oscar nods.  It was beautiful and passionate, and fairly faithful, yes.  But the acting and just something about it, some sense it leaves behind, feels as if everything is overthought and highly plotted.  It lacks a bit of fire and connection as a result.  
And of course, nearly everyone in it is too old to play the character they play, which probably adds to the off sense I get watching it.
But that being said, it is still damn good, and if you haven't seen it, I would recommend you do.

Hattie Morahan + Dan Stevens version

I was pretty fairly blown away by this production.  Most of the main cast was completely unknown to me (Hattie who?  Charity what?), and I couldn't have been more pleased.  I'm always excited to see a movie with relative unknowns (at least, when I know there's production value behind it, and it's not some slapped together piece of crap that could only afford unknowns) -- it means that they were cast because they fit the part and can do it justice, not because their name will sell tickets or get ratings.  Nearly everyone in this cast, right down to Margaret Dashwood, was spot-on for me.  Though I love Kate Winslet and think she did Marianne admirable, Charity Wakefield was Marianne, plain and simple.  Hattie  Morahan was really moving as Elinor because even though she is reserved and stoic as Elinor ought to be, she lacked that studied air that Thomspon had in the role.  She felt, and you as the audience knew she felt (as it is in the book), but she hid it enough that her family was blind to it.  Dan Stevens was completely charming as Ferrars, and made me actually feel a bit more lenient toward him than I previously have been (and he's pretty).  Dominic Cooper as Willoughby was a brilliant choice for me (and not just because I love Dakin); he brought a layer to Willoughby that I think should be there, but that was often lacking in other versions.  There was real feeling and regret in his portrayal, and I think that's how it should be.  Things are not clean cut; Willoughby is not strictly Villain with no redeeming Good Guy or Passionate Lover; Cooper understood this and showed it, and it made the piece more layered and human.  All in all, I'd call this one a must-see, if not a must-own.

The dramatic irony was really capitalized on in this story.

Cold Lemony Chicken and Asparagus Pasta Salad
  Inspired by the their planned (but thwarted) picnic in the countryside

     *note: I like it served cold, but this recipe can be served warm or room temperature as well.

1 box farfalle noodles (or medium sized noodle of choice)
3 chicken breasts
1 lb asparagus, chopped into 1" pieces
2 lemons
1/3 c olive oil
3 cloves garlic, chopped
2 tsp yellow mustard
2 tbsp chopped flat-leaf parsley
largish pinch of paprika
salt and pepper
shitload of parmesan chunks (please note: the term "shitload" would have garnered a few eyebrow raises in the Misses Dashwood's time.  Good thing we're not in their time...)

  • Bring a large pot of salted water to a boil.  When it comes to a boil, add the noodles and cook according to package instructions, adding the chopped asparagus for the last 3-4 minutes of cook time.  When al dente, drain and rinse in cold water* until the pasta has cooled. (* if you intend to serve hot, do not rinse, just drain).  When cool, add to the lemon and olive oil mixture.
  • Meanwhile, whisk together juice and zest of two lemons, olive oil and garlic.  Remove 1/3 c of mixture for chicken marinade.
  • To the original mixture, stir in the parsley and at least 1/4 c of parmesan chunks (add this to taste, and remember that though it is salty, this recipe stands up nicely to it -- I usually go for about 1/2 c of small chunks); to the reserved 1/3 c., add the mustard and paprika, mix, and poor over the chicken.  Let the chicken marinade in this for at least 30 mins.  (If you have longer, longer's good.  The pasta mixture can be refrigerated until the chicken is done)
  • Remove the chicken from the marinade and discard marinade.  Cook chicken over med-hi heat (my method of choice?  buttttter) until chicken is nicely browned and cooked through.  Set aside to cool* then slice and mix gently into pasta mixture.  Refrigerate until ready to serve. (*if serving warm, let chicken cool for a few minutes to let juices settle, then slice and toss in pasta or layer on top.)
A tip: make the parmesan chunks by making thick curls: run a knife down the edge of a block of parm, creating thick-ish slivers.  Break these apart by hand into nice little chunks.
*Yes, I am aware that tri-color farfalle is probably not too Regency; but are farfalle in general?  Pasta's pasta, folks.  Yum!


  1. I like both adaptations! I think the main difference is when they were produced. The first one was done during a time when that was how it was done--all of the movies from that time frame were a bit "overdone". Plus, other than Emma and Alan, Hugh (Nine Months came out at the same time and only 4 weddings and Funeral was his other big before that--cult following) and Kate (neither Titanic nor Quills had been released) were still relatively unknown.

    The BBC mini-series also have a bit of an edge of being able to be more than 2 hours--which I think also helps.

    I am with you, they are both unique and well done. You can't go wrong watching one or the other---or both :)


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